Its very very yum! But we’ll get to that later.
This time I had a Thai cooking lesson at Eleven Food Coaching Co op.
Unlike the Sushi Lessons I wrote about last week, I made sure that I got there on time (I did forget to pee again though) and was all excited to get into making some kickass Thai Curries from scratch. You see making Thai Curry, whether it Green, Red, Yellow, Penang, Massiman or Peanut curry, is a speciality of mine, but normally I cheat and buy the Thai Curry Paste from the local supermarket. So, I was hoping that I would learn to actually make the actual paste from scratch. Alas, on arriving I learnt that we would only be making Tom Yum Soup, using the Tom Yum Paste (from the supermarket), and a few prawn spring rolls! Eh?
So after being debriefed at the start of the session by the chef, I ended up partnering at a cooking station with a well built 50 year old ‘aunty’ from Paarl who had been cooking for her family for the past 30 years, so quizzically I asked her: “You’re a pro with cooking, why are you even here?” She replied “Well young handsome man, who makes my heart flutter and go 50 shades of grey, I am so bored with cooking the same things and I’m hoping that what I learn here will help spice up the normal stews and foods that I make.” Well, that’s how I remember it being said OK! The point however is, even if you have been cooking for 30 years, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. Also, when you are bored of making the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and…well you get the point …try spicing those same foods differently and you may find your new favourite dish.
Funnily enough, I partnered with her again for my Moroccan Cooking lessons a month later (blog post to come, be patient dear readers…sigh) and she mentioned how much her family loved the slight changes in flavour to the foods she now made, but for the life of them, they could not figure out what was different. She also made me promise not to tell them on penalty of death; she was a big ‘tannie’ who looked like she could pummel me with her one fist – I wasn’t gonna say nufin! I was scared. I wanted my mommy.
Ok, now lets get making some yummy Tom Yum Soup shall we:
Tom Yum Soup for the Soul
This is probably one of the easiest things you could ever make. Once you have prepared all your ingredients, it takes +-15 minutes to make and then wamo – fresh, wholesome, healthy, tasteful, awesometastically yummy Tom Yum Soup. You will also look like a cooking pro after this for added chef points.
Tom Yum Paste
500 ml water
½ cube chicken stock
250 ml coconut milk
2 or 3 colourful peppers (red, green, yellow)
1/2 stalk lemongrass
2 cloves garlic
1 lime leaf
A few stalks of coriander
2 red chillies
1 Chicken Breast
6 mini cocktail tomatoes (or more if desired)
6 white mushrooms (or more if desired)
This serves 4-6 helpings
The Prep Part:
Slice your 1/2 lemongrass stalk into thin 2 mm slices place in a small and set aside.
Same with the 2 red chillies ( I normally only add 1 though, yes I know, I’m a little girl)
Crush your cloves of garlic or slice into eetzy beetzy little pieces place in a small bowl and set aside.
Chop your peppers into slices or squares as desired. If you prefer chunky peppers then cut them into squares, if you prefer it nice and elegant, thin slices. The choice is yours.
Take the Tom Yum Paste out of its outside packaging and keep a scissors on hand to open up the inner pouch of paste.
Open your can of coconut milk and set aside. If you’re a health nut, you can substitute coconut milk with the 50% reduced calorie coconut milk. This way you can feel less guilty. If you want a richer flavour, you could add some coconut cream as well, but that’s just looking for trouble!
Wash the cocktail tomatoes and place in a clean bowl and set aside.
Thinly slice all the mushrooms, put them in a clean bowl and set aside.
Butterfly the chicken breast (i.e. cut it in the middle and spread it like a butterfly) and cut it into thin slices, or rectangle or cubes as desired. You can also preseason the chicken with any spices you desire or just rub it in garlic, for a ‘garlicy’ chicken flavour.
[Side note: I mention about putting things into bowls and set aside, but that means you have a lot of bowls to wash up later. I’m lazy. I hate washing up. So I put the tomatoes and mushrooms in one bowl, and the garlic, chilli and lemongrass in another.]
The How To Part:
Boil 500 ml of water in your kettle, crumble ½ a cube chicken stock cube in your empty pot and pour the boiling water into the pot.
Throw in the lemongrass slices, the chilli and the garlic into the chicken stock.
Set stove to HIGH heat and bring to boil.
Wait 5 minutes. You will now observe a wonderful lemony smell emanating from your pot. Do not attempt to drink any of this. Why? Its hot, you will burn your mouth silly!
Lower your heat to MEDIUM
Throw in the mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers. This makes it look like a nice wholesome broth.
Wait 5 minutes. Stir every so often to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Add more water if you think it looks more like a stew than a soup
Add your chicken breast slices/cubes to the pot.
Now, cut open the Tom Yum Paste pouch with a kitchen scissors and add all of it to the mixture.
Wait another 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Taste your soup for salt and add as desired.
Your Tom Yum Soup is DONE! Woohoo! Party Time! Excellent! Pour into soup bowls, garnish with coriander, serve and enjoy.
But wait! What about the coconut milk I hear you ask? Oh wait that’s not you, that’s the voices in my head…um… nevermind. If you buy Tom Yum soup at your local Thai restaurant you will find that it’s a very clear lemony sour broth. Many people like that. I don’t. The sourness is too much for me. So I add coconut milk to smooth over the sourness and even out the flavours. So having said that, optionally:
Lower the stove heat to LOW and add the coconut milk. Simmer (i.e. cook on very low heat) for 2 minutes and switch off the stove.
As an added tip, let your soup stand for 30 minutes and, when ready to serve, just heat it quickly and switch off the stove. I have found the flavour of the Tom Yum paste really stands out in this manner.
Also with this recipe you can easily substitute the chicken with tenderised beef slices or prawns (use oyster sauce instead of salt in the case of the prawns).
So there you have it…
I won’t be going over the spring roll recipe. It was literally – Season raw prawns with soy sauce. Wrap prawn in spring roll pastry so that their tails are outside. Close pastry with some egg yolk. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
Fry in fish oil until crispy. Spread in plate, Dip in sweet Thai Chilli sauce.
and in case you forgot what the finished product looked like…
Finally, unlike the Sushi Lessons, I am uncertain if this course was worth it. Tom Yum Soup is really quite simple to make and with the prawn spring rolls fried for us, we had more than an hour of time still available for the course; which we spent drinking our soup and socialising amongst class mates. Its still really nice that the chef demonstrates what is needed to be done, so each person will have a clear idea of what to expect and how things should look. I definitely did learn a few tips in terms of sequencing one’s food and the use of chicken stock (fresh stock is the best, but I will get to that again), but I was disappointed we didn’t make the paste from scratch. However, having said that I do realise that it may be too much hassle and eventually quite messy. For the most part, with the busy lives we lead, using the paste is still ok and does not detract from the flavours! So i cannot quite recommend this course unless you really are quite new to the world of cooking.
One day I will post about how to make a killer Thai Green Curry, which is as simple as the above.
This is Chef M saying …Thai om nom nom!
PS: If you are able to do the above and it comes out tasting yummy, please feel free to reward yourself with 20 Chef Points! (Keep a scorecard, when we reach 500 we may just be pro’s!)