Thai foods gaining favor among Oriental cuisines

September 23, 1992|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing Writer

One of the problems American cooks have in trying to duplicate Far Eastern dishes is finding all the ingredients. After all, the Far East is really far.

For many reasons, the Chinese seem to have bridged the gastronomic gap better than the Japanese, and the Japanese have gained more ground here than, say, the Burmese or the Thai. Yet it is the latter ethnic group that is gaining culinary attention with the recent publication of several books on Thai cooking. The latest editions are "Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking," by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books, paperback $9.95), and "Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook; Authentic Recipes From the Regions of Thailand" (Collins, $45).

Ms. McDermott, who spent three years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer and now teaches Thai cooking. Her recipes are carefully crafted and, in the main, appear relatively easy to prepare.

More ambitious is "Thailand." Its pages overflow with breathtaking color photos of the country -- and more than 250 recipes by Thai chef Panurat Poladitmontri and cookbook author Judy Lew.

This mild-flavored, yet delicious soup from "Real Thai" was traditionally served as a beverage. Although that custom is changing, it still is served along with other dishes rather than as a separate course.

Clear soup with spinach and bean curd

Makes 6 servings.

4 cups basic chicken stock

2 cups bite-sized chunks fresh bean curd

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

3 small green onions, thinly sliced crosswise

A handful of small spinach leaves, stemmed and left whole, or large leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the bean curd, fish sauce and pepper and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and pepper. Gently stir in the green onions and spinach, remove from heat and serve.

The following two recipes, from "Thailand, The Beautiful Cookbook," are said to be from Bangkok and the Central Plains. I preferred the chicken marinate a little longer than 15 minutes.

Barbecued chicken

Makes 4 servings. 1 whole chicken, cut in half

MARINADE:

1 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon minced cilantro/coriander leaves (bai pak chee) and root (raak pak chee)

2 tablespoons cognac or whiskey or rice wine

2 tablespoons coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

sliced raw vegetables for garnish (optional)

Rub the entire chicken with the combined marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45

minutes and then broil/grill for 10 minutes, or until done. Cut into serving-sized pieces and garnish before serving. Serve with any chili sauce dip.

Crisp sweet bananas

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound green bananas

4 cups oil, for deep-frying

SYRUP:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 drop jasmine flavoring

pinch of salt

Slice the bananas into long pieces, about 4 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Deep-fry the bananas for 5 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove and set aside.

Combine all ingredients for the syrup, heat to boiling and cook until golden, like toffee. Continue to boil for 3 minutes. Dip the fried bananas into the syrup and remove immediately.

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