December 30, 2009

Thai Hot Pot

Fondue may seemed to have died a 70s death, but I'm all for spreading the word about this version. You'll hear me rave about Thai food over and over, but this one really is for the masses. Such an easy concept, but so nice for a few people to share the experience of cooking/burning/pushing themselves to their spicy limits along with a nice Singha beer.

At this particular restaurant (you'll find them dotted around Thailand), you paid 109 Baht (the equivalent being just over 2 quid) for the tastiest 'All You Can Eat' buffet. Food included salad (which you could make yourself), vegetables, fish, meat - all marinaded in different sauces - for example beef and sesame, prawns and garlic, sweet and sour chicken, beef and oyster sauce. There was of course dessert for those who could fit it in...

Creating a fresh papaya salad

The idea is you stack your plate up with different food, marinades, sauces etc, then take them back to your table to do all the cooking yourselves. As you can imagine, fresh fish on an island in Thailand is not to be scoffed at!

It really is the ultimate pick and mix....

As you can see, fat is put on the central point to create oil for the meat to cook in. The vegetables and other ingredients (i.e. prawns, chilli, herbs etc) are then added into the boiling water which is poured around the side, creating a delicious soup.

Put another shrimp on the.... ok enough with the cliche's, you get the idea.

So there you have it. I myself am keen to get hold of one of these cooking devices if I can back home, if not maybe from Bangkok. Such a great idea for a social dinner party, let's all get stuck in...

Thai BBQ V: Some Added Extras (and a lot of garlic!)

There are of course many different foods which are great for barbecuing, and these are just a few more that we decided to add. When in Rome and all that!

Beef Fillet Steak

Garlic Pepper

Olive Oil
Beef Stock (OXO cube or similar)
Crushed garlic

Cut the beef into wide chunks, about one inch think. Next, crush the garlic using a pestle and mortar, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, one cube of beef stock and a couple of pinches of salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients well, and rub into the beef (if the beef is cold from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature before marinading).

Once the BBQ is ready, place the strips evenly over the flames, turning every minute or two. Beef is really a personal taste, and some may prefer it well done, others on the rarer side, so it's really up to you how long you cook them for.

King Prawns

Lemon Juice

Mmmm! I love these! And over here they are just so big!

A really simply idea for uncooked prawns is to chop up some garlic and mix with some melted butter and a couple of squirts of lemon juice (fresh is best). Drizzle over the prawns and then simply stick them on the barbie, turning occasionally. You can tell when they are cooked as they will turn from grey to pink (this only takes a very short time).


Last but definitely not least - for those who like to venture away from meat and garlic bread, BBQ'd veggies can be really delicious - I particularly love roasted peppers and jacket potatoes. I won't go so far as to tell you how or what to cook, as veg is so easy to do, and you can really use whatever you want. This is what we got up to:


Aubergines and peppers

A variety of mushrooms

Thai BBQ III: Rack of Ribs

A favourite for many I know, and these will definitely please those who consider themselves rib enthusiasts! I've never cooked ribs myself but these came out absolutement perfectos! (Yeah, I've got lingo too y'know).

So, to the point...

Serves 5-6 as an appetiser

Rack of ribs (see photo reference below)
Small bowlful of garlic cloves (around 2-3 whole garlic bulbs)
Garlic pepper
Coriander root

To cook:

BBQ sauce (either home-made or shop bought).

Firstly, you need to get those peelers going and peel all the garlic cloves. If you don't like the smell of garlic on your fingers, perhaps find a willing assistant. Secondly, roughly chop up a good handful of coriander root - not too much - just enough to bring out the flavour and so you can say 'Abra Cadabra' when throwing them into the broth (No? Just me? ok...)

Next, pull out your trusty wok, and fill with cold water - enough to comfortably cover the ribs when they are in said pan. Now add your peeled garlic cloves (whole), along with the coriander root and a good few sprinkles of some garlic pepper (alternatively, you can just use black wholegrain pepper).

