Our remarkable 13-day Thailand adventure, ADVENTURES IN EXOTIC THAILAND: Hill Tribes to Ancient Ruins, Elephants to Gourmet Thai Cooking which we took last Fall, transported us through the spectacular landscapes of Thailand as we explored the cultural Thai melting pot of Chiang Mai, the "Rose of the North," as well as visited Buddhist temples, ancient palace ruins, and countryside Thai food and flower markets.
We also visited the Karen Long Neck Village, the Akha people of Thailand (famous for their beautiful costumes), and the infamous Golden Triangle. Voted "everyone's favorite day," we learned how to care for elephants at a northern Thai elephant farm, and visited regional national parks to view jungle wildlife and interesting botany.
Finally, we learned how to cook delectable regional Thai recipes from dinner entrées, appetizers, to desserts. Thai cuisine is complex and piquant, a balance of sweet, spicy, sour and salty flavors. In hands-on cooking classes, we learning the secrets of Thai cooking and presentation techniques while preparing a variety of Thai dishes. Here are five Thai recipes comprising the perfect dinner - from soup and salad to dinner entrees and even dessert we hope you will enjoy:
Tom Kha Gai - Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup
This soup is one of the most well-known soups in Thailand. It has a creamy consistency and a lovely lemony flavor to it. If you prefer a less rich and creamy soup, you can use equal quantities of thick and thin coconut milk.
- 10 oz. Chicken breast, sliced
- 16 fl. oz. Thick coconut milk
- 8 fl. oz. Thin coconut milk
- 7 oz. Straw mushrooms, cut in half
- 3 T Fish sauce
- 2 T Lime juice
- 1/2 oz Chopped coriander leaves
- 5 Thin slices of ginza (galangal, or Thai ginger root), cut in half
- 2 stalks of lemongrass (lower 1/3 only) sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 4 sliced shallots
- 10-15 small chilies, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 Kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces (discard stem)
- Optional: 2 Spring onions, sliced
- Put the coconut milk into a wok on high heat.
- Add ginza. lemongrass, shallots, chilies and mushrooms. Bring to a boil.
- Let simmer for 3-5 minutes then add chicken. Stir.
- Add fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves. Bring back to a boil.
- Add half the coriander leaves. Turn off heat.
- Stir in lime juice.
- Serve garnished with the remaining coriander leaves and (optional) spring onions.
Kaeng Keaw Waan Ka - Green Curry with Chicken
Green curry, literally sweet green curry, is a popular variety of curry in Thai cuisine. The name "green" curry derives from the color of the dish, which comes from fresh Thai basil and green chillies. The "sweet" in the Thai name (waan means "sweet") refers to the particular color green itself and not to the taste of the curry. As this is a Thai curry based on coconut milk and fresh green chillies, the color comes out creamy mild green or, as this color is called in Thai, "sweet green".
- 2 T Sunflower oil
- 2 T Green curry paste (pre-packaged)
- 1/4 t Ground roasted cumin seeds
- 1/4 t Ground roasted coriander seeds
- 8.5 oz. Coconut Milk
- 3 oz. Chicken breast, sliced bite size
- 2 pieces Thai eggplants, quartered cut (Note: soaking in water with lime juice or salt helps keep fresh color.)
- 10 pieces Japanese eggplant (Note: soaking in water with lime juice or salt helps keep fresh color.)
- 1 piece Big red chili, sliced
- 1 Kaffir Lime leaf, torn into small pieces (discard stem)
- 25-30 sweet basil leaves
- 1/2 T Brown Sugar
- 1/2 T Fish Sauce
- Sliced red chili
- In a saucepan, on medium heat, add sunflower oil.
- When hot, add green curry paste, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Stir fry until aroma develops.
- Add a scoop of coconut milk and allow to simmer until the oil is extracted from the milk. Follow with 2nd and 3rd scoop of coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes.
- Add chicken and remaining coconut milk. Bring to a boil.
