Cooking Thai Food at Home

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Amanda gets down on the kitchen floor with the curry paste tonight.

During our Chiang Mai vacation, we indulged in a lot of Thai food and took several cooking classes. The first class was a day at the Thai Farm Cooking School where we visited a farmers' market, toured the school's organic farm, ground curry paste by hand and made more food than we could eat, including curry with our fresh paste and a dessert of mango with sticky rice. A few days later, the cook at Maesa Elephant Camp led us through some simple recipes at dinnertime. Back in Chiang Mai we did an evening course at Baan Thai and made fish cakes, soup, more curry paste and the local noodle dish, khao soi.

I was sort of surprised at how none of the cooking methods were exotic - mainly stirfry and simmering.
Curry is basically fried vegetables simmered in coconut milk. There's no major mystery to making tom yam soup; it's just a lightly boiled soup. Steaming rice is a bit different than boiling it, but even that is just steaming.

It was the ingredients that made all the difference. So many good smells in Thai food, as Tod says. We worked with kaffir lime leaf, fresh lemon grass, members of the ginger family and oh, those tiny bitter eggplants! We despaired of ever recreating these dishes in Tokyo, despite our instructors' enthusiastic entreaties to "Please cook Thai at home!" But today, Tod discovered a Asia Superstore, a Thai grocery in Okubo near Higashi-Shinjuku station. He biked over and came back with a mortar and pestle and everything else needed to make curry paste. They even had the eggplants.

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I don't know what lime leaf is, but I wouldn't mind getting acquainted with it! Sounds like a bright flavor, and it seems like you learned a lot and had fun cooking!

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