The next stop on our culinary quest.
After three tasty weeks in Southern India, my wife and I flew to Thailand to continue our culinary quest. Thailand, a largely tropical country, presented to us a youthful, millennial culture of eco-health seekers mingling with local Thai natives. We visited Chiang Mai and the islands around Koh Samui. We were fascinated by the non-tourist local markets, street food vendors, inexpensive restaurants, and in the south, gorgeous beach island hideaways.
Continuing our studies, we attended a class from the Akha school in Chiang Mai. Akha is a traditional village tribe in northern Thailand. Our program started with a 9:00 a.m. market tour wherein we sampled numerous varieties of tropical fruits and vegetables. I haven’t had mangosteen since the last time I was in Thailand, 15 years ago — what a juicy sweet n’ sour treat! Star fruit, dragon fruit, melons of many colors and flavors, long beans, literally 2 feet long, were among the tastiest foods we tried. Chili, ginger, turmeric, Thai basil, and lemongrass were heaped up high, filling our senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch, amplified by the racket of vendor pitches and Thai tribal languages.
We returned to class with bags of produce, herbs, and spices ready to don our apron and get down to cooking. We each had a cooking station, complete with a burner, cutlery, food, and spices, with pots and pans directly overhead. Nine of us each cooked (and ate) 10 dishes, which felt like three full days worth of meals and treats.
The peak experience for me was making fresh green curry paste — no powder, no jars to open. This was a culinary alchemy in action. In a large stone mortar and pestle, we ground up garlic, galangal (a relative of ginger), green chili, tamarind, turmeric, lemongrass, chives, shrimp paste, and fish sauce. The shrimp paste and fish sauce are what distinguishes Thai from Indian curry. Vegetarians were given miso. We ground and pounded this mixture for a good 15 minutes splashing a bit of water until it became creamy. This vigorous process released scents you had to breathe to believe. We then used this blend to season many of the dishes we prepared, including green papaya salad, coconut mushroom soup, one of three curries of our choosing (chicken, seafood or vegetable), several chutneys, and snacks. For dessert, we had warm rice pudding with soothing pumpkin and mango sticky rice to cool the fire on our tongues and in our bellies.
I will be sharing many of the powerful culinary lessons I learned on this trip in my latest book, Spice for Life: Self Healing Recipes, Remedies and Research, available April 15th. I will be presenting a full-day workshop on Using Herbs and Spices to Improve Therapeutic Outcome at the National Association of Nutrition Professional (NANP) Conference on April 30, 2020, in Newport Beach, CA. Join me there or let me know if you would like me to bring this presentation to your venue.
Register for the NANP Conference here.
Spice well, cook more, share meals, and grow well… together.