I first fell in love with Thai food when I was in New York City at the end of college. There was a little place in Soho where my best friend and I met for papaya salad and pad thai. We sat by the window and people watched and I remember being totally fascinated by the bright flavors of this new kitchen: lemongrass, lime leaves, Thai basil, salty peanuts. There was nothing like it. When I moved to Austin shortly afterwards, I was looking for these flavors in my new town – and I was so lucky to find them the day I stepped into Thai Fresh. It’s been one of my favorite spots in town ever since, and they have one of the most dedicated supporters of any local restaurant (case in point: their chef / owner’s new cookbook, Jam Sanitchat, is 100% audience funded! But more on that soon.)
So you can imagine how exciting it is to cook live with Jam on Instagram Live this Wednesday, March 3rd at 6 p.m. CST! We’re making the coconut soup (Tom Kha Kai) from the new cookbook.
Get the list of ingredients and cook right with us (the full recipe can be found at the end of this post). Once in Austin, you can purchase a kit with all the ingredients for Thai Fresh Coconut Soup. Tune in by going to my Instagram and clicking the profile picture we will be cooking live on.
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So, about this cookbook … it really is something special. The book is a compilation of Jam’s 40 years of cooking and 16 years of teaching the art of Thai cuisine, from her beloved farmer’s market stall to starting a legendary Austin restaurant. So excited to get my hands on an advance copy, I asked Jam if I could share this excerpt from the book on balance – which perfectly sheds light on one of the hallmarks of Thai cuisine.
Read on for their words (warning – can lead to extreme hunger) and scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe for their famous coconut soup. I can’t wait to see you guys tomorrow!
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From Thai Fresh: Beloved Recipes From An Icon In South Austin:
Thai cuisine isn’t particularly difficult to learn, but there is a rationale that you need to understand before you begin: Something that is always there – must be there – for food to be considered authentically Thai is a balance between sweet and sour , salty and spicy and bitter flavors. This “combination of five flavors” is ancient for our culture and our understanding of food. This is the only way to approach cooking. This doesn’t mean that every single dish has to have all five flavors (although sometimes it does). This means that the entire meal itself is a balance of all five flavors. Each flavor comes from different sources – for example, spicy can come from chili peppers, garlic, cloves or spices. sour from lime and lemon juices, fruits, vinegar and tamarind; sweet made from sugar and fruits; salty from fish sauce, soy sauce or salt; and bitter from herbs, spices and even vegetables. A balanced representation of the five flavors of a meal satisfies all the senses and makes you want more.
I remember my grandmother and mother trying their food while it was cooking. Whenever the taste was “off”, they knew exactly what to add to find the balance. Sweet fixes pissed off and vice versa, they told me. Salt always eases the heat and sugar does the same. If you can break a dish down into its main flavor components, you can better understand how to balance it with the other dishes on the table. As I prepare food in my cooking classes, I invite students to try the food after each ingredient has been added – after the fish sauce or soy sauce, after the sugar, after the lime juice. This will help them understand what happens when the flavors develop.
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Scroll on for the famous Thai Fresh Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Kai) recipe …