September 2007


I always look forward to reading The Pleasure of Eating on the back page of the Bangkok Post’s Outlook, where the renowned Prisna Boonsinsukh offers new recipes along with a little background and trivia on the recipes or main ingredient. Recent themes included marinades, veal, and pomegranates.

We have not had fish in a very long time and when I found this recipe in an older copy of Outlook at Dasa Book Café on Sukhumvit I copied it immediately. It was actually the first recipe by Ms. Boonsinsukh that I tried and it was perfect! I am giving the recipe pretty much as it was in the paper, with some suggestions as always at the end.

You will need:

40g of coriander, leaves removed
2 long green chilies, chopped
25g grated palm sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons sliced/chopped fresh ginger
40ml fish sauce
125ml limejuice
8 kafir lime leaves shredded
1 stalk lemon grass, trimmed and chopped
200g white fish fillets

Make:

Separate the coriander leaves from stalks and set aside. Put the stalks, chilies, sugar, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and limejuice in a food processor and process until you have a rough paste, this is your marinade. Pour this marinade into a non-metallic container and add the lime leaves and lemon grass. Coat the fish fillets with half of the marinade and refrigerate for thirty minutes set the rest of the marinade aside.
After thirty minutes, heat a little oil in a frying pan over high heat, cook the fish for about 3 or 4 minutes each side until ready and you’re done. Serve the fish with the rest of the marinade.

Suggestions:
– as usual, seed the chilies completely or partially or not at all, depending on your own tastes.
– according to Ms. Boonsinsukh any white fish fillets would do, I used Indian halibut and worked lovely.
– I found that there was a lot of the marinade left after halving it, so if you intend to cook for more people you could probably stick to these amounts for the marinade recipe and use all of it to marinate your fish in
– I did not have palm sugar at hand, so I just used some regular, very soft brown sugar
– some of the coriander leaves I used for garnish and the rest I kept refrigerated for use in other dishes.

This is what we had for breakfast one of the lazy mornings I had last week, banana french toast.

bnnafrenchpancakes.jpg

It is a fairly simple and delicious way to start the day. I first had it at Ricky’s Café in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok, a brilliant little spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Arrange:

1 or 2 very ripe bananas
4 slices of bread (I used black sesame bread from Tops)
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make:

Mush the banana(s) in a bowl and add the cinnamon to the mixture. Spread the mixture on the slices of bread.

Lightly beat the two eggs in a plate or dish and add the pinch of salt.

Spray some cooking spray onto a griddle pan and heat the pan over a moderately high heat. Cover the slices of bread with the egg mixture and quickly fry them in the pan. Serve with some fresh fruit and any other condiments you deem necessary, I served it with lychee jam.

bnnafrenchtoast2.jpg

Suggestions for banana French toast:
– Alexander always suggests adding a splash of orange juice or dark rum to the egg mixture for some tropical flavor- unfortunately I had neither in the kitchen the day I made this.
– if you are a real sweet tooth you may consider adding a little soft brown sugar to the banana mixture

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of picking up the paper on my to work in the mornings, but as there is not enough space for it in my current bag, I always ended up carrying it under my arm. I designed this one more with traveling in mind. It’s large enough for a guidebook, notebook, some pens, travel documents, wallet, small digital camera, iPod and cell phone. It is not big enough to carry around teacher’s files, test papers, or, the newspaper.

I began working on a design for a new shoulder bag, the first of my more ambitious assignments for my new sewing machine. I’ve also been promising Alexander a bag since forever, so this past weekend we decided to go fabric shopping.

As a child I often went with my mother to fabric stores, either at Cape Town’s Parade or the Oriental in Johannesburg. I was in love with the smell of rolls upon rolls of textiles, and although I did not know the names of everything I saw and touched and smelled it left a lasting impression on me. When I moved to Bangkok, I wondered where I would be able to recreate a similar experience. Mostly I’ve only seen tailor’s stores stocking suiting and silk fabrics. Not exactly what I was looking for.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we headed toward Pahurat, a street in the mainly Indian neighborhood just east of Chinatown. We first stopped for some terribly satisfying iced caramel macchiatos at the really cute little Fine Time Cafe on the way, and then hopped on the bus.

