Et oui! I must confess that when I read the requirements for this Challenge # 2, in Project Food Blog: no French, no Italian…I said to myself: “Easy….Argentinian” But then I watched the video with Pim and Nancy, telling us to go away from our comfort zone…and there my problem started! I am very curious about world food, and I love trying new flavors, textures, cultures…but one thing is eating…..and another, very different is cooking !!
I really racked my brains…but then I thought that one of my habits, as a restaurant-goer…and if there is one place I really frequent is Mme Shawn, the “temple” of Thai cooking in Paris (well, I consider it not only the best Thai restaurant here, but one of the best restaurants!) The problem is that I’m not Mme Shawn !!! I don’t know anything about the ingredients (except that they taste great!) Real, real challenge!
Of course I love Thai curries, and soups…but the appetizers…well, I find them mouth-watering! So I thought, I would humbly (believe me, very humbly) try to reproduce some of these “petites merveilles” (small wonders)…so much flavor hiding in each of these small treats!!
I must admit that I also hesitated: cooking Thai, with no knowledge, when one of the judges is Thai…Was I getting into deep waters?….but well, precisely, these recipes are the result of a cookbook, my lack of knowledge of certain vegetables, spices…trial and error, to correct myself…that is a key element of a cook: capacity of self-criticism: to come out with your dish, and admit: “It’s bad!”, but then start again, try again, perpetual improvement…
Yet, everything you will see here was made with all my enthusiasm, and my respect for the wonderful culture, traditions, and people of that far-away land…appropriately called: The Land of A Thousand Smiles.
As I said, my difficulties started with the list of ingredients…water spinach (liseron d’eau in French), galangal….where do I get all these things in Paris? I checked the internet…but then I remembered there is a little street near my place, where there are several Thai massage shops, and small groceries…What if those groceries are Thai??? I went to have a look. Yes !!!!!
I really want to thank then, the Thai people of rue Mesnil, who not only sold me all these vegetables, but when I told them about the challenge, they got completely excited and involved…they gave me advice and they wished me good luck saying: “Bonne chance, Madame la chef !!!” Oh, Gosh, I cannot disappoint them !!
Et voilà, everything ready on my wooden board: chilli peppers (of course), water spinach leaves, that root that looks like ginger is the famous galangal (powerful in perfume!), the green onions, plus oyster sauce, fish sauce…I couldn’t get palm sugar (so they told me to use a bit of normal sugar)
Here a close up of what the book called Water Spinach Salad (Yam Pak Bung Grob), for me actually, some “beignets” …Well, my kids adored this!!! As soon as the photos were over, they ate them like candy !!! Take a close look at these leaves…I found them SO beautiful !!
These beignets are served with this Spicy Sauce (Nahm Yam) My verdict? Excellent!!
Then, this Grilled Pork Salad (Nahm Dtok Muu)….I had to make a special grilled rice flour with galangal and kaffir leaves (this gave me some trouble…see my recipes below). My husband loved this salad….spicy!!!!!!!!
Finally, these Spicy Shrimp Rolls (Gung Hom Pha). The recipe called for one rice crêpe per shrimp…but I found that I ended up having more crêpe than shrimp, so after frying ten…I said to myself “Stop”!!! I decided to cut the crêpes, so as to make them smaller (tailor-made?), to have a more refined result…It was also my first time with rice crêpes…I must admit its stickiness gave me some trouble…but after making 15, I won !!!!
And this is all for my Thai hors-d’oeuvres….the recipes belong to the book At the Table of Jim Thomson, that I bought during a recent trip to Thailand…Who was Jim Thomson? Long and interesting story you can glimpse here !
I hope this humble post captures in some way the exquisite refinement of cooks and artisans in Thailand, country that has left an indelible mark in my memory, and that has become a source of inspiration !!
For the recipes, look below….Spicy Shrimp Rolls (2 people)
* coriander roots, 2 * garlic clove, 1, minced * white pepper grains, 6 * salt, 1 coffeespoon * soy sauce (light), 1 coffeespoon, * oyster sauce, 1 coffeespoon * shrimps, 8 (unshelled & intestinal vein removed- keep the tail!) * rice crêpes, 8 * frying oil
In a mortar, pound the coriander roots, garlic, pepper grains, and salt. Add in the soy and oyster sauce. Marinate the shrimps for 15/20′. Roll the shrimps, leaving the tail out in the crêpes; you have to dampen the crêpes in hot water first for a few seconds. Place them on a dry kitchen cloth (to absorb excess water) If they are too big, cut them to fit the shrimp size.
Fry the rolls in oil until slightly golden.
Water Spinach (pak bung) Salad (2 people)
* water spinach, 200gr * frying oil * For the paste: all purpose flour, 60gr *salt, one pinch * pepper, one pinch * tempura flour, 60gr * water, 500ml (I found this quantity excessive…reduce until you have a thickish paste) *oil, one tablespoon
Clean the water spinach under running water, dry and slice coarsely. Mix all the ingredients for the paste in a bowl. Fold in the water spinach. With a tablespoon, take a spoonful of spinach/paste, keeping a balance of vegetable/paste. Fry until slightly golden. Serve with the spicy sauce below.
*garlic cloves, 3 * chilli peppers (to taste) * coriander roots, 1 (grated and chopped), lime juice, 3 tablespoons, *fish sauce, 2 tablespoons, *palm sugar (I used normal sugar), 1 coffeespoon, *grilled pork, 80gr (sliced), *shrimps, 4 (unshelled, intestinal vein removed)
Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well before serving.
Grilled Pork Salad (2 people)
* pork filet, 150gr, * cooking oil * red shallots, 4, sliced * mint & coriander leaves, one handful * green onions, chopped, one tablespoon * grilled rice flour, 1 tablespoon (to make grilled rice flour, you need: *2 slices of galangal *thai sticky rice, 180gr * kaffir leaves, 3: Dry grill the rice grains, in a wok, at medium heat. Add in the galangal, and kaffir leaves. Grill until the rice is golden. In a food processor, process rice until medium, fine texture)
Seasoning: * dry & fried peppers, 3 * grilled chili pepper powder, 1 coffeespoon, * sugar, 2 coffeespoons * lime juice, 2 tablespoons * fish sauce, 2 1/2 tablespoons
Combine all the ingredients of the seasoning in a bowl and refrigerate. Grill or fry the pork. Let cool. Cut the pork fillet in medium-thin slices. Combine with the shallots, onions and the herbs. Add the seasoning and the rice flour. Shape using a ring mold to serve.