Thai Cooking

This topic contains 13 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Big_Bill 1 month, 4 weeks ago.

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  • I am a huge fan of Thai food. I was lucky enough that I got a chance to live in Thailand with my family and work in Bangkok for a couple of years and we’ve also visited Thailand many times.

    I prefer trying to recreate my favourite Thai dishes at home rather than going to Thai restaurants.

    I am now setting myself the challenge of trying to recreate some of my favourite Thai dishes with as much of the flavour and freshness as possible but keeping the calories low enough for fasting day meals (for those of us who stick to 500 or 600 calories on our fasting days).

    First up: some of us will struggle to find the ingredients. Even here in Sydney with a fairly warm climate, a huge oriental population and a plethora of Asian grocery stores, sometimes I have to visit 2 or 3 shops to find all the ingredients I need for a simple Thai dish.

    The first recipe I’m going to put on the thread is “Tom Kha Gai” which translates literally as “chicken galangal soup”. The flavour and aroma of this dish is amazing.
    It is beyond easy to make IF you can find the ingredients. There is a lot of variation in how this dish is made, but this approach suits my taste.

    INGREDIENTS:

    6 medium chicken drumsticks (legs), skin on. You could use skinless chicken breast (be very careful not to overcook) or skinless thigh, just be sure to recalculate the calories accordingly. In Thailand they tend to cook chicken in soups or curries with the bone in, which is why I prefer using drumsticks.

    About 400g of mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are more traditional and soak up the flavour extremely well BUT they are slightly higher in calories as well as being harder to find. I generally use the common cup mushrooms.

    1.5 litres of chicken stock (it works with real stock or water + stock cubes/powder. I use about 50/50).

    300 ml of coconut milk

    About 100g of fresh galangal (similar in appearance to ginger, but more mildly flavoured)

    About 2 stalks of lemon grass (3 or 4 stalks works even better, but when I have to pay $3 per stalk at the supermarket I tend to use one stalk)

    Kaffir lime leaves – about 10

    Fresh chilli to taste (you can use no chilli at all, or if you like it with a kick you could use up to half a dozen birds eye chillies. The chillies are best sliced in half lengthways).

    Fish Sauce – about 2 tablespoons. Brands made in Thailand are far superior in my experience.

    Konjac noodles

    Optional: Fresh herbs such as mint, basil, coriander leaves and stems

    TECHNIQUE:

    Add the stock to a large pot

    Bruise the lemongrass by giving it a good whack. This is often done by placing the flat handle of a large knife on top of the lemon grass then striking the handle with the heel of your hand.

    Chop the lemongrass. If you have plenty of lemongrass you could leave it in pieces about 4 or 5 cm long. If you are trying to extract maximum flavour from a little bit of fresh lemongrass you could chop it pieces a few mm thick.

    Cut the galangal into slices a couple of mm thick

    Slice the chillies lengthways, so that each chilli becomes 2 pieces

    Add the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chilli to the pot

    Add the chicken drumsticks to the pot.

    Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for about half an hour, or until the chicken drumsticks are cooked through.

    Turn the heat off and add the coconut milk and fish sauce (adding these earlier will cause them to lose much of their flavour and aroma). Stir gently.

    It is ready. Those not dieting can have theirs over rice.

    If you are dieting there are approx. 6 servings, each serving containing one drumstick, about 250ml of liquid, and about a sixth (66g) of the mushrooms. Add about 100g of konjac noodles to a bowl and add one serving on top. If you have some fresh herbs available, scatter those on top just before serving.

    I calculated about 255 calories per serve.

    My next challenge is to bring it in under 100 calories – once I’ve managed that I will add a new recipe.

    SUBSTITUTIONS:
    Galangal can be tricky to find. You could try using ginger – just use a lot less than 100g. If I could not find fresh galangal I would try using both a little dried galangal and a little fresh ginger at the same time.

    Both lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves can be replaced with lemon zest or lime zest. If using zest would squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime into the soup as well just before serving.

    Thanks, Big_Bill. Our sons have introduced us to Thai foods and I also have been dipping into adapting them to Fast meals. I do a scrambled egg with spinach, fish sauce, garlic, and basil. Delicious!!
    Can’t wait to try this one.

    Thai food is awesome, i am going to try your recipe later!

    Last night I made a Thai red curry with pumpkin. To be honest it still needs some fine tuning but it did make a huge bowl of food that was very filling.

