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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Thai dinner chez Pim

I had a dinner party last night. There were seven of us for dinner, Ed, Claude, Thomas (without whom we would have been sitting on the floor, more on that later), Maureen, her husband Russ, and Daniel, who was also my co-chef for the night.

The day started out very early, well, early-ish at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market. I met up with Daniel and his sister Doree to shop for inspiration and provision for the night's meal. The market trip, as always, took far longer than we planned. That, together with the hour or two we lost contemplating the plethora of dim sum offerings at Harbour Village across the street, kept Daniel and I away from any cooking until 3.30pm.

Daniel, if you haven't already known this, is a chef by profession, and has worked under a number of fabulous chef, but perhaps his best work yet was last night. We put out eight dishes for a table of seven!

At seven o'clock, sharp, Claude showed up. I imagine Claude was standing there in front of my door with his finger two inches from my buzzer, with his two arm loads of wine, waiting for seven o'clock to roll around, on the dot, before he rang the door. Upon realizing how late the kitchen was operating, Claude promptly opened one of his fantastic wines, perhaps to gently nudge Daniel and I to work a bit faster.

Then Maureen and her husband arrived, Ed closely followed. Maureen, ever so nice, offered to help and was handed two bunches of Thai basil to part the leaves from the stems, a similar aid offer from Ed landed him a few cucumbers to peel.

The last to arrive was Thomas, who was ever so obliging in bringing along the chairs on which my dinner guests would later sit. I bought a new (old) table, you see, but have yet to buy chairs to match it. So, thanks to Thomas we finally sat down around the table at which the following dishes were served.

Khao-tung Na-tung
Rice cake with sweet pork relish
KaoTung.jpg

This is one of my favorite Thai snack food. The relish, Na-tung, is usually made with a mixture of pork and shrimp. I made this one with only minced pork today so Daniel, who has shellfish allergy, could eat it. The Na-tung base is a paste made of dried chillies, cilantro roots, white pepper and garlic, cooked with coconut milk, pork, shallots, and lots of peanuts. The taste is sweet and salty, just a perfect waking up your tastebuds dish.

Nuea Satay, Moo Satay
Beef and pork satays
Satays.jpg

I made my own spice mix for the meat marinade, with turmeric, curry powder, coriander seeds, cardamom, clove, and cumin. The peanut sauce was made with a base of Massaman curry paste, with coconut milk and freshly ground peanut butter.

This was something of a participatory dish, as dinner guests were asked to grill their own satays. I think it was much more fun that way, plus, Daniel and I were far too busy in the kitchen to bother with it ourselves.

Tom Yum Goong
Spicy shrimp soup
TomYum2.jpg

The famous Tom Yum Goong, need I say more? The recipe is available if you want to know how it's made.

Sreng-wah, Pla-foo
Shrimp and herb salad on a bed of crispy catfish
SrengWah.jpg

The Thai name of this dish, Sreng-wah, translates to “pretend”. This original inspiration for it came from a dish from the South of Thailand, and was originally made with fish kidney. The wimpy Bangkokians apparently couldn't quite deal with such an exotic an ingredient, and so came up with a mock dish, mimicking the seasonings of the original dish, but made with a much more mundane ingredient of shrimps.

This dish is my favorite Thai salad. I adore the interplay of textures, the crunch from the Pla-foo (crispy fish) against the softer flesh of the shrimps. I also love the decidedly tangy and aromatic dressing, made of tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar, tossed with plenty of lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots, young ginger, and chillies.

The one we made last night was absolutely perfect, down to every minute detail. I dare you to find a better version of Sreng-wah than the one Daniel and I made last night, anywhere.

Hoy-lai pad Prik-pao
Clams stir-fried in chilli Paste
ClamStirfry.jpg

This clam dish is also another one of my favorite Thai dishes. The reason is perhaps because it uses as the main seasoning, my aunt's famous Nam-prik Pao, or chilli paste. I used the batch I made a couple of months ago. The clams were bought live from Clement st. and were sweet and absolutely delicious in the spicy and ever so slightly sweet sauce.

Gang Gai
Chicken in green curry
GangGai.jpg

This was Aunt Chawiwan's famous green curry of chicken and apple eggplants. I was a little bit disappointed by my execution of this curry, actually. I misjudged the amount of chicken and eggplants we put in, so the curry was a little bit too mild. I should have used a bit more curry paste. Too bad.

Hor Mok Pu kab Hoy-shell
Steamed curry with crab meat and scallops
HorMok.jpg

The Hormok in Thailand is commonly cooked and served in a small container (Gratong) made of banana leaf. It can be steamed or even grilled. The one last night was cooked in a Le Creuset terrine in a water-bath in the oven. The curry was made with simple red curry (but with a little bit more lime leaves and lemongrass added to the basic red curry paste to enhance the taste of the seafood), coconut milk, crab meat and scallops, and garnished with julienned lime leaves, Thai basil and julienned red chilli.

Moo Wan
Caramelized pork belly
For some reason we forgot to take a picture of this. Oh well. I must say that this one turned out even better than the one I made in London. Daniel, ever the master chef, suggested that I braised the belly pork inside the oven rather than my usually stove-top method. Boy did it work?? The pork belly was so tender it practically melted on my tongue.

Unfortunately, Daniel and I had such a late start that we had to forego a couple dishes that we had planned to make. One of those missing dishes was a dessert of egg custard baked inside a Kabocha squash. I'll just have to do it next time.

Claude brought many fantastic bottles of Riesling to compliment my food, all of which I consumed without even asking what they were. I simply drank what he poured into my glass. It was a pretty good policy last night. Heck, drinking whatever Claude poured into my glass probably qualifies as a good policy ANY night.

Again I shall let those more knowledgeable than mere me tell you about the wine. I believe we also drank a bottle that Ed brought; again I shall let him tell you about it himself.

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