Daily Archives: February 15, 2005

Chicken Coconut Soup Recipe

I read in the newspaper the other day, that a research team from the UK had proved that an extract of galangal can both kill cancer cells and protect healthy ones from the disease. As this is a common ingredient in Thai stir-fries and soups I was intrigued to learn more. I went onto the Internet and googled “galangal”. I eventually found a recipe for Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut soup). As this is on my favourites list I decided to have a go at cooking it.

My first stop was my collection of cookery books. I soon discovered that although each book had a recipe for Tom Kha Gai they were quite different from each other. From my memory of eating this dish I decided to use the recipe from “Thailand The Beautiful Cookbook”. I made a list of the ingredients before setting off to the supermarket. I needed: coconut milk, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, coriander leaves and some chili. They wanted green but I wanted red.

(Left): galangal (Right): lemon grass

On the left is the galangal (kha). As you can see, it is similar in appearance to ginger. It is pinkish and has a peppery flavour. The label on the pack said it cost 45 baht per kilo. This pack cost 5.75 baht. More than enough. On the next shelf I noticed another pack with both lemon grass (right), galangal and kaffir lime leaves (below right). These are the ingredients for Lemon Grass Soup (more famously known as Tom Yum). As this was only 7 baht I decided to go for that. (1 US$ is presently 38 baht.) As far as I understand, although these two dishes have similar ingredients, Tom Yum focuses more on the lemon grass and Tom Kha Gai focuses more on the galangal. If you are wondering at this stage what “tom” means then I will tell you that it means “boiled”.

(Left): coriander (Right): kaffir lime leaves

Next I needed the coriander or “pak chee” in Thai. There were two varieties on the shelf. One was “pak chee tai” and the other “pak chee jeen”. I guess the former was Thai and the latter Chinese. As “pak chee jeen” was translated into “coriander” on the label I knew which one to pick. This only cost 4 baht. Next on my list was the small green limes, coconunt milk, chilis and of course the chicken. Oh yes, did you know that the red chilis that are labelled in English as “red bird chili peppers” are called in Thai “mouse shit chilis”! I wonder why they didn’t translate that properly in the supermarket?

Tom Kha Gai – Chicken coconut Soup

2 cups of coconut milk
6 thin slices of galangal
2 stalks of lemon grass (cut into 1 inch strips and crush with cleaver)
5 fresh kaffir lime leaves (torn in half, not cut)
250 g of boneless chicken
5 tablespoons of fish sauce (naam blaa)
2 tablespoons of sugar
Half a cup of lime juice
1 teaspoon of black chili paste (nam prik pow)
Quarter cup of coriander leaves
5 green chili peppers (I will use red chilis)

Method 1:
(1) Combine half the coconut milk with the galangal, lemon grass and lime leaves in a large saucepan and heat to boiling. Add the chicken, fish sauce and sugar.
(2) Simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Add the remaining coconut milk to the saucepan and heat just to boiling.
(3) Place the lime juice and chili paste in a serving bowl then pour the soup into the serving bowl.
(4) Garnish with the torn coriander leaves and chili pepers, and serve.

Other recipes I have read don’t include the lemon grass. I also saw another one that said add the chili at the same time as the chicken. I will do that. This next version of the same recipe comes from a book called “Simply Thai Cooking”. I am thinking I will go for a mixture of the two. However, they say add lemon juice which I don’t have!

Method 2:
(1) Slice the chicken into thin strips.
(2) Smash lemon grass with the flat side of a chef’s knife once and then cut into 1 inch pieces; slice galangal into thin rounds; tear lime leaves into thirds; cut chilis in half.
(3) Heat coconut milk and water in a saucepan for 2-3 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Reduce heat to a medium and add lemon grass, galangal, lime leaves, chilies and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously and not letting it boil.
(4) Add chicken strips and cook for 5 minutes, stirring over medium heat, until the chicken is cooked.
(5) Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and quarter tablespoon of sugar. stir, and continue cooking for another minute or two/
(6) Transfer to a soup bowl and serve immediately, garnished with fresh corriander leaves.

Well, I think everything is ready. I am off now to cook some Tom Kha Gai. Wish me luck!

Songtaew adventures

As far as I know, the red songtaews are unique to Chiang Mai. Their
numbered counterparts in Bangkok and its suburbs are much more user-friendly, IMO. You know the exact fare, the time it takes to get there, and the way. For instance, if you want to go to, say, the local BigC, you just take songtaew 36. Flag one down on the road, hop on, jump down when you get there, pay 5 bath and away you go. Not so easy with the red devils of Chiang Mai. Flag one down and tell the driver your destination. Now one of three things may happen:
1. The driver has no clue about the place;
2. The driver knows the place, but has no intention of taking you there;
3. The driver knows the place, will take you there, but quotes a high (farang) price.

If you have an idea about the reasonable (ie. local) rate, you can haggle it down to that price, and if you are lucky, the driver will agree. If not, then wait for another songtaew, at which point the whole game starts again…. Sometimes I have to flag down 3-4 cars before I can get a ride. Feels a bit like hitchhiking, really.

