I bought a new exciting cookbook recently all about Thai heritage cooking called “Mae’s Ancient Thai Food” by Carole Mason and Ning Najpint. Bold, bright and bursting with a wonderful range of recipes that you actually want to cook straight away. The book is an ode to Ning’s mother – Kobkaew – who sadly passed away, but was a known figure in the culinary world both in Thailand, and more globally. Her recipes and articles appeared in a number of magazines including: Vogue USA, Australian Gourmet, Tatler, as well as David Thompson’s books, “Thai Food” and “Thai Street Food”. It seemed a fitting tribute therefore for Carole, her protege and friend, and daughter – Ning, to create a beautiful cookbook dedicated to Kobkaew – known affectionately as ‘Mae’ (mother) to both her daughter and her beloved students.
Thai cooking does require a little forward thinking to get the fresh ingredients. One ingredient that is as ubiquitous in Thailand and Thai cooking as onions are to British fare, is coriander root. The bad news folks is that hard to track down, although not impossible in the UK. Carole is trying to spread the word that this needs to change so that second and third generation Thais living in the UK, and those who are passionate about Thai cooking, don’t lose touch and knowledge of heritage Thai cuisine. She has even placed “we love coriander root” on the front of the book itself to signal its importance in Thai cooking. If larger supermarkets could start stocking it, and we all start using it, her campaign will be achieved. In the meantime if you can’t track it down you could use a good handful of coriander stalks and leaves to create the colour and then add a teaspoon of coriander root powder, which is easier to source in the UK.
Other than the obvious ingredients, who will have to go to an Oriental supermarket to source some things or go online to the suppliers that Carole outlines in her book. She clearly explains techniques and explanation of the various Thai ingredients you may not be familiar with. The chapters are then split into: curries, soups (including hangover cures), salads, seafood, dips, nibbles and canapés, vegetables, noodles and stir frys and desserts.
Jumping out at me is: Muu Parlow – Pork and Egg Soup, Gaeng Som – Prawn and Papaya curry, Gaenglean – Good Old Fashioned Soup, Nahm Prik Pao – Thai Chilli Jam (HELLO yes please), Yam Plate Too – Mackerel Salad, I could go on as they all sound so good.
So what type of person would this book suit?
Personally, I think anyone who loves cooking and trying out new recipes and does not flinch at the thought of sourcing a few ingredients will LOVE it. Those who want their meal on a plate with minimum effort and the thought of searching for a particular ingredient causes them to break out in a sweat, then perhaps this isn’t for them. I only own one other Thai cookbook so for me this book was screaming out at me to be bought. Oh yes, and you need to like chilli as chilli is definitely a cornerstone in Thai cooking.
Publishing a cookbook is never easy, especially when you self-publish, which is the route that Carole and Ning went down. It is an incredible achievement but now comes the equally hard work of spreading the word. So folks feel free to retweeted and forwarded this post (or photo on instagram) as much as possible. Blogging is an amazing community of wonderful folk, so lets help ‘Mae’s Ancient Thai Food’ gets the notice it deserves. I bought the book myself and all my views are my own (as they always are) in case you are wondering.
So are you intrigued by what I cooked? ……
I went for “Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry”. Packed full of flavour and zing, but no coconut milk. Now I will be honest that I did change some of the ingredients because if you can’t get hold of a particular ingredient then replace it with something similar, its not worth getting too stressed about.
So these are the changes I made:
I converted everything from cups to grams, cause that’s how I roll.
coriander root – I replaced with coriander stalks and a few leaves and coriander root powder
small green apple aubergine – I used one courgette, peeled in striped and cut at angles
snake beans – I used regular beans and also added sugar snaps (cause I love my green veg)
holy basil – I could not source it so used Thai basil
I added 1 tsp of caster sugar – you could also add palm sugar. Carole does not add either.
The recipe was a triumph and I think I went back for thirds. It feeds around 4 people.
First I made some fresh chicken stock – which is super straightforward:
Fresh Chicken Stock
4 chicken wings on the bone
10 white peppercorns
3 garlic cloves,
half an onion, peeled
a lump of ginger
if you live in a country that you can get hold of coriander root or Chinese celery pop them in
- Simply cover the wings with water and an extra 3 inches of water on top and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.
- Strain the stock and remove the flesh from the chicken wings and keep for another time. I also keep the garlic too. Discard the rest.
- Either use of freeze the stock.
Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry
Jungle Curry Paste
10 small green Thai chillies
a pinch of salt
1 coriander root OR a handful of coriander root and leaves and 1 tsp of coriander root powder
2 whole lemongrass, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 tbsp galangal, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds dry roasted and ground
10 white peppercorns
1 tsp of shrimp paste
- To save time, although not authentic (sorry Carole) I popped all the ingredients into my little mini blender, added a couple of tablespoons of water and blended together. If you have time however using a pestle and mortar will give you a better, more authentic paste. Carole has laid out the steps to do this properly – in short – hardest ingredients first one at a time until they make a paste before moving onto the next. Add the dried ingredients last and the shrimp paste. Pound until smooth.
1 batch of jungle curry paste (as above)
3 tbsp of vegetable/rapeseed oil
300g chicken sliced diagonally (I used thigh, but use breast if you prefer or you could use white fish)
1 tbsp fish sauce
750ml chicken stock (or fish stock if you are going down the fish route)
1 courgette, peeled to create stripes and cut into diagonally strips
100g green beans, cut in half
100g sugar snap peas
1x227g tin of bamboo shoots (drained weight 140g)
1 tbsp grachai, peeled and shredded (I had never used this but my local Thai grocer had it so was able to use it. Finger shape and size but with a similar skin to ginger or turmeric.
5 young green peppercorn strips, washed and left whole
5 kaffir lime leaves, de-veined and torn
a handful of thai basil leaves, washed and stalked removed
1 lime, quartered to serve
2 red chillies, cut into fine strips to decorate to serve
- First make the paste above.
- Next heat the oil in a pan and add the curry paste, stirring gently to let the aromas develop.
- Add the chicken (or fish) and stir into the paste.
- Heat the stock and add it to the pan and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
- Add the courgettes, beans, sugar snaps, bamboo shoots and after a couple of minutes add the grachai, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.
- Taste and add more fish sauce. I added a little caster sugar, but you may find you don’t need to.
- Serve with a quarter of fresh lime per serving and some fresh red chilli strips.
I ate mine with a bowl of rice.
You can buy Carole and Ning’s book here or if you are based in London it is now stocked at the heavenly bookshop “Books For Cooks” in Notting Hill.