Sunday, January 20, 2008

Recipe of the week from The Book of Thai Cooking: Fried bread

I would love to know what all these recipes are called in Thai, but all that is given are strictly descriptive names for them. The recipe I chose as recipe of the week is a variation of an international recipe, that for fried bread:

175 g lean pork mince
55 g cooked shrimps, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs chopped chilantro
1 1/2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of day-old bread
1 tbs coconut milk
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Whole chilantro leaves, narrow rings of fresh red chilli pepper, and cucumber slices, to garnish

Mix together the pork mince and shrimp in a bowl, using a fork. Then add garlic, chilantro, spring onions, 1/4 of the egg mixture, fish sauce and pepper and mix well. cut the crusts off the bread and divide the meat mixture between the slices, spreading it to cover the whole top of each slice. Mix the remaining egg and coconut milk and brush over the meat mixture. Cut each bread slice in four parts.

Heat the oil to 190°C in a wok. Put 3-4 bread pieces into it ant once, mince side down, and fry for 3-4 minutes or until crunchy, turning once about halfway through the process. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, and then keep them warm in the oven. Check the temperature of the oil between rounds of frying to make sure it isn’t too low. Serve the bread hot, garnished with chilantro, chilli pepper rings and cucumber slices.

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I made the recipe exactly as given, except the red chilli pepper got lost on the way from the shop (probably left behind at the check-out counter), and I shortened the frying time. The bread was crisp and golden brown after only 1 minute in the oil, and the filling was cooked through after 90 seconds. I found that about 2 minutes at about 175-180°C was enough to cook it through. At that time and temperature the bread turned out crisp and the meat mixture was cooked though and juicy.

Recipe review:
The dish tasted somewhat as if the pork mixture used in home-made English breakfast sausages had been smeared on bread and then fried. Only the sage was missing and instead there was a lovely flavour of shrimp and a hint of chilantro mingled with the pork flavour. It was quite good. I think this would make good finger food, cut into even smaller pieces, as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Another time I might leave out the bread and make meatballs out of the stuffing.

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Book review:
The book has just over 100 recipes. Since I have not experienced Thai food in Thailand I can’t really tell if they are a representative sample of the entirety of Thai cuisine, or if they mostly come for one region or if they are possibly westernised. What characterises the recipes above all else is their freshness and how quickly they can be put together and cooked. Thanks to the Thai expat community in Iceland the ingredients for these recipes are, if not exactly readily, then at least not impossibly, found here, some exclusively in Asian markets and others in regular supermarkets.

I feel it is a sad omission not to have included the Thai names of the dishes, but other than that, in the absence of expert advice, I think this is an interesting insight into Thai cuisine, and I look forward to comparing it with my other two Thai cookbooks and the chapters on Thai food in some of my mixed-cuisine cookbooks.

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