Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

I think I may have lost some readers when I moved my blog to Wordpress (or maybe it's because I was on the road, so there weren't any new recipes being posted). But, if you haven't seen the NEW (well, it's not even that new anymore) Cate's World Kitchen, I suggest you check it out!

I've got recipes, like Grilled Eggplant Salad and Mu Shu Tofu (which was on FoodGawker!)

I sometimes post about new things I'm seeing and doing now that I live in South Korea, but the main focus is on good, simple food. I hope you'll visit (and update your bookmarks/reader/etc)!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Update your Reader!

Since my life has undergone a huge transformation as of late, I figured my blog should too. Fresh From Cate's Kitchen made sense as a title when I was cooking things every day, but now that I'm traveling the world, my kitchen time is extremely limited. I temporarily re-named the blog to "Cate In Thailand," but that isn't going to work for the long haul.

I decided Cate's World Kitchen makes more sense for the kinds of posts I'm doing these days, and I'm excited to make a new header for each new place I visit. I'll be in Vietnam in about 10 days, so you'll see a new header then with pictures of Vietnamese food. After that, I'll be in Cambodia and the header will change accordingly. I hope you'll keep checking back to read about my food-centered world exploration!

I moved my blog to Wordpress because I like the format better...but this one will still be around (plus you'll find all my old posts on the new site too!)

Please update your Google Reader (or whatever site you use to keep track of blogs) to http://cateskitchen.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Perfect Thai Iced Coffee

I pretty much stick to four main food groups here in Thailand: Iced Coffee, Fruit, Noodles, and Food On A Stick. Every day, I eat something from each group. I've made it my personal mission to find the best in each of these groups, and today I'm going to show you the best iced coffee in Chiang Mai. Don't try and argue - I've tried DOZENS of places and this one wins, hands down. It's also the cheapest place in the neighborhood!

I stop by this stand every day, and after about four days, the woman who works there started to recognize me. Now she starts on my coffee as she sees me approaching. Here's how the perfect beverage is concocted:

First, she puts a spoon full of sugar and a spoon full of creamer into a small glass.

Then, she pours Thai coffee into the glass. A lot of places make their iced coffee with regular brewed coffee, or worse, Nescafe, but this is the real stuff. It's made from oliang powder, which is coffee mixed with a little bit of sesame and corn, poured through a muslin filter.

Once the coffee is in the glass, she stirs it well to dissolve the sugar and creamer. Then she adds a generous spoonful of sweetened condensed milk and stirs.
She fills a tall plastic cup with ice, and pours some evaporated milk over the top.
Then, she pours the coffee mixture into the plastic cup that has the ice and evaporated milk.
And there it is...the perfect Thai Iced Coffee!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Thai Cooking Class: Part 2

Of course the best part of the cooking class was the actual cooking! It was kind of a challenge to get good pictures because it was a little dark in the kitchen...but here are the highlights!

We started off with Tom Yam - the popular and delicious hot and sour soup of Thailand.  In order to be called Tom Yam, it MUST have Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass.  After that, it's pretty much up to you, but without those three things, it's a different soup.  I also have some chiles in mine...
Add the vegetables (you can add whatever you want; I used Chinese kale, Napa cabbage, baby corn, mushrooms, carrot, and tomato)
Stir in some Tom Yam paste (which is made from chiles, lemongrass, cilantro, sugar, lime leaves, and galangal).  You can make the past or buy it pre-made in a jar.
That's all it takes for basic tom yam.  You can also stir in just a tablespoon of coconut milk, and it changes it into a creamier, heartier soup.

Next, we made vegetable stir fry with cashews.  It was just a basic vegetable stir fry, flavored with a little sugar, golden mountain sauce, and soy sauce, and we added toasted cashews at the end.
Massaman curry is my absolute favorite.  It has red curry paste and curry powder, so it's a fusion of Thai and Indian flavors.  It's often made with beef and potatoes, but since this was a vegetarian class, we just used the potatoes and some tofu.
We made a lot of food and took a lot of notes!  
Green curry with sweet potato.  This steamed up my camera lens!
Fresh spring rolls.  I love these!  The wrappers were basically huge squares of noodles - just not cut up.  They were much easier to work with than the dry wrappers I usually get.  We also made a fabulous peanut sauce to dip these in (with coconut milk, red curry paste, tomatoes, and ground peanuts - it was some of the best peanut sauce I've ever had, and I've tried MANY recipes!)
My beloved Som Tham!  First, you crush up some garlic, fresh hot chiles, peanuts, lime juice, and sugar in this HUGE mortar and pestle.  
Then you add some pieces of long bean and slices of tomato and pound some more.
Finally, you add shredded carrot and shredded green papaya, stir it all up, put it on a plate, and top with peanuts!
I am VERY excited to make some of these dishes in my own kitchen, whenever I end up living in a place that has one!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cooking Schools In Chiang Mai

Taking a cooking class is an incredibly popular activity in Chiang Mai.  Every tourist office (where you can book tickets, excursions, classes, etc) has advertisements for cooking schools, and there are probably 20 cooking schools in town.  

