Wow, I just long to return to Bangkok and not just for a few days en route to another destination in Asia., That’s what I did this time but it just whetted my appetite for more . I was just beginning to get the hang of it when it was time to leave. The frenzy of the traffic and the street life, the swirling colour, bustle, noise and the intoxicating kaleidoscope of tastes and smells. The markets and street food alone would be quite enough to bring me rushing back not to speak of the glittering Royal Palace complex which left me totally gobsmacked.
Don’t miss Tor Kor Market and just across the road is the unmissable Chatuchak Weekend Market ,a labyrinth of about 8,000 stalls selling not just the usual tourist souvenirs but it’s now morphed into a starting ground for young talent and entrepreneurs trained in Thailand, New York, London and Toyko. There’s an abundance of handcrafts from around the world, antiques, clothes, accessories, pets, plants, furniture, books, utensils…You need a ton of energy and an empty container!
The variety of street food in Bangkok simply cannot be matched anywhere else. Snacking is a way of life in Thailand. Every day, millions of people from all walks of life eat at roadside stalls or food markets. To meet the demand an army of street vendors work day and night 24/7 chopping, wokking, grilling, cleaning…… These make shift-kitchens, carts, food stalls, mobile restaurants are all over the city, on pavements, street corners, underneath flyovers, in the park, on the beach, in railway stations….it feels like one is never more than a few minutes away from your next tasty morsel. There are even floating kitchens – in boats at the food markets on the Mekong River and canals. Many of the most famous Thai dishes actually originated on these street stalls before they appeared on menus in Thai restaurants. For me the best place to really taste the food of any country is on street stalls.
The setups are varied and ingenious, most are mobile. Those attached to bicycles can be pedalled from place to place; meals on wheels in every guise from side car motorcycles to customize pick up trucks. The most basic and traditional and one of the oldest forms of selling and transporting street food is the Haph a flexible wooden pole with woven basket on either side which resembles a large balance scales. Some vendors even carry small plastic tables and chairs to seat their customers or set up a little roadside restaurant.
The main cooking methods on street stalls are boiling; grilling, steaming, wokking or frying could be on a flat griddle, stir frying or deep frying in a big wok of oil. Each stall specialised in one kind of food, sometimes just one dish which their reputation depends on. They have specialised equipment and utensils for preparing their noodle soup, stir fry, satay, dumplings, salad, relishes or fruit.
The fruit seller ‘pon la mai sod’ only sells beautiful seasonal fruit. Rose apples, green mango, pineapple, watermelon, guava…… Big blocks of ice are used to keep the fruit cool. The fruit is expertly sliced. Two dips are offered in puffed up plastic bags, a mixture of salt, crushed chilli and sugar or a sweet spicy dip with fish sauce. The latter is especially eaten with finger slices of green mango.
Street foods give you the real flavour of a country. I know it’s an anathema to many people to encourage them to eat street food in this era of food hygiene paranoia. But believe me you are more likely to have a ‘gippy tummy’ from a dodgy hotel buffet that goes in and out of the kitchen over and over again. “The food hawkers take pride in the quality of their dishes. They shop daily in the food market to buy the fresh ingredients. Usually they pack up the stall and finish work when everything is sold out.” Often the food is cooked while you wait, so pick up courage and enjoy.
Chicken and Banana Flower Salad – yam hua pli
Banana flowers are also known as Banana Blossom, they are sometimes available in Asian shops but if you can’t find, Belgium endives make a very good substitute. Shrimps make a good substitute for chicken.
1 banana flower
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
250g (8 ozs) chicken breast
230ml (8 fl ozs) coconut cream
1 tablespoon roasted chilli paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 stalk of lemon grass – white part sliced finely
1-2 ozs (25-50 g) toasted cashew nuts
1 handful fresh coriander leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves – shredded very finely
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
Remove the outer leaves of the banana flower. Quarter lengthwise and remove the core. Slice very finely and leave to soak for at least an hour in a mixture of water and lime juice to reduce the bitter flavour. Poach the chicken on a low heat in the coconut cream for 8-10 minutes until just cooked. Remove the chicken, save the coconut cream to make the dressing. When the chicken is cool, slice into very fine shreds. Mix the coconut cream with chilli paste, fish sauce, sugar and freshly squeezed lime juice. Drain the banana flower well. Mix with the lemon grass, toasted cashew nuts and chicken. Drizzle with dressing and mix well. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, shredded kaffir lime leaves and sliced chilli.
