Thai food is a rainbow of delicious and my most craveable of cuisines. One of many treasured food memories was my experience cooking a feast of Thai dishes at Vannee Classic Home Cooking in Chiang Mai, Thailand. If you plan on journeying through Thailand, I encourage you to visit Chiang Mai, also known as the stomach of Thailand, like Bologna is to Italy. And please, go and see Vannee. Recommended by wine specialist Sedimentality, she's the loveliest little lady, the real deal in terms of Thai home cooking, and very proud of her school. Formerly owner and head chef of the Heron Bar in Paddington, she works very hard, runs the show 'round the clock, typically 6-7 days per week, and teaches hundreds of clients each month.
Vannee and her husband first met our group of three at San Pa Khoi market just on the east side of the Ping River. It was here we decided upon our dishes and together foraged for the ingredients. Vannee knew and explained every single fresh ingredient extensively, even if it wasn't going into our particular dish. We piled into the car and drove to Vannee's home and cooking school. Her school is well-equipped, and so cheerfully set outdoors in picnic-style fashion surrounded by her lush garden. We spent about 4 hours in the kitchen plating up mouthwatering dishes with excellent instruction and patience from Vannee.
One of the classes I offer is Thai & Vietnamese Feast based on my travels throughout Southeast Asia. I share with you Vannee's recipe for Thai red curry, which can feature any type of meat or vegetable. I chose haddock because it happened to be in my fridge for the photo shoot. Whatever you do, plan your foraging for the Thai ingredients accordingly. In other words, locate your nearest Asian Supermarket to avoid substitutions and enjoy the most authentic tasting wow-in-the-mouth experience. In East London you can find a couple of friendly Vietnamese shops which carry just about everything, two of which can be found along Mare Street, Hoang-Nam Supermarket and Vietnam Supermarket.
Recipe: Thai Fish Curry for 2
Recipe credit: Vannee Classic Home Cooking
Red Curry Paste Recipe
Mortar & Pestle (can be bought at any Asian grocers or supermarket)
6 dried red chopped red chillies, soaked in cold water for 5 min
1 tsp roughly chopped shallots
2 small cloves of garlic
¼ tsp chopped galangal
¼ tsp chopped kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp lemongrass
10 black pepper corns
¼ tsp roasted dry coriander seeds
¼ tsp roasted dry cumin seeds
¼ tsp shrimp paste
Put all ingredients and spices into mortar, then pound until having a fine-textured paste.
Can be sealed in an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Fish Curry Recipe
2 fillets of haddock or any other white meaty fish
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 tin coconut milk
½ cup coconut cream (this can come from the fatty solid layer of the tin of coconut milk)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
1 red chilli pepper, sliced (optional)
1 tbsp corn flour diluted and mixed in some water (50 ml is fine)
Heat the coconut cream in a wok or medium shallow skillet on low heat until bubbles arise to the surface. Add the red curry paste and stir until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk on bring to the boil. Add the fish and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Season to taste with fish sauce and white sugar. Place fish into a pasta bowl or shallow bowl. Off the heat add the corn flour mixture and stir through. Pour over the fish and garnish with lime leaves and chillies.
Jasmine Rice Recipe
125g Jasmine rice (regular or wholegrain, for more hearty texture)
400-450 ml water
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in to a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer and cover for 25-30 minutes. Rice should be tender and fluffy.