Sunday, May 4, 2014

Making Goong Makham at the InterContinental in Thailand

Hua Hin is about 125 miles south of Bangkok in an area favored by the Thai Royal family.  It is where King Rama VII built a beautiful summer palace on the beach which is now a tourist site. Nearby is where the current king made his residence until his poor health required him to move to a Bangkok hospital.  Hua Hin is a popular beach destination for Asians and Europeans.

One of the things we love about InterContinental Hotels is the many ways they share the local culture with their guests.  One morning we got up early and went down to the beach so we could be there at sunrise to offer the Buddhist monks alms of food and drink.  The hotel had prepared packages of food for us to offer the monks who were on their morning walk. We presented the offering and in return we received a blessing. Offering food is one of the oldest Buddhist rituals and giving food is not seen as charity but as “making merit” that leads to spiritual growth. The hotel’s offerings were all prepackaged food items.  It is common to see the monks walking in the early morning. The Thai people come out from their homes with a pot of rice and ladle it into the monk’s alms bowl. Other people offer a curry-like mixture in small plastic bags that they add to the bowl.

The IC hotels also offer Thai cooking classes.  In the morning we
got into a tuk-tuk, a motorized open-air vehicle popular in Thailand, with Chef Worawut and visited the Chatchai Market. Asian markets selling fresh produce are called “wet markets” because the floor is wet from the melting ice that keeps the fish fresh and from misting the fresh vegetables.  At the market we bought tiger prawn and other ingredients needed for our recipes. The variety of fruits, vegetables, fish and other items in Asian markets is amazing. Chef Worawut explained that
most Thai homes have very small refrigerators so people shop daily for fresh ingredients. One of the items in our recipe was tamarind which is pod-like fruit but Chef Worawut explained that we will use bottled tamarind juice. One of the bonuses with a cooking class is that we get to eat what we make.  
The class included preparing three items one of which was Goong Makham (Prawns with Tamarind Sauce).

Goong Makham

1 ½ (one half) tsp coriander 
3 cloves of garlic 
¼ (one-fourth) tsp white pepper
1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
2-4 tiger prawns or 4 oz shrimp, deveined
1 tbs tamarind juice 
2 ½ (one half) tbs palm sugar or brown sugar 
1 tbs Fish sauce
½ (one half) tsp Dark Soya sauce 
½ (one half) stem lemongrass, crushed
2 leaves kaffir lime, finely sliced
¼ (one fourth) cilantro leaves or other garnish

In a mortar pound coriander, garlic and white pepper to make a paste.  Heat oil over low heat in a stir fry pan. Add paste and stir fry for about two minutes until the aroma develops.  Add prawns, tamarind juice, palm sugar, fish sauce, dark soy sauce and lemongrass.  Stir fry for five minutes until sauce thickens. Add kaffir lime leaves. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with cilantro leaves.  

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