Thursday, 24 June 2010

Som Tam – The Spicy Salad

Spicy and salad are generally two words which are not found in the same sentence. In Thai cooking, the nation’s spicy salad is called som tam, or sometimes som tum. It is derived from Laos to the north of Thailand from a dish called tam mak hoong or the Cambodian version is known as bok l’hong. The salad is made from the unripe core of a papaya using a special tool which takes three strips of the fruit at a time. The end result is spaghetti like noodles of papaya.

Thai cuisine typically has four main tastes that are present in nearly all dishes. The heat comes from the chilli, the salty fish sauce, the juice of a lime and to counteract the flavours, palm sugar is also added. What is often served up as a side dish or as an accompaniment to noodles and vegetables, som tam gives a refreshing taste with the zing of some hot chillies.

Added peanuts, crab (padaek) or dried shrimp are nearly always found in som tam, but in Isaan the crabs are usually raw, meaning the government tries to recommend not having them as there could be an hepatitis risk. As ever with most dishes, there are variations. Some restaurants and markets offer a papaya replacement with mangoes, carrots and cucumbers. Again, the major Thai tastes are present but with a different, but equally fresh un-ripened fruit.

Som tam is a versatile dish that can be found with rice, noodles or vegetables. It is also treated as a snack usually with some salty pork rinds. The dish can stand on its own as being a genuine dish, but with the freshness and spiciness, sometimes just having a small side order is enough to taste the flavours. Hot, fresh and interesting is the best description!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Typical Thai Deserts

Traditional international desserts such as ice cream and cakes are sold and served throughout Thailand. Many however, have been given an Asian twist such as ice creams with durian, lime and coconut flavourings and cakes including sponge rolls or buns with pandanus and custard fillings.

There are also those that are less known to the West such as Tako, which is made from coconut and has a jelly like texture. The puddings are set in small moulds, which are made from pandanus leaves that fragrance the puddings naturally and make them attractive in their appearance.

One Thai dessert that can be found on most Thai menus is sticky rice with mango, which is named 'Khao niao mamuang' in Thai. The rice is cooked and mixed with coconut milk and often sweetened further with palm sugar or granulated sugar. Fresh slices are then added to the rice or placed to the side.

Grass jelly, known as 'Chao Kuai' is an interesting looking desert due to it being black in colour. The black jelly is made with mesona chinesis leaves, which are slightly similar to mint leaves. The leaves are oxidized slightly and then boiled with potassium carbonate. Once set, it is ready to serve. Most locals will usually buy the grass jelly already made. It is then served with brown sugar and/or shavings of ice. The taste of the jelly is said to be slightly similar to lavender and a little bitter, hence sugar is added to balance the flavours.

At night, it is normal to see pancake stalls everywhere around large cities. Bananas, sugar and chocolate spread are usually added to sweeten further. This dessert is one that many visitors and tourists will be familiar with; it is also eaten as a snack by the locals and tourists.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Recommended in BBC Olive magazine

Thai Food Online has been recommended as the place to shop like a ‘Pro Vietnamese’ for fresh Asian ingredients in the popular BBC food magazine, Olive (July 2010 issue).

We are pleased to be recommended as an online resource for authentic Asian ingredients yet again. This follows us being recommended by Rick Stein in his new book, Far Eastern Odyssey.

Thai Food Online is the only online store where you can purchase such a wide range of fresh authentic Thai herbs, spices, vegetables and fruit.