What's Cooking in...Bangkok

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 56 of the July 2011 issue.
Chef Hoon, one of Chef Yingsak ’s teaching chefs, giving instructions. Photo: Sandra Scott

by Sandra Scott

In Thailand, at the mere mention of the name Chef Yingsak, people break into a smile. The flamboyant chef, owner of the Thai & International Food Academy (1004 Rama III Road, Bangpongpang, Yannawa, Bangkok, 10120, Thailand; phone +66 [0] 2682-7644, e-mail center@yingsakfood.com), is the best-known chef in Thailand and hosts his own TV cooking show.

Friends in Thailand had recommended Chef Yingsak’s school, so when my husband, John, and I were in Thailand in January 2009 we contacted the school and arranged to attend a morning class. We paid $30 each.

The class of 20 started in a room with one of the instructors, Chef Hoon, explaining how to prepare the morning menu. Her instructions were supplemented with a video presentation, then we went to the kitchen to prepare the meal.

Most of our classmates were part of a week-long program, but individuals can join any of the classes. The students were from several countries and were extremely helpful, especially those who had an excellent command of English.

On the morning menu were Green Curry and Clear Spicy Soup. Chef Yingsak explained that Green Curry is popular all over Thailand but especially so in Bangkok. It is recommend when someone has a fever.

He added that the Clear Spicy Soup is favored during the cold season and is especially good for new mothers.

Green Curry with Sausage (Kaeng Keow Wan Sai Kok)

½ tsp ground pepper

12 chicken cocktail sausages, scored

2-5 ounces snow peas or broccoli florets

2-5 small pumpkins or squash, peeled and cut into strips

5 red and/or green chilies, sliced

1 tsp sweet basil leaves, crushed

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp green curry paste

16-ounce can of coconut milk

1 cup chicken stock

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)

2 sprigs coriander (cilantro), chopped

½ tsp curry powder

Preheat frying pan with vegetable oil, then fry green curry paste until fragrant. Add coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in stock, fish sauce and palm sugar. Bring to a boil and add coriander, curry powder and pepper. Mix in sausage and veggies, and simmer until bubbling. (The veggies will be al dente; cook longer, if desired.) Garnish with chilies and sweet basil. Serve hot with rice or rice noodles.

Clear Spicy Soup with Vegetables (Kaeng-Liang-Pak-Ruam)

6 ounces shelled prawns or shrimp

2-4 morning glory leaves (or arugula)

2 basil leaves

Spice mix

Combine and grind/crush together the following:

1 tbsp ground pepper

3 sliced shallot bulbs

1 tsp shrimp paste

1 ounce dried prawns or shrimp

2 cups chicken stock

spice mix (recipe follows)

1 tsp crushed fresh ginger

salt to taste

1 tbsp chicken bouillon powder

1 tsp palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)

½ lb skinned and peeled pumpkin (or squash); one-inch cubes are common

½ cup cubed zucchini

½ cup corn

½ cup mushrooms (straw mushroom, if available)

In a medium-size pot, add stock and ground-spices mixture. Bring to a boil. Add ginger, salt, chicken seasoning and palm sugar. Stir. Add pumpkin, zucchini and corn. Bring to a boil. When vegetables are tender, add mushrooms and prawns. Add arugula and basil. Serve hot.