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Thailand: Farm to Fork (via a Cooking Class) on the Outskirts of Bangkok

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Chung, who met us at the farm to harvest our ingredients for our cooking class

On our first morning in Bangkok we hopped on a bus and drove to the outskirts of Bangkok. It didn’t take long, maybe 45 minutes, before we arrived at a farm that grows herbs, fruit and some vegetables. We were to collect some ingredients that we would be using in our Thai cooking class not long after.

Everything grew on extended narrow beds, lined with little irrigation canals. The heat was scorching. 40 degrees centigrade plus and as we all know, the melting temperature of an Irish person is 14 deg C. I persevered with my fan, driving some air towards my face and soaking up all of the smells, tastes and colours.

Watering the crops with a little boat

Watering the crops with a little boat

It is very hot and the crops are watered using a hose deployed from a little boat which was a joy to see. I grew up in a farming area in Ireland and watering the crops was not something our local farmers had to worry about, at any time of year.

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Harvesting lemongrass

We tried lots as we went, first some papaya, which was as fresh, rich and unctuous as you would expect. Then some lemongrass which grows in tufts, like spiked fragrant doll hair. The part we use is at the bottom, but the grass itself is beautifully aromatic too. Some okra was cut and I was offered some raw, I couldn’t believe how good it was. Also a green crumpled pod that is called pea here, but is unlike and pea I have ever known.

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Chung, he rarely stopped smiling

Banana trees

Banana trees

Once the herbs were gathered we hopped on a boat to head to the cooking school. The cooking school is open air with a thatched roof to protect from the intense sun, on the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. To one side is the canal and the other a farm, it is a beautiful setting. The market itself is only open at weekends, but still boats chug along occasionally mostly selling food. The postman passed in his boat at one point.

Khlong Lat Mayom - a floating market at weekend and a cooking school, three times a month

Khlong Lat Mayom – a floating market at weekend and a cooking school, three times a month

The cooking school is divided into three cooking stations, and a different cook teaches one of three dishes. We started with a green seafood curry. Siri taught us, a cook for 30 years, this was his personal green curry recipe. In the UK people mistakenly think that green curry is mild but in Thailand it is served hot. We had medium heat, which for us is pretty firey and perfect for my palate.

Siri, who cooked green curry with us

Siri, who cooked green curry with us

Ingredients for green curry

Ingredients for green curry

Finishing the green curry with fresh coconut cream (which we made in the class)

Finishing the green curry with fresh coconut cream (which we made in the class)

Once the green curry was made we progressed to the next station to make Tom Yum with prawns, taught by Pichit, Siri’s grandson. We made two versions, I was keen to try the milky one with an extra chilli kick too. The results were great and the recipe very accessible.

Tom Yum

Tom Yum

The last recipe was Bua Loy, bean sized sticky rice flour dumplings in coconut cream with taro, sweetcorn and other bits and bobs. I had already tried these and loved them. Nee makes and sells these at the floating market at weekends.

Bua Loy, before cooking

Bua Loy, before cooking

All that was left to do was eat, the food we made was served with rice and some other dishes including a cripsy crab omelette, rice, and some beans and sugar snaps served with prawns with a mild kick.

Crab Omelette

Crab Omelette

Prawns with beans

Prawns with beans

When we were finished we hopped back on our boat and headed back in to central Bangkok, stopping off at the Artist’s House on the way. I loved this experience and will work on some of the recipes soon, making them a bit more accessible to those living in the UK.

A canal scene from the journey back to Bangkok

A canal scene from the journey back to Bangkok

Canal side house in Bangkok

Canal side house in Bangkok

If you want to do this, and I recommend you do, you will need a guide / translator as the class is in Thai. I highly recommend Ann, who guided us through it and who could organise a whole day for you, as she did for us.

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Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

The inspiration for these patties comes from fond memory of a lovely trip to Sydney some years ago, pre blogging, so I have never written about it here. Particularly, of an evening in a Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown. Now, brace yourselves. At the time, I didn’t eat meat. It is ok really – calm down – it really is ok.

I ordered a prawn on sugar cane dish. I asked what was in it, was there any meat? No just prawns, don’t worry. Any meat at all, any pork? (I expected there would be). No, no! Just garlic! The waitress looked at me, suddenly worried and said: do you have a problem with garlic?

No, no I don’t. Bring it on.

I took a bite. SAUSAGE. Pork sausage with a lick of the sea. It was lovely and I couldn’t resist it. I conferred with the waitress who said, why yes, there is pork in there! Of course there is.

I ate every bit, it was delicious. And that taste memory, and the recall of a lovely dinner with an old friend, is what inspires this recipe today.

These patties are super speedy, packed with flavour and versatile. I have been eating them all week in different guises. As sandwich fillings, as meatballs in a beautiful aromatic home made chicken broth made from raw chicken carcasses and lots of veg, served with noodles, bean sprouts, pak choi and fresh herbs. That should keep any illness at bay.

The simplest and quickest way was a fresh light lunch of these patties in lettuce leaf wraps with a light carrot, coriander and red onion salad. I made a big batch of the paste and stored it in the fridge, using it as I fancied over the course of 3 days.

I will post the recipe for the soup soon too. For now, enjoy these wraps.

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Note on the recipe: a food processor is best for this, if you have one. I have been asked if it is possible to substitute chicken for pork. I will work out the recipe for this too and post it. You can half the recipe too, obviously, if you are making for one or two.

Recipe: Prawn & Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Makes approx 10 patties

Ingredients

Patties:
600g minced pork – avoid lean, fat gives moisture and flavour, I used 8% fat
400g raw shelled and deveined prawns
2 red chillies (to taste – I like heat)
1 stick of lemongrass, outer layer peeled and bottom removed
1 inch of ginger, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 spring onions, trimmed with green tops
handful of coriander leaves
juice of a fresh lime
sea salt

a couple of heads of gem lettuce

Carrot salad:
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
a handful of fresh coriander
juice of a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced and crisped for about 30 seconds on each side

light oil for frying

Method

Soak the red onion for the salad in the lemon juice, while you make the patties, so that the sharpness of the raw onion mellows out.

Put all of the ingredients for the patties, except the pork and prawns, in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the pork and prawns. Blitz until thoroughly mixed and a paste. Season with sea salt and fry a small bit to taste. Adjust and repeat if necessary.

Divide the patties into 10 pieces and fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until brown and cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will become dry.

Add the carrot and the coriander to the onion and lemon juice and mix. Serve each patty in a lettuce leaf with the salad on the side and the crisped garlic on top.

Enjoy!