As part of our mission to take the mystery out of Thai cooking, Thai Kitchen wants to share a few techniques that may be new to you. How do you know how much curry to add? What's an easy way to prepare rice noodles? And, what do you do with the sticky rice? None of this is baffling when you know how, so read on...
BAMBOO SKEWERSThey should be pre-soaked in water to prevent their burning off during cooking. This is not necessary if they are soaked in the marinade with the meat.
CURRY PASTE Since the grinding of fresh ingredients makes curry pastes, the
flavor and the heat will naturally vary from season to season, batch to batch and jar to jar. How much curry should you add? It is always a good tip to start with a scant 1 Tbs. of curry paste (or half the recommended amount in a recipe) and adjust to your taste or spice comfort level. (Also see Equivalents).
DEEP FRYING Deep frying is a challenge and it is made easy by preparing your kitchen in advance. Start by choosing a large (4 quart or bigger) pan. You will also need 2 large slotted serving spoons to remove what you are frying from the oil. Have a large plate (or a cookie sheet) ready with a few layers of absorbent paper towels to place your fried items to drain the excess oil. Do not use olive oil! Plain vegetable oil is the best. It will not impart any flavor to your food. Keep your oil between 325°F and 350°F.
LEMON GRASS To cook with lemon grass, cut off the bottom moist portion of each stalk and discard the fibrous trunks and leaves. This bottom portion of the stalk should be bruised with the back of a knife and then cut or sliced into smaller pieces so that its woodsy/lemon-perfume flavor is easily released during cooking. This is one of the most common flavors used in Thai cooking. Use slices or whole pieces in your cooking. Use lemon grass like a bay leaf or a cinnamon stick to flavor dishes. Finely minced, it can be included in curry pastes and sauces. Since lemon grass is fibrous, and difficult to swallow, remove it from your dish before serving. (Also see Equivalents).
RINSING RICE: Start with Thai Kitchen Jasmine Rice. Empty rice into the bowl or pot, hold the utensil under the faucet and start gently running cold water into it. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. You can also use a fine sieve. Drain all excess water before cooking.
RICE COOKER: For the best results, we recommend using a rice cooker. Available in most department stores, and this will be one appliance you will really use. Rinse rice, add suggested amount of water and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
STOVE TOP: If you do not have a rice cooker, you can use a 2 quart saucepan with tight fitting lid. Place rinsed rice in saucepan and add the necessary amount of water. Cook on medium high heat, uncovered, until water begins to boil. Cook until the water has evaporated from the surface or small circles appear on the surface of the rice (about 7 to 10 minutes). Immediately reduce heat to low and cover pan with the lid. Cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until rice is tender and all water has evaporated.
RICE TIPS: For perfect rice every time, we recommend that once it is cooked, unplug the cooker or remove rice from the heat and allow it to stand covered for an additional 5 minutes. This will allow excess moisture to evaporate and for each rice grain to become more tender and separate. We also recommend not stirring rice while it is cooking.
STICKY RICE COOKING Sticky rice is available in Asian stores and some natural food stores. It needs to be soaked and then steamed in a bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth or in a steamer insert over a large pot of boiling water.
FRIED RICE Leftover rice that has been refrigerated overnight (or longer) produces fantastic fried rice results -- as the rice grains do not stick and clump together during stir-frying. The rice will be slightly hard and probably in a large clump when removed from the refrigerator. Take the rice and crumble it with your fingers or a spoon into your wok. Add 1⁄2 tsp. water (or more) to your wok when stir-frying to soften the rice. Once you taste the delicious results, you will definitely want to save the rice the next time you have Asian take-out.
RICE NOODLE PREPARATION Traditional Method: Soak dried rice noodles in room temperature water for at least 1 hour or even overnight. Be sure there is enough water to completely immerse the noodles. After 1 hour, they should be soft, firm but flexible. At this point they are ready for cooking. Drain the water before using.
QUICK PREPARATION: Bring enough water to a boil to cover the noodles (or you can use very hot tap water). Turn off heat and immerse rice noodles in hot water for 3-7 minutes until noodles are soft, cooked through but still firm and al dente, not mushy (check firmness frequently, as you would regular pasta). Rinse with cold water for 30 seconds and drain well.
RICE NOODLE TIPS After softening noodles with water, they must be kept moist or they will turn hard. If you do not use them immediately, we recommend that you cover the noodles with plastic wrap or a damp cloth.You can also keep noodles moist by soaking them in water, room temperature or refrigerated, for up to 2 days. If noodles are not softened completely before cooking, and are still hard while you are stir-frying, add 1⁄2 tsp. water (or more) to your skillet. Stir-fry until noodles are soft and water cooks away. For tastier soup noodles, we recommend using one of the preparation methods mentioned before adding noodles to the soup. Preparing the noodles first, will make them less starchy in your soup, they will not clump and stick together.