Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's the weekend.  The boys have enlisted themselves once again as soldiers in their virtual war, playing Call of Duty with six other team members online.  Fierce commandos sweep through a deserted house, armed with guns, grenades or RPGs, eager to kill the enemy.  I hear cries of rage, fists pounding in frustration, screaming frantic strategies. Are we having fun?

Their snack of choice is just as fiery: Burger King's Angry Whopper with spicy crispy onions, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and an Angry Sauce loaded with chillies. So my plan to make Thai food tonight should spice things up even more.  

My first cooking holiday was in Bangkok. Learning the intricate cuisine of Thailand was intimidating at first. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy, crunchy, creamy. Herbs and spices pounded to a paste. Funny looking ingredients like galangal, kaffir limes, wing beans.  I came home with recipes that felt too complicated to replicate. My taste experience in Bangkok remained but a good memory, until I found The Taste of Thailand cookbook by Vatcharin Bhumichitr.  Yes there is pounding involved, but otherwise many of the recipes are surprisingly simple.  I adjusted the chili quantities to suit our heat tolerance.  Be careful not to overcook the fish cakes, or they will harden.   Serve with Cucumber Relish.

Tod Man Pla 
Fish Cakes

4 dried Red Chillies, deseeded and soaked
1 Shallot, finely sliced
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 Coriander roots, chopped
1 tablespoon Galangal, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kaffir Lime Leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
450 grams firm-fleshed Fish Fillets, skinless and boneless, minced
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
60 grams Green Beans, sliced very fine
Oil for deep frying

Using a mortar and pestle or blender, pound the chillies, shallots, garlic, coriander roots, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and salt together into a paste.

Mix the paste thoroughly with the minced fish. Add the fish sauce and green beans, mix thoroughly until you have a firm paste.  Shape into small flat cakes, no more than 1/2 inch thick.  Heat the oil to medium hot and deep-fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  

Cucumber Relish

125 ml Rice Vinegar
50 ml Sugar
5 cm piece Cucumber, skin on
1 small Carrot
3 Shallots, finely sliced
1 small Chili, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Ground Roasted Peanuts

Boil the sugar and vinegar together until sugar is dissolved and a thick syrup is formed (about 7 minutes).  

Quarter the cucumber lengthwise, then slice finely.  Add the cucumber, shallots, carrot and chili to the syrup and mix.  Sprinkle peanuts on top, stir once and serve.

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