The crocuses are blooming! At home in Wisconsin this is the first sign of spring, but here it happens in the middle of winter. We’ve had some really nice weather the past few days, and I can almost trick myself into thinking it is spring…..at least until the next big storm comes through…..
A friend came to stay with us last weekend, and we made one of my favorite meals – Tom Ka Gai soup and Pad Thai. I make this meal quite often since we don’t have any decent Thai restaurants in the area, and sometimes I just have to have Thai food. Certainly my methods of preparation aren’t traditional – I just kind of made it up as I went, and considered myself successful when it tasted right.
This is my friend Melanie doing a beautiful job of cutting the Galangal Root (aka Thai Ginger) into chunks. It’s pretty fibrous stuff, and cutting it takes some real arm strength!
Here’s the finished soup. We started by sauteing the Galangal Root with Onions, Carrots, and Potatoes in a little Olive Oil until they were almost cooked, and then I added Chicken Stock. I also put in some Lemon Grass and a few Kaffir Lime Leaves (I have a Kaffir Lime Tree on my front porch, and a Lemon Grass plant in the living room, which is lucky since both are a must for this soup, and they’re impossible to find in any markets in this town.) As all that was simmering, Mel chopped up mushrooms, green onions, and picked the leaves off of a whole lot of cilantro as I fried the tofu. I usually use chicken for this soup, but since Melanie is a vegetarian, we made it with Tofu. It’s really just as good. I cut the Tofu into triangles and fried it in a whole lot of Olive Oil and a splash of Fish Sauce (kind of like Thai Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce is salty and made from fermented fish – it’s totally essential for Thai cooking.) When the veggies were tender, we added the Mushrooms, a can of Baby Corn, and half of the Tofu, the Green Onions, and the Cilantro. Then came two cans of Coconut Milk. This goes in at the end since it curdles if you cook it too much. The last step is to season the soup to perfection by adding Chili Garlic Sauce (very spicy!) tons of Lime Juice, and more Fish Sauce. Mmmmmm…. I was suffering from a cold, and this soup totally hit the spot. I just love the coconut/lime/spicy flavor!
Here’s the Pad Thai. This dish is really easy since I use Thai KitchenPad Thai Sauce. Someday, I’ll attempt my own sauce, but so far I haven’t had the time. Making the soup at the same time is enough! This Pad Thai is a mixture of Pad Thai noodles, Mung Bean Sprouts, Green Onions, Cilantro, Peanuts, Tofu (or chicken,) Eggs (we didn’t use any this time, but usually I do,) Pad Thai Sauce, Fish Sauce, Lime Juice, and Chili Garlic Sauce. It’s handy that both the soup and the Pad Thai have Green Onions, Cilantro, and Tofu – we just used the other half of what Mel had already chopped. The Pad Thai Sauce is pretty sweet – Tamarind Paste, Sugar, and Fish Sauce as the main ingredients. It’s great with lots of hot sauce added at the table!
We’re leaving this week for a two week Mexico adventure! I’m really excited, not least about the food. I love going to open air markets in Mexico and checking out all the exotic tropical fruits and veggies! Here’s a map of where we’re planning on going:
The plan is to fly into Cancun and then make a large loop through Chiapas, and then back. I have hotel reservations for the first two nights and a car rental reservation for the whole time, but that’s it. I want to keep most of it unplanned….a real adventure! I made similar trips with my family when I was five years old and again when I was fourteen, so I’m somewhat familiar with the area. We have a good road map and travel guide, so I feel comfortable trusting a lot to fate. We leave Thursday night – I can’t wait!