Today I’ve had an unforgettable experience, one I am temped to repeat, wherever possible, in every country I will visit in the future. Since leaving London for Thailand, I was determined to learn how to cook authentic Thai food. And in Koh Tao, under the attentive eye of Joey at the Koh Tao Thai Cooking Classes in Maehaad, I did just that. In about two and a half hours, we cooked from scratch a menu consisting of Massaman Curry with chicken, prawn Pad Thai, and spicy Som Tam salad. Everything was fresh, unprocessed and as authentic I ever tasted.
So here is how we did it, starting from the massaman.
All recipes serve 2.
CHICKEN MASSAMAN CURRY
For the curry paste:
4 large dried chillies, seed removed and soaked in water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
3-4 small shallots
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp minced galangal
2 tbsp lemongrass
2 tbsp masala curry
1 tsp shrimp paste
For the massaman:
3 tbsp coconut oil
2 small potatoes, halved
1 small onion, peeled and halved
Water (enough to half cover the potatoes and onions)
1 can coconut milk
4 tbsp tamarind juice (make the juice by adding 2 tsp tamarind paste to 20ml water) with 2 tsp palm sugar stirred inside it
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp roasted peanuts
Pound spice mixture in a mortar until ground and mixed, then add shrimp paste
Cut chicken into 2 inches chunks
Add oil to a medium sized pot, wait until hot then fry the chicken for a minute before adding water, curry mix, potatoes and onions. Cook until potatoes are just about done, then add the coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind juice and palm sugar. Cook until oil comes to the surface.
Adjust flavour with lemon juice, more tamarind, palm sugar and fish sauce if necessary: the saltiness provided by shrimp paste and fish sauce should have balanced by the sour of tamarind and lemon juice and the sweetness of the palm sugar. Add the roasted peanuts and serve with steamed rice or pickles and salad.
Health score: 8
PRAWN PAD THAI
For the sauce:
60ml tamarind juice (6 tsp tamarind paste plus water)
3 dry red chillies seedless and previously soaked in water
100g palm sugar
3 tsp salt
150g finely chopped shallot
5 tbsp coconut milk
For the dish:
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
200g cooked and peeled prawns
60g flat rice noodles, soaked and drained.
40g bean sprouts
2 spring onions
2 tbsp ground roasted peanuts
1 lime, quartered
To make the sauce pound together the chillies, salt and shallots then add to a small pan with the tamarind juice, water, palm sugar and coconut milk. Mix well and bring to boil.
In a wok on medium heat, heat the oil, lightly fry the garlic until yellow then add the prawn and stir for a minute. Add the egg, scramble together with the prawn and put the mixture to one side of the wok (or remove if you don’t have space)
Add the noodles and pad Thai sauce, then stir until cooked (add water if too dry) mix with prawn and egg mixture, bean sprouts and spring onion and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Serve into a plate, sprinkle with ground peanut and place the lime quarters on the side. Enjoy!
Health score: 8
GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
4 fresh chillies
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30g green beans cut in 1.5cm pieces
100g peeled and shredded green papaya
40g peeled and shredded carrot
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp toasted peanuts
2 tbsp tamarind juice (1 tsp tamarind paste plus water)
Pound garlic and chillies in a mortar, the add the beans and crush lightly
Add papaya and carrot and mix thoroughly, pounding slightly to release juices (transfer in a bowl if mortar is too small). Add tomatoes, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Mix the roasted peanuts last, then serve and enjoy!
Health score: 9