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Thai Home Cooking April 23, 2006

Posted by merp in Champaign-Urbana, Food, Gardening, Pisco!.

First, yes it is worth making your own curry paste.

Second, yes it is worth buying a mortar and pestle to do it with and we need to do that.

Third, using a blender is just stupid and takes forever and uses more electricity and is much more boring and irritating that doing it in a mortar and pestle.

Fourth, YUM. And I say again YUM!

I recently put in an order for seeds at evergreenseeds.com for Korean Kkaeng nip (large-leaf perilla, a.k.a. shiso leaves) and bunching green onions (the kind you leave in the ground and snip the greens off indefinitely- -they grow pretty much year-round). And planted the seeds this weekend and await good things!

But evergreen seeds required a minimum order, so what could I do but buy a Thai cookbook from them?


All the cookbooks we have, and actually none of them are Thai, so it really was necessary.

And today we tried it out for the first time. First, a trip to Far East Grocery, your stop for Southeast Asian groceries in Champaign-Urbana. You’d never find it if you didn’t know it was there- -a non-descript cinderblock cube on a residental street, “Far East Grocery” discretely hand-painted in wobbly letters on the wall, no other sign. Doesn’t look like they sell anything legal.

But in fact- -long beans, galangal, fish sauce, bean thread, the Taiwanese pineapple cakes I love, the plastic tubs of fried shallots Aaron sprinkles on everything- -it’s all there, and cheap, too.

So this evening I made red curry paste. Even though I was still missing ingredients (cilantro/coriander roots, or any cilantro at all, shrimp paste), it was astoundingly better than the stuff in the can. Really, just because everything was freshly toasted and freshly ground. Certainly not because I knew what I was doing!

I dropped a glob of it on the floor and warned Pisco he’d be sorry if he ate it. He slurped it up without hesitation and with about as much reaction as if it were mayonnaise. I ground up about 50 chili peppers in that. I think we got a dog without taste buds.

Aaron then made the long beans with pork and red curry sauce (using my paste), substituting some amazing fresh mushrooms from Far East for the pork, and a cold beef salad, substituting dofu gan (dried tofu/baked tofu) for the beef. The long beans are flavored with kaffir lime leaves, an amazingly wonderful thing we will now try adding to everything. To the beef/tofu salad Aaron added sliced, raw rhubarb (new at the co-op this week) along with the celery and a pumped-up lime juice dressing, using lime juice amplified with lime oil (also new at the co-op). Raw rhubarb, people. It works.

Everything was amazing. So far, we highly recommend Thai Home Cooking. And on Thursday, I’ll use the rest of my curry paste on fish!



1. Mickey - April 24, 2006

It’s possible that dogs can’t taste capsaicins. I know I’ve read that birds can’t…

2. merp - April 24, 2006

Well, internet junkie that I am, I looked this up. The Straight Dope has the story. You are of course correct about the birds. But all mammals are supposedly susceptible to capsaicins. So perhaps the issue here is that Pisco has no pain receptors. We’ve noticed this in a lot of contexts. Like the time he was chewing on broken glass, or all the times Fritz has lodged a claw in his face (and had trouble removing it) and Pisco takes this as a positive sign of encouragement.

But there’s also something to the notion that his taste buds are off, too, since not only does the doggy Bitter Yuck! spray do nothing to deter him from chewing on things, and in fact he enjoys licking it off. This stuff is so vile that inadvertantly swallowing a particle of the spray floating in the air makes us humans gag and run for something sweet.

3. Mickey - April 25, 2006

Hmmm… you may be on to something there. Yeah, I was positive on birds, but had no idea whether it would be the case for dogs or not. You might want to talk to your vet about it. Could be drain bammage or something. 😉

4. Good food returns « merp - May 20, 2007

[…] recently, I made a bunch of Thai dishes from our trusty Thai cookbook, and Aaron grilled some eggplant and zucchini, but we didn’t take pictures. My next post […]

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