If you are wondering why I haven't posted anything new on my blog this past month, it's because I was in Thailand busily working at the Prem Center Cooking Academy/farm (http://www.premcenter.org). We hired a new director, Kyle Cornforth, who had previously been working at the Edible School Yard in Berkeley with Alice Waters, and I went To Thailand primarily to help her and her family settle in their new home.
Since this was their first time in Thailand, I had warned Kyle and her family to be ready for the monsoon season with heavy rains and possible flooding. As it turned out, most of the days were hot and humid with the normal intermittent rain showers. It was not until the end of August, just as I was preparing to leave the Chiang Mai region, that really heavy rain fell. We were at the Sunday market in Chiang Mai when all of a sudden the sky turned black and then cracked open with ear-splitting thunder and brilliant lightning, drenching us with buckets of water.
While in Thailand, I taught cooking classes, worked with the gardeners of the cooking academy, organized several new programs for adults and family (come and visit us!), while at the same time, helping my friend Tri, the founder of the Prem Center, set up an authentic provincial northern Thai-style restaurant on campus named after a gorgeous Thai bird called Krapoon. Unfortunately, the Thai artist who was asked to make the sign didn’t know English and instead misspelled it as Karpoon! During this rather frenzied time, I managed to get together with my gardener friends to cook and eat.
The monsoon is the season for bamboo shoots, tiny field crabs and countless varieties of wild greens and blossoms. One in particular became my favorite, a white and deep burgundy color blossom, called dok khae haeng khang in Thai, that is shaped like an African blooming tulip. I found a bunch of them for sale in Mae Rim market one day. This was a special treat, according to my friend Lak, because the blooms are collected and cooked by villagers during the rainy and cool seasons in order to nurture their circulatory system. He boiled them and then removed the stamens to lessen the bitter taste. After mincing, he sautéed them in oil with some chili paste. We ate this bitter-spicy-salty and aromatic chili paste with some buttery, sweet and tender young bamboo shoots. It was delicious.
As I arrived back home, La Jolla’s weather uncharacteristically turned out to be much like the humid and hot climate in Thailand I had just came from, except there was no chance of torrential rain to cool me off. I could have used some chili paste made with the bitter dok khae haeng khang. Without those blossoms, I decided to use bitter Belgian endive as a substitute in the making of Lak’s chili paste recipe. Unusual weather called for creative remedies. The reasons behind this belief are in my newest book, The Elements of Life. My hard copy came in the mail while I was away and I must admit I shed a couple of tears when I opened the package and saw the book. It is a beauty.
The book will be on sale in a couple of week. I hope you will buy several, one for yourself and others to give away to those you love. It is a practical and interesting book filled with recipes and home spa treatments. If you follow the philosophy suggested in the book, it will keep you suk sabai or, healthy and content.
Spicy-Bitter Belgian Endive Chili Salsa
Makes about 1 cup
Makes about ¼ cup
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
10 dried chili Japones, soaked briefly in hot water, dried thoroughly and minced
1 tablespoon minced galangal
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon shrimp paste*
1 tablespoon fermented fish*
Pound the salt and garlic together in a mortar with a pestle to puree. Add the remaining ingredients one at the time and only after each has been incorporated into the paste. Set aside
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, slightly mashed
5 large Belgian endive, boiled, dried thoroughly, and finely minced to make 1 cup
3 tablespoons water
1 to 2 cherry tomatoes, chopped
Heat the skillet over medium high heat for one minute before adding the oil. Add the garlic and continue to stir to prevent from burning. When the cloves are golden, add the paste and stir for 20 to 30 seconds. Add the endive and continue to stir. As the paste thickens, add a tablespoon of water at a time. Continue to stir until everything is blended together and the liquid is completely gone. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Garnish with the tomatoes and serve with fresh cucumber slices, grilled okra, and tender cooked bamboo shoots.
* Shrimp paste is sold in small round 4 oz. plastic jars in Asian supermarkets. Fermented fish is sold in small slender glass bottles in Asian supermarkets.
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
March 8, 1998
March 17, 2003
March 6, 2004