If you're looking for a great class, skip the tourist offices and contact schools directly. They are easy to find on Google, and a lot of them distribute brochures to guest houses and restaurants around the city.
 Ask them who will be teaching the class and the experience they have, how many students are typically in the class, and how many different recipes you'll be making.  Steer clear of classes with more than about 5 students.  I've seen HUGE classes go to the markets, and it doesn't look like you learn much of anything.

The girl I was meeting suggested May Kaidee's, because she's vegetarian and loves the restaurant (there are branches in Chiang Mai and Bangkok). The class was a little bit more expensive than some of the others, but we got to make 12 different dishes, and because there were only 3 people in the class, we could all ask a bunch of questions and have them answered. I enjoyed the class, but unfortunately don't have anything to compare it to.
If I were going to take another class, I would seriously consider A Lot of Thai because I've heard great things about it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thai Cooking Class: Part 1

When you travel, the world seems to get a lot smaller. It's amazing how common it is to bump into acquaintances or friends of friends, even in far-flung locales thousands of miles from home. It turned out that a friend of a friend from college was going to Thailand right around the same time I was. She ended up in the south, and I ended up in the north, but this week she happened to be traveling around Chiang Mai, and we took a cooking class together.
I have been complaining about our lack of a kitchen since the day we got here, so I was overjoyed to be cooking again. I got to spend about 5 hours learning how to make all sorts of great Thai dishes! The class was great because there were only three students, so we got plenty of individual attention from the teacher, a fun and energetic woman named Duan.

The first hour of the class was spent walking around the market, where we were introduced to different ingredients.   First, we got a look at the different chiles and learned about what they are used for.  The larger ones are mild and are common in stir fries.  The smaller ones are much spicier and are used in sauces and curry paste.  

These are fresh wheat noodles, which are used in my beloved Khow Soi
This is hand-pressed tofu.  It's nice and firm, and I wish I could find stuff like this in California!  The yellow tofu is colored with turmeric.
We bought a bunch of vegetables to use in the class:
Here, Duan explains different rices.  White basmati rice is most common, but there are also brown and red varieties. Sticky rice can be either black or white. A lot of people buy sticky rice in Thailand and don't understand why it doesn't work when they try to cook it.  Apparently it has to soak overnight first.
Tons of spices!  
Green papaya, jackfruit, and banana flowers (the big purple things).  Green papaya gets shredded for som tham, jackfruit is commonly used in desserts, and banana flowers are thinly sliced and used in soup or stir fry.
Thai shallots (on the left) are much smaller than the ones typically available in the US.
Their garlic (on the right) is much smaller too.  Fried garlic is a common garnish, and they don't peel the cloves first.
A comparison of galangal and ginger:
There are a few different kinds of eggplant, and they're all green: long thin ones, small green and white golf-ball sized ones (that are commonly found in green curry and some stir fries), and tiny pea-sized ones that are crunchy and incredibly bitter).
The markets usually have big tubs of live fish...
and a lot of them end up stuffed with lemongrass and grilled.
Check back for another post on all the things we made!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beverage Love

Thais are serious about beverages (and with good reason - it is so hot that if you're not drinking all day long, you'll end up severely dehydrated). Along the main street in our neighborhood there are at least a dozen little stands that make coffee, tea, and other delightful drinks.  Look at all the fun, colorful options here!

This one has some coffee and a lot of tea, with Nestea being the substance of choice. I think I'll pass on that (but this stand is Mike's favorite).
You can tell by the cans of Carnation milk that this stand's main focus is coffee.  I don't know how many cans of evaporated and sweetened condensed milk are consumed in this country on a daily basis, but it's a huge number.  I almost never see people drinking black coffee; it always has lots of milk and sugar!

Before we came here, I didn't really pay attention drinks other than water (OK, and coffee, and beer - just the essentials).  To me, they were a waste of calories and I would rather have something I could chew on.  But then I fell in love with Thai iced coffee, and after that I figured I should give all the other drinks a chance too.  Now I probably spend as much on drinks each day as I do on food (two or three dollars).

Thai iced tea with milk has a nice pretty orange color and tastes like tea with an infusion of wheat.  It doesn't sound particularly pleasant, but trust me, it's good.  It's really creamy and not too sweet - very refreshing on hot, humid afternoons.