Asian Cuisine

Thai Cuisine

The followings are interesting links to learn more about Thai cuisine, cooking methods, recipes and ingredients :

Thai Food Overview Links

Thai Regional Food Links

Thai Recipes Links

Other Links

Thai Curry

Curry dishes are prominent features in Thai Cuisine. In Thai cooking, curry paste is not only used to make curry dishes but is also used as an ingredient to give flavour to and to polish the taste of different kinds of dishes. Many Thai housewives are said to be able to cook a different dish using curry paste every day of the year.

In Thailand there are almost as many curry paste recipes as there are cooks. However, there are basically two categories of curry, the coconut milk-based curry and the water-based curry. Sour curry is the typical water-based curry often used in fish dishes. The spicy jungle curry is another delicious water-based curry prepared with vegetable and meat.

Thai coconut milk-based curries include the familiar red, yellow, green, panang and masamam curries commonly found in all menus of Thai restaurants.

The following table shows the ingredients of the coconut milk-based curry pastes. Coconut milk is added during cooking.

Vietnamese Cuisine

Modern Vietnamese cuisine is strongly influenced by the cuisine of Asian countries, China, Thailand and India, and France that once colonized Vietnam.

The Vietnamese describe their country as two great rice baskets on either end of a carrying pole. In the north the Red River Delta surrounds Hanoi to provide rice for the residents of North Vietnam. While down in the south the tremendously fertile Mekong Delta, centered on Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) provides rice plus a variety of fruits and vegetables not only for itself but also for the central strip of the former Imperial capital of Hue, a long, narrow, mountainous area. Each area contributes differently to Vietnam’s culinary tradition.

In the North, colder climate limits the variety of spices and produce that is available, and as a result, the food is lighter, and less spicy-hot than in the Center and South regions- black pepper is the most popular spice used here. Stir-fries are more commonly found here, due to the shared border with China to the north. Many crab-centered dishes originate from the North, but other seafood are not as common here. Spring rolls seem to be an adoption from Chinese cuisine. However, much in contrast to the Chinese habit of deep-frying spring rolls, they are prepared largely without fat in the Vietnamese variation, named cha gio. There is also a preference of beef to pork, a taste acquired during the 13th century Mongolian invasion.

The Center, where Hue, the ancient capital of the Vietnamese kings is located, features a highly decorative, very spicy cuisine, reflecting the pleasures of the country’s royalty and the abundance of spices this region. The locals take advantage of abundance of fresh produce grown and like to have many small different dishes on the table at the same time. The larger the number of dishes is a sign as to the wealth of the family. But even the poorest of families enjoy just having several different dishes of simple vegetables. Chili peppers and shrimp sauce are frequently used.

The South is hot and humid, and its fertile earth makes it ideal for growing a huge variety of vegetables, fruits, and livestock. It is here where the French and Indian influences are most prominent. During colonial rule, the French introduced white potatoes, asparagus, tarragon, and shallots to this region, and they are still grown today. French bread is another surprise in this small area of Southeast Asia. Vietnamese use a soup base similar to the French consommé. However, in Vietnamese cuisine noodles are often added to the soup. The resulting “noodle consommé” is called pho. However, each region in Vietnam has its own pho variation and name, similar to Indian curries or Italian pasta sauces. On the other hand, Vietnamese cuisine differs in one aspect from French cuisine: it uses oil sparingly.

Southern Vietnam was once a common stop for Indian traders before their journey back west, and they left a taste for curried dishes behind. However, Vietnamese curries are less spicy than Indian or Thai curries. Vietnamese curries get their taste mainly from coriander, and chili is used in very small quantity. Seafood is a natural staple for people in the South, considering the vast areas of shoreline there.

