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Adventures in Thai Cooking

June 2, 2008

“The mere smell of cooking can evoke a whole civilization.”
Fernand Brandel

Cooking Thai food is one of those foods I absolutely love but could not cook. I tried and failed miserably many times. Then I had the great good fortune to have friend tuck me under her brightly colored umbrella and show me a few simple dishes that made it all come together. Thai cooking is all about intuition and personal taste opposed to the western school of thought of measurements and consistent outcome. Thai food is all about cooking with your tongue, right up my alley.

There are a few ideas to keep in mind while you are roaming through this cooking adventure. Thai food is a balance of 4 flavors plus heat, sour, sweet, creamy, and salty and the heat is the high note that sets on top. Taste the food often as you are concocting your Thai masterpiece and discern what flavor is missing or unbalanced, and add that one till you get the sweet spot where the flavors are just right. If it isn’t salty enough add some soy sauce. Not creamy enough? Coconut milk or peanut butter. Sour is likely to be lime and fish sauce and of course, sweet is sugar or sweet chili sauce. The heat can be ginger, or chilies. If you don’t like an ingredient, don’t put it in or only put in a little for balance. It’s that simple. I love it! Don’t forget how good Thai food is for you too! Naturally packed with veggies and low fat ingredients.

This is a very good social dish to prepare with friends. A glass of a nice Riesling with a tropical fruit note is very good to sip on here to loosen up the vibe. (Willamette Vineyards makes a smashing Riesling at about $11 at Manzanita Fresh Foods. The rice papers can be bought at Mother Nature’s and the Mung bean threads and Sriracha, which is a Thai chili garlic paste, at Manzanita Deli.

Nime Chow
Thai Spring Rolls
An ounce or so of Mung Bean threads
12 sheets of round rice paper
2 cups or so of mixed greens
1 cup of fresh bean sprouts
1 cup of basil leaves
½ cup or so of fresh cilantro leaves
1 or 2 cucumbers cut into julienne strips
1 or 2 carrots grated
24 to 30 medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
½ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Soak bean threads in two cups of very hot water in a pan for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain them and set aside. (You can cut them into 4 inch sections with some scissors for easy handling, if you wish.

Prepare all your veggies. (The wine comes in handy here.) Wash and pat them dry, cut up the carrots and cucumbers, and pick the cilantro and basil leaves off the stems. Organize everything assembly line fashion, like greens, basil and cilantro, carrots and basil, shrimp and peanuts.

Now for the rice paper. (This is where it really gets fun!) Pour some very warm water into a shallow wide dish, like a pie plate, to about the depth of 1 inch. Place 1 sheet of rice paper in the water and jiggle it back and forth with you finger tips till you feel it go soft under your touch, about 1 minute or so.  Remove the sheet from the water and place on a sushi mat that’s on top of a dry, clean dish towel. They are pretty fragile at this point so handle with care. Place about 2 fingers wide of bean threads in the middle of the rice paper, then add a couple tablespoons of bean sprouts, some basil and cilantro leaves, greens, carrot and cucumber, and a couple three shrimp, then some peanuts sprinkled like stars in a nice little heap on the bean threads mixture. Remember do things here according to your personal taste. Then fold the rice paper burrito style, the ends in first then roll the rice paper nice and tight over the garden of ingredients.

It takes some practice but you’ll get the hang of it. It will make things a lot easier if you wet your fingers a little to handle the rice paper. Place the rolls on a plate, seam side down, with a damp paper towel over them till you are ready to eat them. Make the dipping sauces and then cut them in half diagonally and pretend you’re in Thailand!

Here is the classic peanut sauce lighten up a bit. It is still high in fat but it is all good for you. My husband can not have enough of this!

Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup of all natural creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup 1% fat milk
3 tablespoons of lime juice
2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 to 3 teaspoons of Sriracha, such as Huy Fong

Whip up all the ingredients in the food processor or blender. Yum yum.
This next sauce is so good you’ll find yourself dipping everything into it! No, really

Lime Vinegar Dipping Sauce
1 cup of hot water
¼ cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
2 to 4 large garlic cloves, grated
1 to 2 teaspoons of Sriracha, such as Huy Fong

Add the sugar into the hot water in a small glass jar and shake till it dissolves. Then add the other ingredients and shake some more. Serve in small dipping dishes with the spring rolls. Enjoy this finger licking food and fantastic flavors.  Until next time……bon appetite!

Nutritional Information, for 1 roll plus 3 tablespoons of lime sauce = CALORIES 154, FAT 3.1 FIBER 2

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Norris Hall permalink
    June 3, 2008 3:11 pm

    Heres a good site for Thai cooking
    It’s got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along. Free too

  2. June 10, 2008 8:08 pm

    Your Thai spring rolls look fantastic! It’s definitely a great social dish to have everyone roll their own.

  3. ziabaki permalink*
    June 10, 2008 8:51 pm

    Wow, what an honor to have you visit my blog! I absolutely love you blog and see you as a mentor. Thanks for adding such delight to the beautiful world of food.

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