Now simply turn on the heat and bring to a simmering boil. The ribs need to become very tenderised before going onto the BBQ, so leave them to simmer for up to 30 minutes - enough so that nearly all the water has been soaked up or evaporated.

Remove the ribs and place on a draining rack or similar to remove any excess water.

Next it's time to slather on some BBQ sauce. Unfortunately, because we were eating at our friends house who had only moved in 2 days previously, ingredients were limited so I have to admit, we got out the shop bought BBQ sauce. I know I know, I can hear the tuts from here, but rather than admit complete defeat, I've looked around on the internet and found you a really nice alternative if you want to make your own:

Rib Eye Express BBQ Tag Team Sauce

So all that's left to do, is marinade the ribs in the sauce. Do all the preparation for the ribs prior to lighting the BBQ, as you can then let them marinade nicely in the sauce before loading them onto the barbie. When ready, cut the ribs into smaller portions (either individually for appetiser size, or larger for a main meal) and add to the BBQ for around 10 - 15 minutes.

Et voila!

NB Please remember pork needs to be thoroughly cooked through, and BBQ food is notorious for food poisoning - just remember if it looks done on the outside, it probably is - but always check the meat in the middle just in case....

December 29, 2009

Thai BBQ II: Thai Style Tuna + Chinese Alternative

This barbecued tuna is an easy alternative to just chucking it on the barbie, and once you've got all the ingredients together takes no time at all. For a Chinese alternative scroll to the bottom...

Serves 4:

4 tuna steaks (preferably fresh tuna)
Fresh lemon grass
Ginger (Thai use an ingredient called 'gananga' but if unavailable ginger is a good alternative)
Basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
1 small chilli
Garlic pepper
Soy sauce

To cook:

Silver foil

Our resident Thai chef says that you can just throw in any herbs, but these are a good starting point.

Firstly chop the lemon grass into 2 inch lengths (quite thin) to create a small handful and put into a mixing bowl, along with the chopped small chilli. Grate around 1-2 tablespoons of ginger and add, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of garlic pepper and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Chop a handful of basil to release the flavour and add all the ingredients into the bowl and mix well.

Once mixed, place aside and cut a cross into both sides of each tuna steak, about one inch deep. Salt both sides of the tuna by rubbing it in with your fingers:

This will help to draw in the marinade flavours. Next, butter 4 square cuts of foil, big enough to wrap the tuna in so it is tightly wrapped and air tight. Place a healthy spoonful of the herb mixture on top of each steak, and wrap up tight:

Leave the herb and mixture to marinade for about 20 minutes, before placing on the pre-heated BBQ. The steaks should take around 15 minutes to cook, but keep checking as like beef, tuna doesn't have to be cooked all the way through before serving, so depending on individual tastes you might want to use less or more time.

Chinese Alternative

4 tuna steaks
Shitake mushrooms/ Rat Ear mushrooms
Ginger (about 2 tspns)
Soy sauce
Oyster sauce

To cook:

4 square cuts of silver foil

As with the Thai style tuna, you need to mix all the ingredients in a bowl before marinading. Firstly chop the ginger into strips (see picture below), followed by a chopped handful of mushrooms (chopped quite large) and add to the bowl. In Thailand they use mushrooms called 'Rat Ear' - as you can see from the shape that is exactly what they look like:

For an alternative, you can use shitake mushrooms which are available in most supermarkets. Next, peel a small handful of garlic (4-5 cloves) and rather than chopping it into small pieces, use the flat blade of a large kitchen knife to crush the garlic (do this on a hard chopping board or kitchen surface). Finally, add a good glug of oyster sauce and a pinch of pepper to the bowl and mix well.

Next, cut a one inch deep cross into each side of the fish steak (as above), salt both sides of the tuna by rubbing it in with your fingers, and place the fish onto the buttered foil. You do not need to butter the whole piece, just enough for the tuna to sit on. Add a good heaped tablespoon or two of the mixture onto the top of the fish and wrap up so the foil is air tight.