    Ingredients:
    Pumpkin 200g, cut into small bite-sized pieces
    Thai red curry paste 1 tablespoon (for most people I think half a tablespoon would be enough)
    1 cup chicken stock
    Light coconut milk, about 4 tablespoons
    1 egg, boiled until firm enough to peel
    Fish sauce 2 teaspoons
    Konjac noodles 100g

    Technique:
    In a small saucepan fry the curry paste a little to bring out the flavour
    Add the chicken stock and pumpkin
    Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes
    Peel the boiled egg and add whole
    Simmer until the pumpkin is tender enough to easily cut with a spoon or fork
    Add the fish sauce and light coconut milk and stir through
    Add the konjac noodles to a bowl and pour the pumpkin curry over the top

    Calories:
    Based on the ingredients I used, this came to about 240 calories. For most people though this recipe would be 2 servings.
    You could skip the egg and it would only be 17 calories
    Which type of pumpkin and coconut milk you use will affect your calorie count.

    Suggestions:
    You could add some thinly slice chicken breast towards the end of cooking instead of the egg. The chicken breast should only take a couple of minutes to cook. 50g of chicken breast would be slightly less calories.

    You could use a different vegetable/s if you don’t like pumpkin, just recalculate your calories accordingly. The pumpkin I used, jarrahdale pumpkin, had 31 calories per 100g.

    I used “Pandaroo” brand light coconut milk, which has 82 calories per 100 ml. It didn’t have the creamy texture that you might expect from coconut milk, and next time I cook this dish I may use slightly less of a full-fat coconut milk. Some other brands of light coconut milk have a lot more fat and calories and might work better.

    ^typo above – without the boiled egg it would be 170 calories

    Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

    Not Thai at all. But fans of Thai food should like it.

    I feel like I really nailed this one first time as a low-calorie version of one of my favourite stir-frys.

    This was a huge meal, would suit one very hungry faster or 2 moderately hungry fasters. Or you could just eat half now and half later.

    Ingredients:
    120 g skinless chicken breast sliced thinly
    100 g red capsicum (bell pepper) sliced
    60 g onion (I used brown onion) sliced
    60 g button mushrooms sliced
    2 cloves garlic chopped finely
    half a packet (125 g) of konjac noodles
    1 tablespoon black bean sauce (I used Ayam brand)
    1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce (alternatively use half a tablespoon of soy sauce)
    50 ml to 100 ml of water
    A good non-stick saucepan

    Instructions:
    preheat the saucepan until a little water splashed into it sizzles and steams right away. Add the chicken breast and a little water. Keep the chicken breast evenly spread out and it should cook in 2 or 3 minutes. Keep it moving so that it doesn’t stick to the pan.

    Remove the chicken and keep on a plate.

    Add the garlic and vegetables and a couple of splashes of water. If you like the vegetables soft you can cover the saucepan for a minute or two so that they steam. Otherwise just stir the vegetables around until they are the right texture for you.

    Add the noodles then add the black bean sauce and teriyaki sauce. Stir until the sauce is evenly spread.

    Remove from the heat and add the chicken back in. Stir it around to get some sauce on the chicken. You don’t want to cook the chicken any further at this stage.

    Tip onto a plate and enjoy.

    Calories: About 240 and it’s a genuinely big and satisfying meal. I would feel comfortable serving this exact recipe at a dinner party and I don’t think anyone would even suspect that it’s “diet food”.

    This would make a good evening meal on non-fasting days for me.

    Thanks for the recipes Big Bill. I have lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves growing in the garden and know where to get fresh galangal. And, as you know, a steady supply of konjac noodles!

    @thinatlast lemongrass is ridiculously hard to find in the shops, and expensive, for something that literally grows like a weed in South East Asia. My wife had a go at growing some in our backyard but it died. It’s spring, time for another go.

    I used to have a steady supply of chili from the backyard. Something is now eating them before they even ripen. I suspect that it is a possum. I’ve got basil growing in the kitchen window and need to plant it outside (the frosts here kill basil in winter) and we have lots of mint growing wild.

    Don’t try the red curry recipe yet. It wasn’t great. It needs some tuning. The others are worth a go.

    Thai Noodle Sauce

    This is more serving suggestion than recipe. It isn’t any harder to make than warming up a can of baked beans.

    Ingredients:
    1 small can of Maesri Thai Noodle Sauce (you can find this in just about any Asian supermarket in Australia – google it to see what it looks like)
    1 small can of tuna – the one I used was tuna in springwater, and the drained weight of the tuna was 61 grams (according to the can)
    Half a packet (125 grams) of slendier konjac noodles, drained and rinsed

    Instructions:
    Empty the can of Thai Noodle Sauce into a small saucepan.
    Add 1.5 cans of water, as per the instructions on the label
    Drain the tuna and add. Break the tuna up with a spoon and stir it in
    Add the noodles
    Do not cook this too long or it the sauce will separate and lose its flavour. Literally take it off the heat as soon as it even looks like starting to simmer, tip into a bowl and eat.