A couple of fabric and wedding paraphernalia stores lined both sides of Pahurat Street. None of them seemed too enticing, until we crossed the street and walked into one that was a little bigger than the others. Entering the store I noticed that at the back it opened up into another fabric store, and on closer investigation I discovered that we had stepped into a labyrinth of fabric stores. One after the other they were crammed into the tiny spaces that made up almost half of the city block. Everywhere I turned, mountains of fabric in every imaginable color, design, and texture surrounded me.

Soon I was feeling out of breath with excitement and we decided to go for Indian food before shopping for materials. In a small alley, just off Chakraphet Street, we found the Royal India restaurant where we had one of the best naan ever. I highly recommend a trip there to anyone ever in the neighborhood.

Walking back to the Pahurat fabric labyrinth we discovered a cramped but very well stocked bakeshop where I will surely be returning to once we have an oven.

After browsing around for a bit, Alexander settled on a brilliant piece of Berber-inspired fabric for the lining of his bag, and some textured gray suiting for the exterior. As usual, I had a hard time picking something out, being presented with so many options. In the end I selected a funky polka dotted piece for the lining, and a very dark brown bordering on plum for the exterior of my bag. I also noted some very retro looking fabric with orange and green floral prints, which I picked up on a whim with a tote in mind.

Now we only needed to find a haberdashery store. After asking around and not getting anywhere, I marched up to some ladies behind sewing machines. With a questioning expression I pointed to the tins of sewing thread in front of them and soon everybody around joined in to give directions.

I do not understand Thai, but I did follow the hand gestures, and within seconds we were in the most incredible haberdashery store I have seen in a really long time. The store itself was not enormous, but it was stocked from top to bottom and everywhere in between with thread, buttons, clasps, zippers, rolls of interfacing, elastic, and just about any other sewing necessity. I had to really control myself not to buy anything that I did not need right now.

Exhausted, but exceptionally content with our discovery and purchases, we returned home, all set to turn the contents of Alexander’s big shopping bag into fun new accessories.

Most of the images in this entry was taken by Alexander.

An old favorite of mine is stuffed or filled chicken breasts cooked in liquid of one kind or another. The options are almost limitless; I’ve used pesto, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta and even peanut butter for stuffing and cooked in balsamic vinegar, red wine and stock.

Seen as we are living in Thailand and get to savor new combinations of ingredients and tastes on a regular basis I decided to experiment with a new filling and cooking sauce inspired by some Thai flavors.

Collect:

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 red chili, sliced
3 sprigs of spring onion, the white and light green parts separated from the darker parts- mince two of the spring onions and slice the third on in half
3 kafir lime leaves, roughly copped
2 big shallots, sliced
juice of half a lime
2 chicken breasts, trimmed of the skin and fat
1 cup of flour
salt
toothpicks
½ chicken stock cube
½ cup of warm water
½ cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder

Make:

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, when the oil is warm, add garlic and chili and fry quickly until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the halved spring onion) and stir-fry it for about two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Set aside.

Dissolve the stock cube in the warm water, add the curry powder and coconut milk and set aside.

Flatten your chicken breasts with one hand and make careful incisions in them with a sharp knife for the filling. Divide the stuffing between the two chicken breasts and insert half a sprig of spring onion in each. Close the breasts with one or two toothpicks. Season with a little salt.

Spread the flour out onto a flat surface and roll the breasts around in it till covered, shake of any excess flour and set aside. In the same saucepan you used for preparing the filling, add a little oil. Put the chicken breast in the saucepan and cook until a light golden brown. To this, add the liquid mixture and lower your temperature to a gentle simmer. Cover the saucepan slightly and cook the chicken until it is cooked through. I left it on for about 20 minutes.

The end result was superb. The flavors of the filling were pleasantly subtle, complimented by the curry flavored cooking sauce, the leftover sauce I poured over the steamed rice I served it with. The chicken breasts were also incredibly tender. Definitely one to try again.

Suggestions for Chicken Breasts with Thai flavors filling.
– depending on your personal tastes you can add more or less of any of the ingredients to change the flavor and of course you can add any other ingredients that may add to the end result.
– the dark green parts of the spring onions can be used as garnish and a little bit of curry powder sprinkled around a side of the plate adds to the presentation
– keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks

The rambutan is a drupe related to lychees and longans, but much more vicious looking. Its skin is usually varying shades of red and covered in curving, vicious looking tentacles. However, moving through the bizarre looking outside you get to the translucent flesh clinging to the pit, the taste much less overwhelmingly sweet than a lychee and not as peculiar as the longan.

