Heat, duck, lemongrass ground with rice, fish sauce, stink weed, spice, ginger, spring onion = Larb Phet (minced duck, stir fried). Thai dishes, or at least the ones we made, are quick once you finish making all the little choppings–with their really blunt knives! You just drop everything into one heated pan with some vegetable oil and in the end it looks like this…The Larb Phet was pretty good. I finally worked up the courage to put enough spice into the frying pan so it had the right amount of heat. Earlier clear warnings of “Thai: THIS much spice. American: this much spice,” and corresponding spoon example sizes, had kept me weary of THIS spoon, which, ultimately, I really liked. The Larb meat, however, is minced with some tough fat or cartilage and and I’m not sure I love the lemongrass and spice combination. As it turns out, this is a Isan dish!!!! Gasp. All Larb (mince stir-fry) is Isan. I should have known better.
Ok, enough mince, moving on to Pad Thai and Tom Yum Gai (chicken soup).
This soup is ridiculously easy to make. Just boil water, drop in in a few strands of lemongrass, a few slivers of ginger and garlic, a tablespoon of fish sauce for salt, and wait for the chicken you put in to become opaque. The only other critical ingredient is a squeeze of lime and a chili pepper. The chili pepper is all about personal taste, the more times you cut the pepper the more area will release juices into the soup. I cut mine once and didn’t think it was quite spicy enough. The next choice is when to put the pepper into the mix. Again, I made the wimp decision and put mine in at the end when it has less time in the boiling water. Another addition one might make is to add some coconut milk to thicken the soup and substitute prawns for chicken (then it’s called Tom Yum Gum).
My biggest failure in the cooking class was an egg debacle with my Pad Thai. Basically, when making Pad Thai you have to add the egg right at the end, after the noodles have already absorbed some liquid, otherwise what should be a more crispy fried noodle becomes a sticky mush garnished with peanut. You may be thinking, where is the picture of the Pad Thai? Sadly, genius as my camera is at saving my amateur photography, it cannot re-delicious ‘globed noodle egg bundle.’ Too bad. The class was great anyway and so was, surprisingly, my ‘egg bundle’ with garnish. Even better, the whole thing was taught in the neighborhood our proceeds were going to help. Our teacher’s father lived right across the walk path from our cooking school/one room with four stovetops. She lives in the neighborhood too, with her young son who was gone at school while we cooked, and her Aunt who we met earlier that morning, selling Banana leaves in the Klong Toey market. It was a fulfilling day on all fronts.