Daily Archives: June 13, 2005

Steamed Fish Curry – Haw Mok

You know me, I just love blogging about Thai food. I love cooking Thai food and I love eating Thai food. If I am walking down the market and I see my favourite dish in the distance, I will cross the road just to buy it. That is what I did yesterday afternoon when I spotted haw mok being sold by the side of the road near Paknam Market. I haven’t had this dish for such a long time.

This curry dish can be made with either fish, chicken or pork. I don’t particularly like seafood but I love this dish. (Sorry, I think I said that already.) Anyway, it is quite simple to make. Stir red curry paste with one cup of coconut milk and mix in the fish. Break in an egg and season with fish sauce (I will try and do a blog on sauces soon). Add some more coconut milk and keep stirring and stirring for up to 20 minutes! Then add half a cup of basil leaf, two tablespoons of coriander and one tablespoon of kaffir lime leaves. Stir again.

Next, make cups out of banana leaves. Line the bottom with plenty of basil leaves. Fill the cup with the mixture and then steam for about 15 minutes. Next you add the creamy topping. This is made from coconut milk and rice flour. Sprinkle on top some chopped coriander and a kaffir lime leave. Add a slice red chili for a bit of colour. Steam for a further one minute and then it is ready. Delicious!

You can find this recipe in an excellent cookery book called “Popular Thai Cuisine” published by Sangdad Books.

Footsteps of Heroines

Suriyothai – A Warrior Queen

“Daab Gwang. Pblay Gwai.” – roughly translated to one hand wields the sword, the other rocks the cradle.

No, that doesn’t mean you’re planning to raise your baby using violence.

I can’t exactly recall the actual line of this particular poem, describing the toughness of Thai women referring to the olden days where women would rush into battle to protect their village. It’s a praise for women who could raise children AND fight a war all at the same time, fearless in both duties.

History of Thailand is peppered with many female warriors. Of course, a more recognizable name would be that of Queen Suriyothai. But there were many others brave ladies who had fought in battles back in the days.

But at some point, all of that changed. Women are back to rocking the cradle, no longer wielding the sword. There was no serious need for women to go to war any more. Well, for the general population at least. (I have the utmost respect for Thai female cops and military personnel. You go, girls.)

I remember my brother dressed up in uniform to go to military training once a week. Bow has mentioned earlier that her friends go off to do “military stuff”. That is called “Raksa Dindaen”—(Ror Dor – RD) protecting the country—program. They are being trained to become better prepared as soldiers when the time comes to enter the military at the age of 18.

*A bit of correction and additional info here. Thanks Sriracha John* It’s almost like JROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps ) program in the U.S. where high school kids choose the program to prepare themselves to either join the military or enter military academy like West Point. The program continues into college as ROTC as well. The differences between American JROTC and Thai RD are that American JROTC is voluntary, and they accept both men and women. Thai ROTC is in the curriculum for all male students. (I don’t know if they have accepted women since my days, but Bow or Richard could probably shed some light on that.)

Perhaps it was the tomboy side of me that wished so badly that I could attend the ROTC class. All that action! Jumping the tower. Running obstacle courses. Learning to shoot a rifle. I once dreamed that I would be the first female cadet to enter the Thai military academy, following my grandfather’s footstep. That would totally kick @ss.

A childhood fantasy was replaced by the reality that I wasn’t built tough. Despite my tough tomboy façade, inside I am a complete and total wussy. A girl completely programmed according the society that she was weak and helpless.

I do want to de-program myself. So whenever opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to learn how to protect myself. How to not be weak and helpless.

I’ve trained briefly to do Thai sword fight and the ceremonial dance instead of a Thai classical dance. You know, a part of my cultural attaché thing. My mom shook her head at that idea, but found me a teacher anyway. The teacher also taught me a little bit of Muay Thai to go with it. He believed that every Thai should know how to Thai box, and especially girls should learn it to better take care of herself.

Later on in the US, I took an Aikido class because I’d rather like the non-offensive aspect of it. Eventually, I studied Tae Kwon Do at the school where Brandon was training. Partly, it was because Brandon was doing it, and partly it was because I’ve always wanted to learn Tae Kwon Do. The Bangkok TKD academy used to be just around the corner from my ballet school. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to study martial arts because it wasn’t a girly thing to do back then.

My TKD training eventually did include a few months of Kendo-based sword training. Indeed, at one point in my life, I was wielding a sword!

Yes, I’m trying NOT to be too much of a complete and total wussy. Like my Muay Thai teacher said, I should know how to take care of myself. That sword I’d eventually have to wield to protect myself and my family.

Yesterday I decided to go a little further with that notion. I joined Brandon and his friends at a firing range. It was my second time shooting a pistol. The first being my freshman year in college with a couple of guy friends…10 years ago now. (Holy crap! That long ago??)

I did pretty well shooting a 9mm. My beginner’s luck shot of the day was right between the eyes, just as Brandon had finished telling me how to aim. The rest of the time, if a bad guy is standing 20 ft. from me, he’d better have on Kevlar underwear. I’ll leave it at that.

Despite my few hours at the range, shooting and watching other people shoot, guns still make me nervous. Very nervous. The sounds of gunshots still haunted me hours afterward. I was waken up a few times, hearing imaginary gunshots as I was drifting off to sleep. Guns are just not my thing.

But would I go back to the range with the boys? Abso-frickin’-lutely! Guns are the modern sword. I’d rather know how to wield it than not.

I hope I’m living up to Thai heroines. I’m following their footsteps in my own way. I hope I’m holding up the traditions of seriously independent women from our olden days.

Nonetheless, I’d really rather literally wield a sword. Or engage in hand to hand combat.

As for the rocking the cradle, I’m not brave enough for that…yet.