    Calories: About 230

    This makes a big bowl of food, enough for 2 serves for most people

    We have some lemongrass in a large pot, some in a raised flower bed and both are growing well. If you plant it in a pot, you can move it around according to where it’s happiest. $3 per stalk is daylight robbery. I once bought some in a jar but obviously that’s not as good as growing fresh. How funny that the possums eat chilli. I wonder if chilli would do OK indoors by a sunny window. One thing I’ve never had success with is coriander, or cilantro as I know it.

    I used to grow coriander. On my brother’s suggestion I just bought some seeds from an Indian grocer and stuck them in a pot. They grew very easily but they turned to flower and seed very quickly – there was only a week or two to use the leaves and stems. But during that time they were great.

    What I learned later was that there are two types of coriander that look almost identical. One type is grown for seeds and one is grown for leaf and stem. You know you’ve got the one grown for seeds when it turns to seed very quickly then dies.

    That’s a good idea, I might need to grow some chilli in the kitchen window. We live near the bush and the possums aren’t going anywhere. It’s annoying having to buy it at the supermarket when I only need 2 or 3 at a time usually, and it’s so easy to grow. The first chilli plant I had (cost me $6 from a nursery) was really spicy but it died the first winter. Then we had one that grew from some leftover jalapenos (which are a lot milder). The jalapeno plant survives the winter frosts okay but something is eating them.

    I didn’t know that about coriander. Mine always turned to seed and I gave up.

    We grow far more chilli than we can ever use but they look pretty. Yes, some are really fiery. I’ll be floating half of one in my FD miso soup tonight. I string the surplus up to dry, store some ground and save some just as seeds – for cooking and re-planting.

    When we renovated our house, I got my OH to build in a row of bricks about 8″ below the kitchen windows. It’s just the right height to house some window boxes but still allow the windows to open when things are growing in them. So, I can keep an eye out for pesky green caterpillars and have easy access to some herbs and spices. I have to walk outside for lemongrass, mint, oregano, limes, etc. Something ate my entire passionfruit while we were in Thailand.

    My favourite herb (for Aussie/European cooking at least) is rosemary. We bought a small plant a few years ago and it seems to like the sandy soil where we live. IT is now a large bush about 3 or 4 feet tall. My wife regularly cuts whole branches off it just to keep it under control and puts those branches in a vase inside the house where they smell wonderful. Unlike the chilli and apples and lemons it appears to be possum and cockatoo resistant.

    Chilli is easy to grow as well, and before the possums developed a taste for it we had fruit year-round. In Thai culture you must never give chilli as a gift. It is okay, however, to “sell” a whole bag of chilli to a friend for 5 cents.

    You were definitely growing the “seed-producing” variety of coriander. You might need to buy a bag of coriander seeds from a gardening centre.

    My neighbour has a fine looking rosemary bush and I walk up to her place whenever I need it. We also live in an area with sandy soil. I wonder if rosemary would act as a deterrent to possums if placed around the other plants. Or are possums smarter than that?

    I made the Thai Red Curry Pumpkin again and I felt like it was just right this time. It doesn’t taste like diet food and is very filling.

    Ingredients:
    Pumpkin 200g, cut into small bite-sized pieces
    Thai red curry paste 1 teaspoon (slightly rounded)
    150 ml cup chicken stock
    Coconut milk, about 60 ml
    100g chicken breast, sliced thinly
    Fish sauce 2 teaspoons
    Konjac noodles 125g (half packet of slendier)

    Technique:
    In a small saucepan warm the curry paste a little to bring out the flavour (no oil)

    Add the chicken stock and pumpkin

    Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender enough to easily cut with a spoon or fork

    Add the chicken breast for 2 or 3 minutes, until just cooked through. Whatever you do don’t add chicken breast at the beginning.

    Remove from the heat. Add the konjac noodles, fish sauce and coconut milk and stir through

    Calories:
    Based on the ingredients I used, this came to just under 300 calories for the whole recipe. It made 2 full bowls of food, so would be considered 2 servings for most people.

    I used a regular coconut milk that was just over 100 calories for 60 ml.

    The pumpkin I used was 31 calories per 100g.

    Suggestions:
    * You could cut back on the ingredients to make a single serving with fewer calories.
    * Even with only a teaspoon of red curry paste it was still quite spicy for me. Consider using less.
    * Adding a relatively small amount of coconut milk right at the end gives you the coconut flavour and texture without too many calories.

    @thinatlast, I don’t think much is going to deter whatever is eating my chillies. I looked for tips on the internet, someone said that they had stuck some habaneros on their chilli plant as a “surprise” for the thief but they were all gone the next morning.

    It looks like growing some in the kitchen window (which gets plenty of sun) is going to be the go.

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