Tuesday, 27 April 2010

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Thai Rice Varieties

Rice is an ingredient that can be found on every menu within Thailand. However, what many do not realize is there are different varieties that are cooked in different ways.

One of the most popular types of rice throughout the country is fragrant jasmine rice. The grains are white in colour and long in shape. Another popular rice that is readily available is sticky rice, which is also named glutinous rice as it is gluten free. This rice is white in colour also and the grains are short in length. The rice has a sweeter taste and is often used in desserts such as mango sticky rice as well as in savoury dishes.

Throughout Thailand, rice is accompanied with most dishes and is also eaten in several different ways.

For instance, with a curry dish, steamed jasmine rice is typically served. However, with dishes such as fried chicken or pork, sticky rice is preferred.

Here is a quick guide to the different ways that rice is cooked:

1. Fried Rice - this is typically made with white rice, it is cooked in a rice cooker, similar to a pressure cooker, then placed in a frying pan where eggs, vegetables such as spring onion, meat or fish are added. It is then served with a slice of lime and a dash of light soy sauce. The dish is usually eaten as a main course.
2. Steamed Rice - this is simple, tasty and the healthiest option. The rice, whether it is brown, jasmine or plain white, is simply cooked in a rice cooker and used to accompany dishes.
3. Sticky Rice - can be found in supermarkets pre-cooked and on street stalls already cooked and wrapped in green pandan leaves. The rice is also used to cook sweet dishes such as mango sticky rice, where coconut milk, sweet fresh mango and granulated or palm sugar are added. This is a popular desert amongst Thais.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Ramsay's Best Restaurant

‘Ramsay’s Best Restaurant’ is an exciting new series dedicated to celebrating the finest restaurants in the UK. Restaurants nominated by the public will be tested to the highest level by Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay and the series will culminate in one culinary hero being crowned ‘Ramsay’s Best Restaurant’.

Gordon’s journey will see him travel the length and the breadth of Britain in search of brilliant restaurants that deliver gastronomic perfection and wonderful customer service. He’ll meet restaurant owners who refuse to be daunted by the threat from ubiquitous chains and who are determined to survive the recession on their own terms and with their exceptionally high standards intact. He’ll seek out culinary heroes working in the kitchens and front of house at independent restaurants across the UK whose brilliance deserves to be recognised.

Each of the eight heats will focus on a different type of cuisine including Italian, French, Indian and British categories and this year there’s a new category – Fine Dining. Will one of the big boys of the restaurant world come out on top? Or will a small local restaurant take down the Goliaths of the kitchen? The chef’s culinary abilities will be tested as Gordon sets the kitchen brigades some of the toughest challenges they’ve faced in their careers. The pressure will truly be on as the competitors could face anything in their heat, in the super tough semi-finals and in the head-to-head cook-off that is the series final. Only one brilliant contender can win the title of 'Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.' Who will it be?

The series will follow the highs and lows of the passionate chefs, restaurateurs and of Gordon himself as he tries to find his worthy champion.

Restaurants can only take part in the competition if they’ve been nominated. We’re looking for restaurants of the highest calibre so if you know a fantastic restaurant that is worthy of the title then please visit www.bestnominate.com and nominate them now.

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Friday, 19 March 2010

The Essential Flavours of Thai Cuisine

The essential ingredients which set Thai cuisine apart from the rest of the world are the five flavours blended together in each meal. All Thai dishes follow similar rules of having hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours. Walk past stalls or markets with curries being made and you smell the distinct ingredients. The aromatic, chilli and rich smells are all blended together to make Thai food incredibly more-ish.

In addition to these flavours, Thais have a range of condiments to accompany the already quite spicy dishes. Nam chim or a selection of sauces are served in small containers, which have dried chilli flakes, sweet chilli sauce, nam pla phrik (fish sauce, chopped chilli, lime juice and garlic), sliced chilli in rice vinegar and sugar. Cucumber is found on the sides of a dish, to cool and cleanse the mouth, after eating fairly vicious sounding ingredients.

Anyone who has travelled to Thailand or eaten Thai food will understand the flavours being immense. The spiciness is almost unbearable but after having time to cool down, the addictive nature of chillies makes you want it all over again.

It is not only rice and curry dishes which are sold in Thailand. Noodles, many different type of fish dishes, spicy salads (papaya salad), sticky rice and fried chicken or fish balls are available. Having the right blend of ingredients is highly important and one which the budding DIY chef may get wrong. Replicating a Thai dish is an art and it’s usually easier and cheaper to go and buy it.

