A Thai banquet cooked at home

Last Saturday we joined the neighbours to cook a veritable feast of Thai food. We could not have done this without the truly excellent book Thai Food by David Thompson. It is much more than a cookery book; it has much to say about the food culture and history in Thailand. It is a fascinating, mouth-watering read and experience has shown that the recipes are reliable.

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Of course, to make Thai food you need the correct ingredients. We are extremely fortunate to have an Oriental supermarket just down the road from us; a trip to See Woo (known as See Woo Run for those of us who grew up with Janet and John books) provides all one needs. We cannot be alone in cooking Thai food in South-East London as See Woo is generally heaving with shoppers.

We started off with pla hoi shenn or raw scallop salad. The scallops were quite lovely with all of those fresh lime, coriander, mint and chilli flavours, but we didn’t have quite enough scallop meat to keep the dish balanced. Good of Daniel to try preparing something new; we shall probably re-visit this recipe.

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Our second course was a dish we’ve [link2post id=”1192″]prepared before[/link2post]: goong cha nam pla or raw prawn salad. This is always a real roller coaster of a dish with all of the garlic and chillies keeping you interested, not to mention in pain. Chilli pain is good, though, gets those endorphins flowing. A top dish prepared with plenty of skill by Daniel.

Our final effort on the salad front was nahm dtok, grilled beef salad. This is a dish which deserves a damned-good piece of beef and grilling it only until it is very rare. David Thompson suggests this could also be made with pork, venison or hare, but I like the rare beef path.

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We then had a soup course: dtom yam gung – hot and sour prawn soup. There are two tricks to making this. Firstly, the soup broth is made by boiling up all the the prawn heads and shells; this makes a powerfully flavoured stock. The second trick is not to cook the raw prawns directly over heat, but put them in the serving bowls and let them cook very slightly by pouring the hot soup broth into the bowl. This makes for a lively, exciting soup with perfectly (under-)cooked prawns

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Moving onto main courses we started off with neua pat nahm prik pao kaek – stir-fried beef with spices. This is a powerfully flavoured dish, even though it doesn’t have much chilli. The combination of beef and the spices makes this very reminiscent of cooking from the middle-ages in Europe. Well done Jeff for pulling off this dish so successfully.

A Thai meal at home would not be the same without Dan cooking a green curry. He has mastered the art of cracking coconut cream, a necessary step in the production of a first-rate green curry. I was very pleased that the chicken he cooked it with was thigh meat which is just perfect for this kind of dish.

Daniel prepared the final dish: pla meuk tort gratiam prik thai – deep-fried squid with garlic and peppercorns. The squid we chose was pretty big, as you can see in the picture, and it was perhaps a bit leathery. This was the least successful dish of the meal.

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Overall, the boys did well. It was a great meal, filled with all of those exciting, fresh, pure flavours of Thai food. If you wish to follow our example, Thai Food by David Thompson is a must buy: recipes, history and (let us be honest) a pleasing degree of food porn.

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