Grilled Chicken Satay – satay gai – moo
Satay is always served with peanut sauce and spicy cucumber relish.
Pork may also be served in this recipe.
Makes 10 approx
450g (1 lb) chicken breast or pork fillet
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin
2 garlic cloves
4 red Asian shallots or 2 Irish shallots, chopped
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoon caster sugar
10 wooden or bamboo skewers
Spicy Cucumber Relish (see recipe)
Satay Sauce (see recipe)
Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour; this will prevent burning while grilling. Cut the chicken or pork into ¼ inch (5mm) strips.
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seed. Pound the coriander seeds, cumin, garlic, shallots, ginger and turmeric in a pestle and mortar until smooth. Add salt, oil and sugar. Marinate the chicken or pork in this mixture for at least 1 hour. Thread the strips of meat onto the skewers. Push the meat right to the top, the skewer should be hidden in the meat otherwise it will burn during cooking. Grill, turning regularly. Serve with Cucumber Relish and Satay Sauce.
Cucumber Relish – naam jim taeng-gwa
4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 pinch of salt
½ teaspoon chilli powder or large red chilli, julienned
4 tablespoons cucumber, julienned
2 tablespoon, shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon coriander leaves chopped
Bring water with sugar, vinegar and salt to the boil. Turn off the heat when sugar has dissolved. Cool. Add chilli, cucumber and shallot. Finish with coriander leaves.
naam satay /naam jim thua
2 large dried chillies, chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 tablespoon turmeric, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
450ml (16fl oz) coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamarind water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons ground roasted peanuts
Pound the chilli, garlic, lemongrass and turmeric in a mortar until smooth. Heat oil in a wok on a low heat and fry the paste until fragrant. Add coconut milk and bring to the boil. Keep boiling for 7 minutes. Add tamarind water, sugar, salt and peanuts. Keep on boiling for 5 minutes.
Grilled Pork – moo yang – moo ping – Taken from Bangkok Street Food
10 wooden or bamboo skewers
400g pork fillet, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
½ teaspoon white ground pepper
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
125ml coconut cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon castor sugar
Soak the skewers in water for 1 hour to prevent from burning. Combine all the ingredients but the pork in a large mixing bowl, mix well. Let the pork strips marinate in this mixture for at least half an hour. Weave the strips of pork on the skewers and grill over charcoal for about 5 minutes, until cooked. Turn regularly.
Coriander cilantro is a very versatile. Here we are familiar with the use of stalks and leaves but in Thai cooking the root is very often used. Wash and scrape it and chop it finely. If you can’t find it in Asian supermarket, you can use the stalks of coriander instead. It won’t be exactly the same thing but it’s the next best option.
Stir Fried Noodles with Pork and Soy Sauce
kuaytiaw phat sii iew sai moo
2 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
450g (1lb) pork cut in strips
1 handful wide rice noodles, soaked and drained
4 stalks of Chinese broccoli, cut diagonally
2 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
150ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock or water
lots of white pepper
Heat oil in a wok on a medium heat, add garlic and pork and stir fry until coloured. Add the noodles and Chinese broccoli. Stir in the beaten egg and mix well. Add the soy sauces, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add stock or water bring to the boil. Season it with white pepper. Taste.
People are coming up with all sorts of exciting ideas to start a food business. Recently I came across a stall called Just Nuts at Mahon Point Farmers market and loved it. A new idea from Fiona Buckley who recognised there was an opportunity for import substitution when she realised all the roasted, spiced party nuts were imported. She now sells 8 different homemade flavours including sweet spiced nuts with cinnamon and nutmeg, New York nuts with fresh rosemary and cayenne and three sugar free options. Phone 0872430519 –email: email@example.com or find her on on FaceBook.
Good Things Cafe
Lots of tempting options on Carmel Somer’s 2012 Good Things cookery course schedule. You’ll have the added bonus of spending time in lovely West Cork. Don’t forget to seek out Jaffa Gill’s Durrus Farmhouse Cheese –http://www.thegoodthingscafe.com/ and http://www.durruscheese.com/
Slow Food and GIY Event at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Trevor Sargent will speak on how to feed your family and make some money from a small organic plot on Tuesday March 20th 2012 at 7pm. €6.00 Slow Food and GIY members and €10.00 non Slow Food and GIY members. All proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Phone 021-4646785 for more details.
Wow! It’s so exciting how everything is bursting into life – plenty of wild food there for the foraging. Lots of wild garlic and Alexanders on the road side, the peeled stems are delicious lightly cooked and served with melted butter or Hollandaise sauce.