Friday, April 22, 2005

All things Thai-ish

All things Thai-ish

Being half Thai, usually the first comment someone makes about this is, "Oh, I love Thai food." to which I chime in, "Me too!"

Unfortunately, I didn't grow up on Thai food, but rather my mom's version of Chinese food, which probably is rather Thai influenced, and a random assortment of the regular American foods. I was no stranger to Kraft's boxed macaroni.

I am completely and utterly in love with Thailand, and upon returning I immediately asked my mother why she even left. Thailand is so lush, replete with orchids, and as much tropical fruit you can eat ...

Thai's don't quite understand the American enchantment of ripe mangoes with sticky rice. That would be like a foreigner gushing to us, "Oh, I love Apple Pie!"

We would probably say, yes, apple pie is quite nice, but wouldn't you like to try molten-chocolate cake? Or dulche de leche ice cream with ginger toffee crisp and lemon foam? I just made that last one up, but I'm puzzled by all the foam that is going on these days on gourmet plates. Oyster foam, anyone?

Actually, Thai's are well known for their garnishing skills, apparently my mom had to take a class on how to make flowers of carrots and radishes and the like. Being schooled here in America, I took Home-Ec, which taught me nothing I remember.

My mom always had us eat fresh fruit after dinner, which is both a Chinese and Thai thing to be fair. I was fortunate to grow up with my mom's view on eating as much fruit as possible, and Californian produce. One of the loveliest things my mom gave me while I was living abroad both in Sweden and Japan, was that she lent me her fruit knife, which is about as old as me, which she bought on vacation in Japan. I've tried to find one like it, with its sharpness and beautiful but homey design, but to no end. She always would cut up fresh fruit for us on our cartrips, the fresh fruit making the long trips a little bit more bearable.

Last summer I finally got around to trying out and making (by special request) Khao Niew Ma-Muang or Mango with Sticky Rice. This recipe falls into tier 2, which means I don't make it very often since it takes quite a bit of planning and ripe mangoes lying about.

The Thai grocery store in Manhattan is in Chinatown on Moscow and something, you might have to traipse down Elizabeth to get there. First things first. Make certain you buy the sticky rice, and not another kind of rice.

Khao Niew Ma-Muang or Mango with Sticky Rice.

1 1/2 cups sticky rice
1 1/3 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly
1 large mango

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear. This will take around 6 times? Then, soak rice in cold water to cover overnight, or at least 4-6 hours.

Drain rice well in a sieve. Place the sieve over a large deep saucepan of simmering water (sieve should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and a lid, 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender (check water level in pan occasionally, adding more water if necessary). If you have bought the

While rice is cooking, in a small saucepan bring 1 cup coconut milk to a boil with 1/3 cup sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. Keep mixture warm.

Put cooked rice to a bowl and stir in coconut-milk mixture. Then let the rice stand covered, for 30 minutes, or until coconut-milk mixture is absorbed. (This is quite cool to watch).

While rice is soaking up the coconut milk, in a small pan slowly boil remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a small bowl and chill until cool and thickened slightly.

About 4-6 servings

I don't make Thai food in general very often, which is quite sad, but I think I'm a little intimidated by the many many ingredients in order to make their very lively and tasty pastes, which are the basis of a lot of wonderful Thai recipes.

I'm going to have to investigate the Khanom Jeen situation at the Thai grocery store, and I'm still looking for that perfect Khao Soi recipe.

As they say in Thai, Gin! Gin! (which means eat! eat! as my Thai Aunt would encourage.)

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