Never have I felt more inspired to tackle Thai cooking in my home kitchen. Thanks to the highly visual nature of Gusto TV’s new Canadian cooking show One World Kitchen and the easy-to-follow steps demonstrated by articulate and charming host Pailin Chongchitnant, even slightly more complex dishes, like Curry Puffs with two types of dough, seem do-able.
Notes on Thai Cooking
One World Kitchen is more than a step-by-step cooking show. Along with recipes, the hosts, who hail from five different parts of the world, share interesting nuggets about their respective home countries throughout episodes. For example, did you know that mangos are used at every stage of ripeness, from their tart-sour green state to their sweet, dark yellow ripe phase? Or how about that ‘toasted rice powder’ (an ingredient you grind yourself) is a popular garnish on a variety of dishes? Pai was born and raised in Southern Thailand — it’s fascinating to learn about a country from a local.
The Thai Dishes Featured This Week
This week on One World Kitchen, Vancouver-based Thai host Pailin Chongchitnant (who you might recognize from The Dirty Apron Cooking Classes) features three recipes:
Curry Puffs: a quick glance at these beautiful, deep-fried, croissant-like puffs and you might be scared off — they look tricky to make! But the recipe is so simple and Pai demonstrates each step so clearly, I don’t think you can go wrong. This is one way to easily impress your family or your Thai friends.
Thai Smoked Trout Salad: Pai explains that Thai cooking is all about balance of textures and flavours. This fresh salad is packed with both, from its toasted rice powder (which she says her friends have begun adding to everything for its glorious and unique texture) to its tart ‘n crunchy strips of green mango. This salad is a beauty and will definitely be the first Thai recipe I tackle.
Kaffir Lime Vodka Martini: Did you know you can easily infuse vodka simply by adding a few ingredients to your bottle for a few days? I love Pai’s idea to add kaffir lime leaves to alcohol. She takes a popular Thai kids drink to adult-level by blending her infused vodka with blended watermelon and lime juice. This could become your go-to homemade summer cocktail.
If any of these recipes look tricky to you, just head to the One World Kitchen site here to watch the hosts demonstrate each little step.
PAI’S QUICK TIPS ON THAI COOKING AND EATING IN VANCOUVER
1. Where do you shop for Thai ingredients in Vancouver?
“Asia Market on Hastings and Gore. It’s a bit of a rough part of town, yes, but don’t worry, the store is nice, neat and clean! The staff is also very friendly; it is owned by Thai people and usually has a Thai person on staff, so they can help you find what you need. They have mostly dry goods, but also carry a decent selection of fresh herbs and produce shipped directly from Thailand that you cannot find anywhere else! Tip: If you’re going for a specific fresh herb or produce in mind, or a specific brand of dry goods, be sure to call them first to check if they have it. And if they don’t have it, ask if they know when they’re getting it in.”
2. What are your favourite Thai cooking tools and where do you buy them in Vancouver?
“Heavy-duty stone mortar and pestle! Every Thai kitchen has one. Thai cuisine uses a lot of herb pastes made by pounding in a mortar and pestle, from the simple mixture of garlic, white peppercorns and cilantro roots that we often use in marinades and stir-fries, to the more elaborate concoctions like our curry pastes. I also use it to crush or grind spices, nuts and seeds. It’s easy to use, clean, care for, and it’s a good exercise! I got mine from one of the cookware stores in Chinatown; there are a couple on 100 and 200 blocks of W. Pender street. They’re hole-in-the-wall type places but full of great finds and really good deals!”
3. What’s your favourite “unsung” Thai ingredient that you think everyone should try or at least open their mind to?
“Gapi, or fermented shrimp paste. It’s a salty, purplish-gray paste with a funky smell that is made from salted and fermented krill (so really, it should be called krill paste). We put it in dips, stir-fries, curry pastes, and in some parts of Thailand, they even put it in their papaya salad! On its own, it may be an “acquired smell,” but when added to other dishes, it adds a unique flavour and punch of umami, which is why us Thais love it so much. My favourite thing to make with it is “shrimp paste fried rice” or kao kluk gapi, and it’s surprisingly good even to people who say they don’t like the smell!”
“I’m a bad person to ask because I cook Thai so much at home that I rarely go out for Thai food! Having said that, I have a couple places that I like that are out of the city. Pok Pok in Portland is fantastic, and just a few weeks ago I discovered a place in Toronto called Pai that was also excellent (and no, it’s not because it’s got my name on it, but a subconscious bias? Maybe! ).”