Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Safe Return

Kevin returned safe and sound to Bangkok earlier today. Instead of his usual travel to the U.S. or around Asia, this trip took him to Kabul, Afghanistan for a week. For obvious reasons, I didn't want to post anything on here about him being there until he returned safely. I was pretty anxious about him going on this trip and had some upsetting dreams the few days before he left...VERY unusual for me. I promised myself not to read the news while he was gone but that vow quickly fell flat. The last time I did not read or watch the news for a few days (I cannot remember why), Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait (in 1992). And, yes, this (then) recent college graduate with a degree in International Relations and a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies looked very ridiculous by not knowing ANYTHING about it until well after the fact! I remember reading the Washington Post a few days later and thinking, "wow, how on earth did I miss THAT?!?".  Never again. I am officially a news junkie. Anyway, Kevin said it was an interesting experience and I am looking forward to hearing about it over dinner this evening.  

Sadly, shortly after Kevin's flight for Bangkok (via Dubai) left Afghanistan yesterday afternoon, I was on CNN and one of the  international news headlines was "Dozens Killed in Kabul Bomb Explosion". I cannot imagine living in that type of environment on a daily basis and really feel for those who do (and their families), especially our U.S. military personnel and civilians who are there trying to make a difference.

Today was my last Thai Cooking Class! It is hard to believe that this was our fourth and last class. Today, we learned how to make different Thai salads. Of the six salads we were going to learn to make, PeePorn has made three of them for us - Pomelo Salad, Papaya Salad (Som Tum), and Minced Chicken Salad (Laab Gai). I had never even heard of the other three salads on the list - Banana Blossom Salad, Lemongrass Salad with Prawns and Wing Bean Salad - so it really was a great learning opportunity.  The end results were AMAZING!

As in the prior classes, the instructor (Danielle) had us (there were four students today) prep all of the ingredients for all of the dishes right away. Before we arrive, Danielle figures out the total amount of each ingredient that we will need for all of the recipes and sets everything out for us. The prep work - chopping, slicing, and dicing - took a tremendous amount of time and energy.  I think my arm will be quite sore after peeling and slicing almost 200 grams of shallots and 200 grams of garlic. For the first hour or so, we were all very busy chopping and weighing the ingredients.  

After the prep work was finished (yay!), we each began a recipe and worked on it for a few steps and then we rotated around to work on the other dishes.  Generally, this was how each class was run. It was a little chaotic working on one recipe for a little while, turning it over to someone and moving on to take over another recipe from someone else. Of course, being the control and organizational freak that I am, I had a really hard time with this "rotation" method and did not like it one bit. I wanted to work on one recipe only and make MY dish. I was able to do that for the first class but, after that, Danielle made sure to move me along. I imagine my report card would read, "does not cooperate well with others in team efforts". So true. Anyway, I did learn to adjust to the situation and now realize the benefit of this type of teaching as everyone had a chance to experience and learn about different ingredients and techniques.  

The first item we needed to make was a roasted chili paste which was used as a base for several of the dressings for the salads.   
We used a mortar and pestle quite frequently (as does PeePorn). The photo below is roasted rice after being ground to a fine flour.
The photo below shows one of the students shredding the papaya for the Som Tum Salad.
My work station.  I just finished mincing chicken breasts to be used in the Laab Gai (Minced Chicken Salad).  
The photo below is of lemongrass steeping in water for lemongrass tea. Since only a very small portion of the lemongrass stalk can be used to cook with (most of the stalk is very tough and fibrous), the "waste" is made into tea.  
One of the salads we made totally won the "wow" award today. A couple of months ago, I posted this photo...
If you remember, this is a banana blossom with the bananas emerging as they ripen. Today, for the Banana Blossom Salad, we began with a very young banana blossom (much smaller and  with no fully developed bananas). First, we peeled the outermost purple leaves away as they are quite bitter and not used in the dish. Underneath the purple leaves, the leaves are white and those are what are used in the salad. We peeled the white leaves away and soaked them in lime juice & water (to prevent from turning brown). In the photo below, the white stringy things on the cutting board are the baby bananas that are developing in between each layer of leaves.   They tasted like banana peel and were discarded.
The leaves were then thinly sliced and tossed with the dressing to make this delicious salad. A few of the purple outermost leaves were used for garnish.  
It was definitely a unique Thai dish!  And quite delicious.

The photo below is the Wing Bean Salad. I embarrassed myself several times by calling it Wing Nut Salad!
The photo below shows the ingredients for the Pomelo Salad right before tossing.
Pomelo Salad, ready to be served...
The photo below is of the Laab Gai (Minced Chicken Salad). Of all of the salads we made today, this was probably my least favorite. It just seemed a bit boring.
The Lemongrass With Prawns was another "new" salad for me. Lemongrass is so fibrous and "woody" that I couldn't imagine it being used, raw, as the main ingredient in a salad. However, the lemongrass is peeled and then so thinly sliced that it is very easy to chew.    
The 6th salad we made today was my absolute favorite, Som Tum (Papaya Salad). Before adding the shredded papaya, we lightly bruised the ingredients in the pestle.
Som Tum is typically made to order on an individual basis so you can specify the number of chilies you want added. I added only part of one chili and it was still a bit too spicy for me to enjoy. But I managed!
The table set for our lunch.
The Lemongrass Tea with ice and mint.
 My plate.
After the delicious gourmet lunch I had today, would you believe I had a bowl of cereal for dinner?  

Have a great Wednesday!   

1 comment:

RunNaiRun/Jill Hague said...

So happy Kevin is home safe and sound, and you're such an inspiration with those dishes! What an experience!