Daily Meal

In Vietnam, all dishes are served at once, usually in bowls, and the family shares them using chopsticks. The meal will most likely be served with noodles in the North and rice in the central and southern regions. Grilled pieces of seafood and meats, which are wrapped in herbs, rice paper or vegetable leaves and dipped in sauces, feature prominently within Vietnamese cuisine. Cooks prepare fish, meats and chicken with flavorful, light marinades, serving them stir-fried with raw vegetables and herbs alongside a pungent, spicy dipping sauce. They create layers of flavors not only within a dish, but also through accompanying garnishes and condiments, which add depth and dimension to every meal

Sauces and condiments provide essential flavoring tools in Vietnamese cooking and on meal tables. Whether employed as dips for spring rolls and grilled meats, as garnishes for soups and salads, or as enhancements for noodles and rice dishes, these items are the quintessential definition of accented flavor for Vietnamese cuisine. The most popular condiment is nuoc cham, and the right amount of this pungent sauce enhances the overall flavors of any dish.

Nuoc mam (fish sauce), a pungent, salty liquid drained from salted fish and then fermented in earthenware barrels for about a year, amounts to the essential seasoning in Vietnamese cooking. The “soy sauce” for central and southern Vietnam, its location in the Vietnamese kitchen compares to olive oil’s place in Italy. The first extraction – called nhi – has a pale-gold color and the best flavor, similar to extra virgin olive oils in the olive oil hierarchy, and provides the base ingredient for sauces, marinades and dressings. Combined with different ingredients, fish sauce creates many varieties of condiments found in Vietnamese cuisine.

Some other common ingredients in Vietnamese cooking are:

Bean Sauce – made from fermented soybeans, water, and salt, this potent sauce is similar to the Japanese miso.

Coconut Milk – used mostly for desserts and puddings in Vietnam, not to create heavy curries as in Thai cooking.

Five Spice Powder – a Chinese mixture of spices that imparts a licorice/woodsy fragrance to a dish.

Fruits – fruits native to Vietnam include orange, pomelo (similar to grapefruit, but larger and not as sour), star fruit, strawberries, bananas, jackfruit, pineapple and papaya. Green mango, papaya, jackfruit and bitter melon are cooked or featured in salads.

Galangal – also known as Thai ginger- this earthy, peppery cousin of ginger has a tough reddish skin and orange or whitish flesh. It is usually added at the last minute to get maximum flavor.

Ginger – used as universally in Vietnam as garlic in Italy, ginger works wonderfully to brighten a sauce or stir-fry.

Ground Chile Paste – made from ground red chilies, garlic, and vinegar.

Hoisin Sauce – made from soybean, puree, sugar, and caramel sauce, this salty-sweet sauce is used in dipping sauces, marinades and stir-fries.

Kafir Lime Leaves – these jade green leaves impart a lemony aroma to curries, soups and stir fries. Each leaf resembles a figure 8. Kafir lime leaves can be bought frozen or dried. Dried leaves must be soaked in hot water before use.

Lemongrass – also known as citronella, this is actually a grass variety with an intense lemon flavor which Vietnamese use to infuse a soup, sauce, or curry or marinate meats and fish. The bottom part of the stem is the edible portion.

Mung Bean Sprouts – have subtle flavor and slightly crunchy. Mung bean starch is pressed into cellophane noodles.

Mushrooms – straw mushrooms, with their very delicate flavor, are the most commonly used fresh mushroom in Vietnam, while wood or tree ear mushrooms are the most commonly used dried ones. They have a crunchy texture and very little flavor.

Oyster Sauce – this thick brown sauce is made from ground oysters, which were cooked in salted water and soy sauce, water, cornstarch, and caramel coloring.

Rice Noodles – are made from rice flour and come flat or round. Flat rice noodles are categorized into 3 widths- thin medium large. Thin and medium noodles are used for soups, while the widest are reserved for stir-fries.

Rice Paper – is made from a batter of rice flour, water and salt. The paper is steamed, then dried on bamboo racks. Used as wrapper for a variety of spring rolls.

Tamarind – a large brown pod fruit- but usually sold in syrupy liquid form or dried blocks.

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