For my birthday this year Alexander took me to Saladang Song, a popular and very chic Thai restaurant in Pasadena. There is a great review of the restaurant at Foodie Universe’s Restaurant Reviews.

On the menu I noticed a rambutan salad that included ginger, toasted coconut flakes, and peanuts. Intrigued we ordered it.

The fruit was served skinned and pitted with the rest of the ingredients arranged around the plate. You put a little bit of everything in the rambutan, roll it in a lettuce leave and eat. What an astonishing burst of flavor and texture it was! I could not wait to get to Asia where rambutans are dime a dozen so I could try to recreate this dish and recently, I finally did.

It takes a bit of time to prepare, but I assure you, you will not be sorry.


For an appetizer for two people you will need:

8 rambutans, skinned and carefully pitted
½ tablespoon crushed peanuts
½ tablespoon lightly toasted coconut flakes
1 small red chili seeded and minced
8 very small pieces of lime, you can leave the skin on
½ tablespoon of minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
a little water
one or two large kale leaves, washed and sliced into long strips
8 toothpicks

Make:

Heat the sugar over medium heat in a saucepan and add a tiny bit of water. Remove from heat when the sugar is melted and becoming all sticky. Scrape it into a bowl so it can set and then crush it a little. It should have a hard yet crumbly consistency.

In your rambutans, put a little bit of all the ingredients so you get a mix of dry, crunchy, sweet, sour and spicy. Wrap it up in a strip of the kale leave, insert a toothpick to keep it all together and you’re ready to impress your dinner partner(s).

Suggestions for making filled rambutans:
– I’ve only ever seen fresh rambutans in Asia, if you cannot find them fresh, try using the canned variety, possibly available at Asian supermarkets, although this may be really sweet.
– removing the skin and pitting is tricky: slice the skin open from top to bottom on one side and slip out the fruit, make another incision from the top of the fruit to the bottom and gently pry the flesh away from the pit
– to save time, instead of the caramelized sugar you can use a drop of dark honey
– when serving, always keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks

Last week was an exciting week in the kitchen and soon I will be posting some new recipes that I’ve experimented with. Here are some sample pictures to hopefully pique your interest.


I’ve been getting around to some other fun activities as well. On Friday I got round to buying a T-shirt that has been on my mind after a recent trip to Propaganda in the Emporium.


The shirt is designed by a group called Error Clothing whose designs are stocked at various outlets in Bangkok and is also available in Singapore and North America. I liked the simple design, the feel of the 100% cotton jersey fabric, and fell in love with the endearing image. They have numerous other designs available for order at their website, which is easy to navigate and has a simple color search function.

Alexander and I went on a two-day visa trip to Vientiane last week and got to spend time at our favorite Vientiane coffee shop, JoMa as well as discovering one or two new pleasing places to while away the time in the slowest capital city I know. We got around to the morning market again and I reminded myself that I still want to say a word or two about Hmong crafts, which we saw aplenty in Luang Phabang on our previous visit, but not today.

About two weeks ago I bought a new sewing machine. It was inexpensive and on sale and it has all the basic functions I need from a machine; straight stitching, zigzag, buttonholes and easy to use. The only problem was the ‘cutesy’ detail on the one side of the machine.


Saturday afternoon I finally got to use it for the first time. I turned a pair of dress pants of Alexander’s into shorts. A really simple procedure, but I was beaming with excitement when I started working on the project. I have not used a sewing machine since late February. The shorts came out nicely. I moved the hem to just below the knee, a style feature I like because it highlights the calves.


Currently I am working on a bag idea I had recently, drawing up the pattern and working on a mockup. Hopefully I will be able to show off the final creation soon.

I can never sit still for too long and it seems this habit of mine has rubbed off on my blogging. So I have decided to move my old blog to WordPress.

So, new city and new blog. I’m still in the process of settling into WordPress, moving a couple of old blog entries over and updating some new ones, but hopefully I will have it all up and running by this weekend.