To find the correct blend of Thai ingredients, all of which encompass the five flavours, is difficult. Tourists who have been to Thailand will never experience the right taste again, unless they go back there for the addictive nature of the cuisine.

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Monday, 8 March 2010

Achieving that Authentic Thai Taste

Many people find that they have a problem achieving as truly authentic Thai taste when they first try their hand at cooking Thai food. Western cooks are far more conservative that their Thai counterparts, and thus we tend to under flavour our foods, which is simply not the way to achieve proper tasting Thai food.

Don’t be shy with the spices

If you watch a Thai person cooking, they take a fairly cavalier attitude with herbs and spices. They never measure anything exactly, instead they add these ingredients to their own taste, using their experience of cooking the dish in question. In the west we are used to measuring herbs and spices in small measures, as we tend to add these things to bring subtle flavours to the dish, this is not so in Thailand, where the herbs and spices form the backbone of the flavour. So don’t be conservative with them, always add plenty.

Chillies do have a taste

Most people presume that chillies are added to a dish to simply make it spicy. This is simply not true, chillies in quantity has a distinct flavour of its own, and one which the Thais seem to cherish. So how do we add plenty of chillies to a dish without making it too spicy? Simple, we add other ingredients to counteract the spiciness of the chillies. Sugar is the usual ingredient used for this, and many Thai recipes add several heaped spoons of sugar simply to counteract the fiery chillies. Salt and vinegar are also used in the same way, although in nowhere near as large a dose as sugar.

So there we have it, to achieve a great tasting Thai dish do not stint on the herbs and spices. Forget your traditional Western way of cooking, adding just a little spice to a dish to add some flavour, instead throw away your measuring tubs and start adding herbs and spices by the handful.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Using Garlic the Thai Way

Garlic is used as a cooking ingredient all over the world. However, in the Western World we tend to use garlic sparingly, and when we do use it we tend to prepare it quite differently than Thai people do in Thailand.

In the west we tend to peel the outer skin from the cloves of garlic, we also chop it finely or squeeze it through a garlic press. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this way of preparing garlic, it must be said that this destroys the flavour somewhat. Thai people would never consider treating their garlic so badly!

Smash it Whole:
The primary way in which garlic is used in Thai recipes, is as part of the base paste used to flavour the food. The garlic, along with other herbs and spices such as chillies, onion and black pepper will be thrown into a mortar and then ground down to a paste using a pestle. Note, the garlic is thrown in whole, including the skin, with no other preparation.

Skin it and Eat it Whole:
Another way in which garlic is used in Thai recipes, especially spicy salads (Yam), is to simply peel the cloves and add them to the dish whole. Thai people have no problems with eating whole cloves of garlic in one mouthful, even when it is raw.

As a Covering:
Several Thai dishes, such as Plachon Loue Sawai (a type of deep fried fish with a spicy, sour covering) uses chucks of garlic as part of the coating over the food. Usually it will be coarsely chopped (including the skin) and mixed with chopped onion, chopped chillies, and finely chopped lemongrass. This creates a spicy yet sour mixture, which is sprinkled over the dish before cooking.

As we can see, Thai cooking uses garlic in more innovative ways than we use it in the west, where we simply add a small quantity of chopped garlic to a dish to give it a little flavour. In Thailand, many dishes feature the full flavour of the garlic, which seems to offset the spicy taste of chillies perfectly.

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Popular Thai Herbs

The overall character of Thai food, just the same as any regional food, is governed by the most common herbs and spices used in its preparation. What makes Thai food so tasty is the fact the there are such a wide range of inexpensive, and easily obtained herbs and spices to be found in Thailand. Below we will take a look at the three most commonly used of them, which definitely help to form that great Thai taste.

Lemongrass – A very hard grass stalk, with a strong taste of lemon. Thai people add Lemongrass to a dish either smashed down to a paste form in a mortar and pestle, finely chopped, or on 3-6 centimeter lengths. Note that the third form is not eaten, it is simply there to add flavor, leave it in the dish when eating.

Basil – An immensely popular herb across the whole of Thailand. Thai basil is a little different than the basil we find in the western world. The leaves are much larger, and the plants are busier. Also, the taste is not quite so strong. Thai folks will use handfuls of basil when cooking, whereas we would only use a few leaves in the West.

Kaffir Lime Leaves – A whole range of soups, curries, friend dishes and sauces, all feature Kaffir Lime Leaves. Leaves are tossed into the dish, and are used to add flavor. The leaves are never eaten, and are simply left in the serving dish.

So there we have it, 3 of Thailand’s most popular herbs, every chef keen to try their hand at Thai food will need to keep these stocked.

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