Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Introduction to Thai Food

Cheryl Tallman

The original name of Thailand was Sukhothai, which means "Dawn of Happiness.”
Without a doubt, sharing a Thai meal will bring this attitude of pleasure to your
table. Preparing Thai food is quick and easy. Most recipes are cooked on a stovetop
for a short period of time making Thai food ideal for weeknight dinners. Plus soups
and curries can be made ahead of time, frozen and reheated for serving.

Cooking a Thai meal will introduce your family to a new culture through a variety of

Common flavors in Thai cuisine include:
 a.. Chilies
 b.. Cilantro
 c.. Mint
 d.. Coconut Milk
 e.. Fish Sauce (Thailand's version of soy sauce)
 f.. Galangal (if you can't find this ingredient substitute: ginger)
 g.. Lemongrass (if you can't find this ingredient substitute: lemon zest)
 h.. Limes and Lime juice

Curry Paste:Curry paste is a common ingredient in Thai soup, stir-fries and stews. It's a spice
mixture made with fresh chilies, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, onion and other
aromatic spices. Prepared curry pastes are available in the Asian food section of
most grocery stores. These jars deliver great Thai flavor with less hassle than
making curry paste at home. The most common varieties include:

 a.. Green Curry Paste- Made using green chilies. This is the hottest curry paste
on the heat scale.
 b.. Red Curry Paste- Made using red chilies. This is milder than green curry
paste, but still fairly hot.
 c.. Yellow Curry Paste - Made using yellow wax peppers and turmeric. More mild
than red curry paste.
 d.. Massaman Curry Paste - A roasted curry paste that is made using cinnamon,
cloves, cumin and cardamom. It has a sweet and spicy flavor.
 e.. Panang Curry Paste - Made using lemongrass, coriander and cumin. It is the
mildest curry paste.
Family-Friendly Note:
Curry pastes are spicy. For milder, family-friendly flavor, cut down on the
measurement of curry paste called for in a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls
for 1 Tablespoon of red curry paste use 1 teaspoon instead.

Coconut Milk:
Coconut milk is a staple in Thai cooking. It's made by soaking the coconut meat in
water, then blending, squeezing and straining it. The result is a milky, smooth
liquid with a wonderful coconut flavor. Canned coconut milk is found in the Asian
section of grocery stores. High in calcium and low in cholesterol, coconut milk
makes a good substitute for heavy cream for those with dairy allergies.

Although a coconut is not a true nut, in 2006 the FDA categorized coconut as a tree nut for the purposes of product labeling. Allergies to coconut are very rare and do not to relate other tree nut allergies.

The Tiniest Gourmet: Introducing Thai Food with Purees and Mashed Combinations

A simple way to begin introducing Thai flavor to your baby is by adding coconut milk
in homemade baby food. As with any new food, follow the "one at time" rule - and
introduce just one new food over a 2-3 day period. This will help you identify a
culprit food in the event of an allergic reaction.

Thai Coconut Red Curry Sauce Cubes

1 can (13 oz.) coconut milk

1 tsp. Thai red curry paste

3 Tbsp. fish sauce

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

½ cup chicken stock

Over medium heat, whisk all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a light
simmer and remove from heat. Pour sauce into a 2-cup measuring cup and let cool for
10 minutes. Pour the red curry sauce into your So Easy Baby Food Trays, cover and
freeze until ready to use.

Remove a sauce cube from the freezer, defrost and add it to pureed or mashed rice
(or rice noodles), meats, vegetables and fruits. When first introducing the sauce,
try a small amount and work your way up to more. Here are some delicious
combinations for awesome Thai curries:

  a.. Sweet potatoes, chicken, pineapple and rice
  b.. Beef, zucchini, and rice
  c.. Flaked white fish (i.e. Cod), spinach and rice noodles
Tropical Thai-Style Fruit Pudding

1 mango

2 bananas

½ cup coconut milk

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. lime juice

Peel, core and chop mango into chunks. Peel and slice banana into chunks. Over
medium heat, pour coconut milk into a medium-sized saucepan. With a wooden spoon,
stir in brown sugar and lime juice. Add mango and banana. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour
the mixture into a blender and puree to a smooth texture. Pour the fruit pudding
into your So Easy Baby Food Trays, cover and freeze until ready to use.

