Food is a big part of having guests
Monday, July 22, 2013 3:21 AM
Yum! It seems there has been more cooking in our kitchen in the last two weeks than is done in an average year. And everything has tasted simply fantastic.
My Thai friend and houseguest has been with us a little over two weeks. Right from the start, we had a sort of food agenda. While we were going to eat out occasionally, she loves to cook and we love to eat her cooking so most of our meals were eaten at home, either with or without guests to share the repast.
She had come prepared with Thai seasonings and packets for specific dishes. She had even picked up a couple of recipes from friends she had visited in NYC and Tampa that she wanted to try out herself. We were prepared for a marathon of cooking and eating.
One of the first, and easiest, dishes we prepared was Thai style BBQ pork. A mixture of paprika, whey powder, wheat flower, unnamed spices and soy sauce powder was one of the packets she brought that made this dish so easy. Our choice of meat was a pork loin roast that was marinated with that mixture and a little water. Then we added a little vegetable oil, turned on the crockpot, and voila, six easy hours or so later, we had a marvelous dish, with sauce to ladle over our rice. Of course in Thailand a BBQ grid would have been used to cook it, but we agreed that the crockpot did a fine job too.
Two other pre-mixed packets of seasonings that she brought were for Laab and Holy Basil with meat. Laab is sometimes served as an appetizer and sometimes as an entrée. Again, the choice of meat is up to the cook. I have most often experienced it as a chicken or beef dish; the meat is ground before preparation. We used ground turkey, because that was what I had in the freezer. That is first stir-fried with a little water, and then the packet is added which contains roasted rice powder, dried chili powder, soy sauce powder and citric acid. Stir it all together, cook and garnish with shallots, mint leaves and spring onions. It is best served with fresh vegetables, or even wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
The third packet we tried was Holy Basil seasoning paste. It contains chili, soy sauce, Holy Basil leaves (a type of basil that grows best in Thailand), onions, soybean oil, garlic and sugar. A little vegetable oil is stir-fried with these seasonings "until good flavor comes out," according to the directions on the packet and then the sliced or chopped meat (again chicken, beef or other choice of meat) is added and stir-fried until done. This is garnished with basil leaves and served with rice.
That was the end of the packets, but not of the variety of dishes Ohn-on cooked. She sautéed fresh tilapia with fresh lime juice and light soy sauce, and then garnished with green onions, cilantro and ginger. She stir-fried shrimp with basil in soy sauce, stir-fried baby bok choy with sweet peppers, carrots, garlic and oyster sauce, and stir-fried fresh broccoli with garlic.
One of the two new recipes that we tried was a delightful salad dressing made from pureed carrots, sesame oil, soy sauce, whole limes, honey, rice vinegar, garlic and vegetable oil.
The second was for a cold mango soup. It contained coconut milk, lime, honey, brown sugar, plain yogurt, pureed mangoes, olive oil, onions and a dash of roasted red pepper powder (that she had pounded herself in my big mortar and pestle!). The soup needs to sit, preferably overnight, and then is garnished with a mixture of diced mango, chopped fresh dill and brown sugar. It was indescribably delicious, and was even better as leftovers for breakfast the next morning.
We did spicy roasted sausage slices with roasted peanuts and bits of fresh ginger root: what a delicious flavor those three tastes combine to make in my mouth! It is pretty obvious that fresh ginger, fresh lime juice, low-sodium soy sauce (a substitute for the traditional saltier fish sauce), garlic, cilantro and green onions are important in Thai cooking. And of course they must be cut in a certain way: green onions when used for a garnish are cut on a diagonal. Ginger when added to a cooked dish is sliced or in small julienned pieces. When ginger is used with the spicy sausage and roasted peanuts, it is in very small cubes. Garlic is sometimes sliced, other times diced, and sometimes left whole. It is good that I had cilantro and lots of basil growing in pots on the deck.
More than one meal was topped off with mango, sticky rice, and coconut milk, and I learned that for both the long- and short-grained rice, I had been adding too much water. By the end of this visit, I could cook a better pot of rice using the "knuckle method" for determining how much water to add to the pot: I stick my finger in the pot just touching the top of the rice, and add water up to my first knuckle. Perfect every time!
My contribution to the cooking - besides watching and tasting - was the sum total of two rhubarb pies: one regular with streusel-type topping and the other a rhubarb crème. They were good but seemed pretty heavy after all of the light and healthy Thai food.
That reminds me, I had wanted to lose a few pounds in the run-up to our hometown's all-school reunion. But now that is only three days away, so that isn't likely to happen!