My goodness the topic at hand seems to be of interest! What a lot of feedback I have had. Wonderful!
THE GOOD – There are now exactly 100 people following this blog! Most sincere thanks for your interest and for sharing with others!
THE BAD (ERRATUM) – I have been listing our grocery budget as $120/week when in fact it is $130/week. The inaccuracy comes because I have allocated $120/month for a Costco run so dividing by 4 weeks, that makes $30/week that needs to be set aside for that. I’ve only done one Costco run since returning to Canada and somehow I muddled the calculations. I will go back and change the previous posts so that anyone stumbling on them will have the right numbers.
AND THE UGLY – Today is shopping day for SWMBO. Dora says, “Vamanos!”
Breakfast – Leftover crusty oatmeal.
Snack – Dried strawberries, pure peanut butter, chocolate chips (yum!)
Lunch – Leftover cooked quinoa with bits of cooked chicken mixed in. Drizzled with tahini dressing (tahini, lemon juice, salt) and topped with homemade Lebanese pickled turnips (the kind you get on shawarmas). Delicious. Some people had omelettes.
Dinner Cooked by Fourteen Year Old (with middle aged woman as sous-chef) – Thai Soup and Salads. Unexpectedly, only three people were home for dinner tonight so there will be lots of leftovers.
To make Thai Soup (bastardized version of Tom Yum Goong):
Peel some shrimp. Throw the peels in a pot of water and simmer while you devein the shrimp. Deveining shrimp and chopping green papaya is the only time consuming part of the meal. After about 20 minutes of simmering, remove shrimp shells and add chopped lemon grass, chopped galangal (kha), and several kaffir lime leaves to pot. Slice some mushrooms and add them. Throw in some chopped cilantro and the peeled shrimp. The shrimp are going into the salad so when they turn opaque remove them with your slotted spoon, leaving a few in if you want a couple of shrimp in your soup. Goong means shrimp so it makes sense to leave a couple in :-)
If you want, add in some coconut milk (to make Tom Kha Goong) which will make the soup richer and more substantial. Turn off the heat. Add in a squeeze of fresh lime and a fish sauce to taste. If you like heat, add in some “rat shit” peppers. That’s what they’re called in Thailand but here I think they are called “bird’s eye” peppers. PotAto, potAHto. Be immediately transported to Thailand. I kid you not. This soup is one we make all the time because it delivers so much bang for your buck.
NOTE: You have three options for the woody ingredients (lime leaves, kha, lemongrass). You can strain them out. You can chop them really fine so people can eat them. You can leave them in big chunks and get people to pick them out as they eat. For a Tuesday night with the kids, we go for door #3.
For Larb Salad:
Throw the following into a food processor – about 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks, dry shallots, finely chopped lemon grass, chopped garlic, fish sauce (in place of salt), thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves and rat shit peppers (optional). Process to mince chicken. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to chicken mixture. Make dressing: mix 1/3 cup lime juice, 2 Tbsp fish sauce, shaved palm sugar to taste. It should be pungent and strong. Heat some oil in a pan and sauté chicken mixture breaking it up and browning it. When cooked through, put a spoonful of meat onto a leaf of lettuce. Top with cilantro and dressing. Enjoy!
For Green Papaya Salad (I actually prefer this with green mango but beggars can’t be choosers):
Peel, then finely shred a green papaya (this one comes from last week’s grocery budget). If you have a mandolin, now would be the time to use it. Make a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, finely chopped garlic, finely chopped dry shallot. Get some palm sugar – it comes in little cakes and is hard as a rock. It costs little and will literally last you the rest of your life (unless you are Thai and make this stuff constantly). Shave some of the palm sugar with a big sharp butcher’s knife and add to the dressing. If you don’t have palm sugar you can use brown sugar. The dressing should be very intense: salty, sour and sweet. Toss the papaya with the dressing. Roast 1-2 cups of raw cashews. Spoon out servings of papaya salad and top each generously with shrimp and nuts. Don’t mix any extra shrimp/nuts into any extra salad because the acidity of the dressing will turn the shrimp mushy and the moisture will make the nuts soggy. Add your trusty rat shit peppers to taste. Leftovers make a great lunch the next day.
About ingredients: Thai food is very straightforward and easy to make but you HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS. I cannot stress this enough. I have seen kha described as being like ginger. Uh, no. It isn’t. Kha is like ginger the way noodles are like carrots. Thankfully, most large North American cities have a “Chinatown” where everything can be procured. The stumbling block is that often nothing is labelled and if you are a newby, you have no idea what you are looking at.
You want kha (a hard whitish root that is about the size of ginger and has a medicinal smell), lemon grass (dry stalks about a foot long that feel dusty and smell lemony), kaffir lime leaves (shiny dark green tough leaves with an unbelievable perfume), canned coconut milk, fish sauce (without a bunch of crap added if you can find it), green papaya (like regular papaya but hard and unripe). Once you have procured these items, you can freeze the kha, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass so you can make yummy stuff anytime you want without trekking to Chinatown.
Now, a little culture lesson in closing. In Thailand, people don’t mix a whole bunch of disparate items of food together on one plate, buffet/potluck style. Thai cuisine is sophisticated and the Thai people very refined. They take their time and savour flavours. Each dish is eaten separately to fully appreciate it. Thai people do not use chopsticks. They eat with a spoon and fork. Knives are not needed as food is presented in bite sized morsels. They use the fork to push food onto the spoon. The spoon goes into the mouth – never the fork.