- Add all eggplant. Cook through. (About 30 seconds)
- Add seasoning: brown sugar and fish sauce.
- Add kaffir lime leaves, chilies and basil leaves. Gently stir for about 30 seconds then turn off heat.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with sliced chilies.
- Serve with rice, Roti or other breads.
Nua Phad Prik Horapah - Stir-Fried Beef with Sweet Basil & Chilies
Beef stir fry is quick, easy, full of flavor and, in this case, simply delicious.
- 3 oz. Beef tenderloin, thinly sliced
- 2 T Safflower oil
- 5 T Chicken Stock
- 1 Coriander root
- 2 Cloves garlic
- 1/4 t White pepper powder
- 1/4 piece While onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 oz. Big red chili with seeds, cut on the diagonal
- 1.5 oz Sweet chili (2 pieces, de-seeded, OR green pepper de-seeded)
- 20-25 Sweet basil leaves, ripped from stem
- 1/2 t Fish sauce
- 1/2 T Sugar
- 1/2 T Oyster sauce
- 1 T Light soy sauce
- Sweet basil leaves
- In a mortar, pound garlic, coriander root and white pepper until they form a paste.
- In a wok on medium heat, add the safflower oil.
- When hot, add the paste from the mortar and stir fry until aroma develops.
- Add sliced beef, and keep stirring until meat is cooked.
- Add onion, chicken stock and red chilies.
- Add seasoning: fish sauce, sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce, then add green chilies. Stir fry for 30 seconds.
- Add sweet basil leaves and turn off heat.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with more sweet basil leaves.
Naam A-Jard - Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad
A sweet and tangy compliment to any spicy Thai meal, this refreshing salad will have the pickiest of eaters asking for more!
- 1 Pandanus leaf (Bai Toey), crushed and tied up OR 1-2 drops pandanus essence
- 2 sliced Dried galangal (Thai ginger root), sliced
- 1 oz. Water
- 1.5 oz. White vinegar OR Rice vinegar
- 1.5 oz Sugar
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 T Ground roasted peanuts
- 1 English cucumber, sliced
- 2 Shallots, finely sliced OR red onion
- 1 Yellow chili, thinly sliced OR medium green serano chili
- Coriander leaves
- In a saucepan on medium heat, add water, sugar and vinegar. Stir well to dissolve.
- Add the pandanus leaf (squeeze first) ad crushed galangal. Simmer 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Put prepared vegetables in a small bowl.
- Add the sauce on top of the vegetables and add some peanuts.
- Garnish with the coriander leaves.
Khai Neow Mamuang - Mango with Sticky Rice
This is one of the most popular Thai desserts and many foreigners who come to Thailand regularly make sure they come in the mango season so that they can have this dessert every day. The sweet sticky rice can be made in advance but should be eaten the same day that it is made.
- 1 lb 5 oz. Sticky rice, soaked in water for at least 3 hours or overnight
- 16 fl oz. Thick coconut milk
- 8.5 oz. Sugar
- 1 T Roasted sesame seeds
- 2 Mangoes
- 1/2 t Salt
- 4 fl oz. Thin coconut milk
- 2 T Sugar
- A pinch of salt
- Steam the soaked sticky rice for 15-20 minutes until cooked.
- Mix the thick coconut milk, sugar and salt together.
- When rice is finished cooking, mix it with the thick coconut milk mixture and combine thoroughly.
- Leave it to rest 30-50 minutes so that the rice has time to absorb the coconut milk.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
- When you are ready to serve, divide the sticky rice into 6 portions and put it into separate bowls.
- Peel the mangoes and slice them thinly.
- Put the mango slices on the top of the sticky rice and pour the thin coconut milk sauce over the mangoes and sprinkle the sauce with seeds on top.
As they would say in Thailand: Aroi Mak Mak! (Delicious!)
Here is a Photo Gallery of our cooking classes. Be sure to click on the picture to see the full image. All photos by Susan L. Eckert and Blue Elephant Cooking School.