The food of Thailand is easy to find on the high street; you can have take away from almost any grocery store chain and delivery is always just a phone call or a click away. But if you’re like me, sometimes you want to attempt to cook something Thai at home. It’s harder than it sounds and the first step is probably finding some of the more difficult to source ingredients for your cupboard.
There are some Thai dishes that are easier to prepare, that still give you the feeling of sitting on a beach in Phuket, or lounging around the hills of Chang-Mai. I was really impressed by the new cookbook by May Wakefield, “Chili Banana, Authentic Thai Cooking from May’s Kitchen” because of the casualness in which you find the recipes. They feel so accessible to the home cook, with images that give the reader a great idea of what it should look like without instilling a sense of fear if yours ends up being a bit more rustic.
Many readers would go straight for the curries, which are well represented in the book. For me, I’ve always been a fan of the banana in coconut milk. A simple, easy and very effortless recipe that results in a very fulfilling dish. The coconut milk combined with the banana can help lift your spirits to the tropics on one of the gray winter days. Following are May’s recipe forgluay buadcheeas well as forKreuang Gaeng Daeng,or red curry paste.
May’s inspiration comes from her mother, who passionately wrote the forward to the book.
“Thirty years ago, when May and I were cooking together, I would never have imagined that the food we made would be written into a book. It is a very overwhelming thing to take in. To me these are simply the recipes we enjoyed cooking, sharing and eating together as a family and I’m delighted that they are now to be shared with so many more people.”
Gluay Buadchee(Banana in coconut milk)
My mum never fails to serve us this on the first few days of our arrival to Thailand! She uses smaller ‘Nam Wah’ bananas which are firmer and have a lovely aftertaste. There are over 30 varieties of bananas in Thailand and they are thought to originate in the south of the country. Thais believe that bananas signify abundant food, a long and prosperous life and a big, united family and hence are often used as offerings at homes, businesses and weddings.
- 1 ripe banana, medium sized
- 200ml coconut milk
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 pinch salt
Shake the coconut tin to get the right consistency of both the thick and liquid parts of the coconut milk. Put the required amount in a saucepan along with the sugar and salt. Bring to the boil on a medium heat for about 3 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if required. This should be a sweet taste with just a hint of saltiness. Slice the banana diagonally about 1cm thick and put them in the boiling coconut. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
Pour into a small bowl and serve immediately.
Kreuang Gaeng Daeng (red curry paste)
- 5 large dried whole chillies, cut into 2-3cm pieces and soaked
- 1 tsp salt
- 5g galangal, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp lemongrass, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp kaffir lime zest
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp white peppercorn
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tbsp coriander roots, finely cut
- 4 shallots, finely sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
In a dry frying pan on a medium heat, put in the coriander seeds to roast. Stir or move the pan around continuously for 1 minute so the seeds won’t burn. The seeds will crackle and pop a little. The colour will change to darker brown and a light fragrant aroma will be released. Turn off the heat and remove the seeds out of the pan immediately into a small bowl. Leave it to cool. In a heavy granite mortar and pestle, pound the white peppercorn until very fine. Add the cooled roasted coriander seeds. Pound them together into a really fine powder and spoon it into a small bowl.
Drain and squeeze out any water from the chilli and add to the mortar along with the salt. Pound them until fine. Add the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest and coriander roots, and pound each addition one by one until it makes a really fine paste. Add the powdered ingredients to the wet paste and pound further. Add the shallots, garlic and shrimp paste and pound one by one into a fine paste.