Defrosted pudding cubes taste great alone, but try these options for variety:

 a.. Add fruit pudding to oatmeal for a great tasting start to the day.
 b.. Add a few cubes of fruit pudding to pancake batter to make Thai-inspired
 c.. Add mashed brown rice to create a fruity rice pudding
 d.. Toss 2-3 frozen cubes, 2 ice cubes and splash of fruit juice or milk in a
blender for a frothy fruit smoothie
Toddler Treat: Coconut Chicken Soup

Soups take the chill off winter and tastes oh-so good when you have the sniffles.
This recipe for chicken soup has full Thai flavor and is sure to be a hit with the
whole family, even the pickiest toddler. If you have a baby in your household, scoop
out a little soup and purée it in the blender. It will be a nice consistency for the

Toddler Treat: Coconut Chicken Soup

2 Tbsp. Olive oil

1/2 - 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste

5 cups chicken stock

1 can (13oz) coconut milk

6 thin slices of fresh ginger

3 Tbsp. lime juice

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

¾ lb boneless chicken breast

9-10 oz. baby spinach, sliced into thin shreds

4 ounces shitake or button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped 

Slice chicken breast into very thin strips and set aside. In a large soup pot over
medium heat, warm the oil. Add the red curry paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add chicken stock, coconut milk, ginger, lime juice, fish sauce and chicken breast.
Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add spinach and mushrooms
and simmer another 5 minutes. Add cilantro just before serving. Remove and discard
the ginger slices before serving.

Family Thai Dinner
Food courses in Thai meals are eaten "in harmony", or all at the same time. This
method is perfect for families - it provides variety and everyone can sit at the
table to enjoy the meal together. Traditionally Thai dishes are artistically
garnished, so add a fresh flower or fruit garnish for an authentic presentation!

Family Thai Dinner Menu:

Sweet Pork (recipe below)

Coconut Rice (recipe below)

Steamed Broccoli

Fresh Pineapple

Sweet Pork (Moo-Wan)
This is a simple recipe from Northern Thailand that turns pork tenderloin into sweet


4-5 shallots

1 pound pork tenderloin

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

¼ cup water

Peel shallots and cut into thin slices. Set aside. Remove fat from the outside of
the pork tenderloin. Cut pork into ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside.

Add the oil to a 10-inch skillet, wok or deep sided pan and place over medium-high
heat for 1 minute. Add the shallots and fry for 1-2 minutes until they begin to turn
brown. Add the sugar and stir until melted (be careful not to splash yourself). Add
the soy sauce, fish sauce, and water and bring to a boil. Add the pork and reduce
the heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes or until pork is tender and cooked
through. Once the pork is cooked, remove it with a slotted-spoon to a rimmed-serving
dish. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce for 1 minute to thicken it. Pour the
sauce over the pork and serve.

Coconut Rice

2 scallions

¾ cup chicken stock

¾ cup coconut milk

1 cup jasmine rice

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 oz. shitake or button mushrooms

Remove the white part of the scallions and thinly slice the green parts. Set aside.
Place chicken stock, coconut milk, and rice in a medium-sized saucepan over high
heat. Bring to a boil. Stir well. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer 15
minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 10 minutes. In a small skillet over medium-high
heat, add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and shitake mushrooms. Sauté 3 minutes and add salt and
pepper to taste.

When you are ready to serve dinner, fluff the rice with a fork, toss in mushrooms
and scallions.

Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the
award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new
book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years.
Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

1 comment:

  1. What a delicious introduction to Thai style food.
    I wonder if some parents name a child Sukhothai. Such a lovely meaning.