Place the fish on the pre-heated BBQ for 15 minutes or so, or until cooked as desired.

Thai BBQ I: Shopping Trip

Luckily for me, we arrived in Phuket on the 5 December, and spent a few days staying with a friend from college, whose girlfriend happens to be a trained Thai chef. Unfortunately for her, this meant being bombarded with questions and a camera for the majority of our meals (thanks Thippsy!)....

One of the best meals we had was a BBQ prepared by Thipps and some willing UK kitchen hands who were only to happy to share in the results! First off we hit the markets for the food, which wherever you go in Asia are always so colourful and exciting, but also so unbelievably cheap. While restaurant food in SE Asia is obviously cheaper than being in the UK, the food from the market is mere pennies in your pocket. We all chipped and came up with this lot....

Everything seems to come in super size in Thailand. This is basically the Thai version of runner beans.

Some chillies to get those taste buds going!


King prawns - incredible size!

We ended up buying 5 fish for 180 baht - that's about 3 quid.

Mammoth squids!

More chilli to get those taste buds going...

Check out Thai BBQ II for some recipe tips...

December 19, 2009

Vietnam: In Conclusion

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted on here, both myself and the better half spent the majority of November being ill, and then it seems I got lazy somewhere around flying back into Thailand and hanging around on beaches in December...

Anyway, I just want to leave you with some thoughts on Vietnam. Firstly if you've decided that it's worth a visit (and it definitely is), I advise working your way from north to south - i.e. flying into Hanoi and out of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Three reasons; firstly, the weather inevitably gets warmer (although watch out for the storms!), the places become more relaxed and beautiful and the food - most importantly - really warrants your attention.

We took the usual sleeper bus option from Hanoi down to HCM having already visited Sapa (definitely worth a look) and Ha Long Bay while we were teaching in Hanoi. Our stops went as thus:
  • Hanoi
  • Nimh Binh
  • Hue
  • Hoi An
  • Nha Trang
  • Mui Ne
  • Hoi Chi Minh
Hue and Hoi An really wet our appetites while we were travelling through. Unfortunately for us, food in the north was quite a disappointment for what we had come to expect - perhaps because we were living in student accommodation - I'm sure other visitors have better views of Vietnamese cuisine. For that reason Hue was the first place that we felt really paid attention to food, and there was a good variety throughout the former capital of Vietnam.

However, we were only there for 24 hours, so I'd really like to draw your attention to Hoi An. Famed for its own style of cuisine, the food was cheap and excellent. The best place we ate at regularly was called 'Mr Hung's', - a small street vendor restaurant down on the river next to Hoi An Market. Here you can taste all the delicacies of the region, including White Rose, Cao Lau and Won Tons. The first is similar to dim sum, and is basically made up as shrimp dumplings. The secret is very dear to the locals however, so good luck getting the recipe!

Cao Lau was a kind of a soup, but utilised only a small amount of water - the rest being made up of vegetables, noodles, dry pancakes and fish or meat. The noodles are made from a local sticky rice soaked in wells from the area to produce a very specialised flavour, which creates a very satisfying meal (or starter if you're feeling really hungry!)

Image sourced: Noodlepie

The won tons were different to any Chinese type won tons you may have come across before. Rather than being wrapped up into twisted parcels containing delicacies of meat or vegetables inside, the won tons in Hoi An were similar to crispy poppadoms that had been deep fried, cut into slices and then scattered with vegetables and other toppings, including the mild chili sauce which they put on everything in Hoi An!

Delicious and tasty - you can't miss out! Source: Wikitravel

Anyway, I just wanted to leave you with a taste of what we came across in Vietnam, and I hope from previous posts that you are at least becoming intrigued by the prospect of SE Asian food, especially if it isn't something you have tried particularly before. Check out previous recipes for ideas...