You may have an easier time getting the regular price with stationery songtaews, waiting around bus stations and train stations. The drawback is that usually you will have to sit in the car and wait for other passengers who choose that songtaew. Most cars don’t leave until 6-7 people are inside. And even then, some passengers may get the rough deal. I remember one day; four monks were sitting in a songtaew with me. The car left when another guy, a farmer sat in with us. There might have been a misunderstanding between the driver and the monks, because apparently he took them to a different place. The monks wanted the driver to go to their intended place for the same price, but the driver refused. At the end, the four monks had to step out and pay; then the driver just took off!

Another incident happened with me some time ago when I wanted to get home from Kad Suan Kaew, a local shopping mall. After all the above procedure, I sat in and we took off. Some time later, the guy stopped, talked with some other would-be passengers who then sat in too. Then he came to me and told me to get off, because he changed his mind! Apparently, the newcomers meant a juicier business, and my destination would cut into his profit margin. Although I could have (rightfully) hit him on the head, kick his car several times and yell assorted Thai insults in his face, I just got off silently and flagged down another songtaew.

The question may arise now: how can a business be successful if they treat customers like this? The answer lies in the lack of alternatives in Chiang Mai public transportation. In Bangkok, besides the fixed-route songtaews, there are lots of buses covering just about any area. Or, if in a hurry, can take any of the several taxi services. In Chiang Mai, the red songtaews have a monopoly. The only other alternatives are motorcycle-taxis. Or, if you are in a hurry, tuk-tuks, but there are far less of them here, mainly waiting around the stations.

So, when you see a red songtaew, be nice to these guys, no matter how they ignore you or cheat you. That is, if you want to get to anywhere in Chiang Mai in the future. 🙂

Win a watch with Thai numbers

You only have 10 days left to enter this easy competiton to win a unique Thai watch with Thai numbers. This same watch just sold on ebay for US$71! It could be yours for free if you enter this exclusive competition.

This quality watch, with a leather strap and stainless steel back, is unique as it has Thai numerals. An ideal souvenir for people who love Thailand or for people who are trying to learn Thai numbers.

If you win this watch, you will be the envy of all of your friends. The watch is very difficult to find and it is unlikely that you will meet anyone else wearing the same watch. To win the watch, all you have to do is answer this simple question:

[b]QUESTION: What is “naam blaa”?[/b]

You will find the answer in one of the blogs. All you have to do is read all of the blogs! You have ten days. Send your answer to competition@thai-blogs.com before 28th February 2005. We will pick the name of the winner out of a hat on 1st March. We will announce the winner here.

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine everybody. Sorry for not blogging yesterday as I had quite a tiring day and shall want to tell everyone about it. But first of all, I would like to thank everyone that has commented on my blog. Blogging has been really enjoying and reading the comments has been a motivation for me to carry on.

First of all I would like to respond to Seeker’s query about the Thai and English politics. As I said Thailand is going into the TRT era, this has been shown over the past 2 general elections. However, as years go by, people will start realising that by electing TRT could trigger a huge majority of MPs. This is a very bad news as there are about 500 of these seats available and TRT took about 400 of them over the last election. Of course all the MPs will vote Thaksin but sooner or later, people will realise that there isn’t enough opposition. In England, it is much different. Although everybody knows that Tony Blair is one of the strong candidates for securing another 4 years of the PM seat. However, people here are also fed up with the way that the government has been handling the war in Iraq situation but one big question mark is hanging in the air. That is, the force of opposition. This is a very common situation to the Thai politics as Britain has a lack of opposition as well.

Labour party under Tony Blair, here has been the dominating force over the past decade. Oppositions like Liberal Democrats under Gordon Brown and Conservative under Michael Howard have put up policies without knowing where they stand. In other words, the other opposition parties haven’t got enough attractions even though Liberal Democrats will not participate with Iraq to win the next election which will be held early this year. Lastly, most people here have not supported the war in Iraq but will have no choice but to follow Tony Blair for another 4 years until a decent replacement is found.

Valentine’s Day in England is very different to the Thai’s Valentine. Most people here usually go out for dinner or the movies. In Thailand, most people who celebrate this day are teenagers. However, sometimes they take it too far. Thai teenageers think that Valentine day is the day where you can get a chance of mating with the opposite sex. It has been very common in the past couple of years and short term hotels are usually fully booked. Normally, people here do not really think of it like that. It is a day where a couple celebrate their love life – not to just mate up. I think Thai teenagers thinking like this makes the Thai culture dissolve a little more. Teenagers in Thailand think of Valentine’s Day like fashion. It is definately not like that. For what I can see, not many teenagers here really care about finding a couple on this particular day.

Today, I also went to watch another football match with some friends of mine. I also bet on the football match. It is very interesting as the betting procedure here is very confusing. However, I never took betting seriously. I only bet a pound or two every match I watched to give me some enthusiasm. It has been very fun and I sometimes won!

Before that, I went to work with my group on my Law assignment. Law has been my toughest subject because I have no background of English law at all. Talking about law, I have a law 9 o’clock lecture tomorrow so I might have to rush now. I am also still very tired from playing golf from 8-10pm last night. It was the coldest golf I’ve ever played. hahahaha……

Anyway, got to go now, have a very big day tomorrow. Bye Bye….. Happy Valentine everyone