Elements Of Life: Important Information Update!

My newest book,The Elements of Life comes with a wheel that helps you determine your home element(s). Unfortunately, there are mistakes printed on the back of the wheel. Until the publisher can correct them, these are the right dates:
March 8, 1998
March 17, 2003
March 6, 2004

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaeng Khae

Nid, one of the teachers at Prem Organic Cooking Academy I co-founded in Mae Rim, Thailand, often bragged about her Mom’s cooking. Born and raised in Lampoon, a small provincial city near the better-known tourist city, Chiang Mai, Nid’s mother continues to cook as if time has stood still for her. She tends her own vegetable garden, raises her own fowl and buys only locally grown produce and rice.

It was May of last year when I visited the school. It seemed that the rainy season, which for decades has not started until late June, has crept up earlier during the past several years. By May, rain fell every night, painting nature with crisp green color. But for us the older folks, early rain caught us unprepared. We do not like unpredictable weather. This is because we were taught to believe that abrupt changes in nature can be potentially harmful to our health. Attempting to prevent ourselves from catching colds, getting aches and pains, or developing fever, we turn to nature for a cure. We cook with what nature has brought forth: profusions of greens, blooms and shoots.

Since one of my goals for the cooking school was to develop simple recipes that would not only teach cooking skills to children, but also Thai traditions related to foods, Nid suggested we invite her Mom to come and demonstrate her culinary skill for making gaeng khae.

Gaeng khae is a soup originating in the north and northeast of Thailand. It is a medicinal brew believed to prevent and reduce colds and fever. Unlike foods from central and southern Thailand which are rich in coconut cream and sugar, gaeng khae exemplifies the lean and clean approach of northern Thai cooking. The broth is seasoned with a piquant paste packed with pungent spices to nurture the respiratory and circulatory systems. The soup is filled with all kinds of seasonal vegetables and greens. Nid’s Mom made hers with several baskets full of vegetables picked along the fences around her neighborhood. The pot looked like a lush Garden of Eden. A spoonful of it brought forth a mixture of sun and rain graced with a brilliant rainbow.

To create your own gaeng khae, take the time and develop patience to make your own seasoning paste by using a mortar and pestle. Grace the pot with seasonal produce as in my recipe below. Mine is made during the winter months in San Diego where bitter greens, bland tasting vegetables and squashes are available throughout our farmer’s markets. In case of emergency and if you happen to live or visit San Diego, come to my restaurant, Saffron. Between the months of January to March, you can count on us no matter what the weather is like. Our gaeng khae will keep you fit and healthy.

Gaeng Khae
Makes 4 servings
Chile Paste:
½ teaspoon salt
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
15 or more dried de arbol chiles, soaked in hot water to soften, dried and minced
2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, tender inner stalks, minced
4 to 5 thin slices galangal (substitute with ginger)
4 to 5 kaffir lime leaves, minced (substitute with zest of 1 lime)
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon red miso

Put the salt and garlic in a mortar and pound with a pestle into a paste. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, only after the previous one has been incorporated into the paste. If making ahead, store in a jar with tight lid and refrigerate. It will keep for several weeks.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup bite-size chunks chicken
Chile paste
4 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups mixed seasonal vegetables: thinly sliced Thai and/or Japanese eggplants, bamboo shoots, chayote, winter or summer squashes, onion, mushrooms, spinach, beet greens, radish or turnip greens, dandelions, Swiss chard and/or water cress.
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons roasted rice powder
1 cup coarsely chopped arugula
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh Thai basil or peppermint leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh sawtooth herb or Italian parsley

Heat a saucepan over high heat for one minute. Add the oil and wait for 30 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir to cook until the outside turn white. Add the chile paste and stir until it is aromatic. Add the chicken broth and salt. When the liquid boils, add the vegetables and season with fish sauce. When the liquid boils, lower the heat to medium. Stir to mix. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the rice powder. Stir to mix and let the broth comes to a boil once more. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with arugula, basil, and sawtooth herb. Enjoy with hot cooked red organic rice.


isis0214 said...

I had this soup last week. Su Mei Yu stopped and chatted with me about it! I love the soup and Su Mei Yu's approach to fresh and healthy food!

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