Volunteering in Kalasin

Last week a few of us teachers were asked to visit some classes being taught on a volunteer basis by our Business English major students out in Kalasin. We went out without much info and assumed these were classes being taught at a school. As it turned out, one of our student’s family had created an ad hoc classroom outside their house and was hosting free lessons for two weeks since schools are mostly on holiday during October. Children from their village as well as neighboring villages attended, with younger kids coming in the morning and older ones in the afternoon, perhaps 30 kids per session.
The classes were being taught by a few of our students who stayed at the house for the duration of the project.
We went and basically had a lot of fun thinking up activities on the spot… I sweat a lot as it was a really hot day, so I can honestly say that I contributed a lot of salt to my polo shirt.
Our student’s house/farm has a shrimp pond out back, so our reward for lunch was huge platters of steamed prawns, raw prawns with garlic, and epic tom yum goong with shrimp the size of mini-lobsters in it.
We also helped out with the afternoon class and took a quick trip to a popular “beach” up the road just a couple kilos, at the Lampao Dam reservoir.
All in all it was a great day, and the dedication of our students really impressed us. When asked why they were doing it, they said they didn’t want to just waste their holidays away. Well done!

Quick ‘n Dirty Beef Panang

Beef Panang is considered a dry curry (for Thailand at least) because it contains less roux (liquid base), and specifically, less coconut milk than other Thai curries. It is also one of the best uses for lean/tough beef, which is great since that’s pretty much all we have around here. Panang is an easy dish to make and my way is even easier than most. I’ve tried it the normally advocated way, by heating curry paste in coconut milk first, but I’ve found this is a waste of time when using ready-made curry paste. So without further ado:

  • Beef – Any cut. Any quantity approximating that in the photos below (about 1.5 pounds).
  • Thai red curry paste – Suitable quantity depends on brand; see photos below for reference
  • Coconut milk – About one cup
  • Fresh kaffir lime leaves – Slice these into strips. I used 2-3 big leaves in the photos below.
  • Nampla (filtered fish sauce) – Suitable quantity depends on brand; I only used a couple dashes since I was using a fairly pungent brand. Remember, the only 2 reasons to use nampla are to make things SALTIER and FUNKIER – it doesn’t make a dish magically Thai, but it sure can funktify (esp. if you throw it in a hot frying pan).
  • OPTIONAL: Raw cane sugar – A tablespoon or so. I forego the use of sugar because I can’t stand sweet curries, and this dish already contains coconut milk.

Cut the beef into strips. Traditionally, it should be cut into thinner strips than this, but I like bite-sized chunks. Cut the kaffir lime leaves up as well. The baggie in the background contains the red curry paste (we only used about half).
Heat a bit of vegetable oil in the pan and add the red curry paste. Fry it for a couple minutes on medium high heat to activate it, stirring rapidly to prevent sticking and burning. Then add the meat and stir often.
Did I forget to mention that Nam was cooking while I took photos? Anyway, the baby started waking up at this point so the coconut milk was added earlier than usual – we usually wait until the meat is slightly browned but it turned out not to make a difference. Also, the Quick ‘n Dirty series of recipes is designed for those that need to display adaptability on occasion, so they are meant to be stretched and improvised upon.
After the coconut milk is added, add a couple splashes of nampra (be careful, it’s really salty! You can always add more later, as well as sugar if you want) and also the lime leaves. Then turn the heat down to low-medium and let it simmer until either the meat becomes unbelievable soft and succulent, or tempted by the heavenly smell, you start scooping ladlefuls of panang onto hot mounds of rice and let the little piggy in you take over.
Alternatively, you can serve with boiled egg halves and veggies of some kind.
Note that you can eat the lime leaves, but they are a bit tough. I usually put them to the side.
This is C. Buddha signing off with today’s Quick ‘n Dirty recipe – funky and delicious, yet simple and semi-authentic-ish Beef Panang.

Culinary subversion (Pancake Puff vs. Moffle)

A while back, G-man tipped me off in the comments that he’d found something pretty funny: Pancake Puffs, which seem an awful like something we’re used to seeing in Japan all the time (incidentally, I love how Google asks if you meant “teriyaki” when you search for “takoyaki”). Check it out:
I guess this can only be described as the result of a firesale at a takoyaki pan factory.
///////////////////////// – – THA FLIP SIDE – – /////////////////////////
Word of the day: Moffle

What is a moffle
Waffle is Mochi + Waffle, much in the way that “lion” + “tiger” = “liger” (or “tigon”)
I don’t have a problem with the moffle in theory, however, there are certain aspects of its execution that lack a certain, erm, appetizability. Case in point:
Front and center is a shiokara moffle… Um.
Shiokara + mochi + waffle = interesting projectile vomit
Let me explain. From the wikipedia entry on shiokara:

Shiokara (??) is a food in Japanese cuisine made from various marine animals that consists of small pieces of the animal’s meat in a brown viscous paste of the animal’s heavily salted, fermented viscera. The raw viscera are mixed with about 10% salt, 30% malted rice, packed in a closed container, and fermented for up to a month.

Bon appetit! One of the worst kitchen chores I can possibly think of is having to clean burnt shiokara off of a waffle iron, but to each his own I guess.

Underneat this

Okay so this is how I imagine this conversation went:
Walmart Employee: “Hello ‘dis be Walmarts, how can I help you?”
Customer: ” I would like to order a cake for a going away party this week.”
Walmart Employee: “What you want on the cake?”
Customer: “Best Wishes Suzanne” and underneath that “We will miss you”.
(original link)
Bonus question: Which is better, Walmart cake or third-world cake?

Taco truck ban?

(I need to take a quick break from baby blogging)
As if bacon-wrapped hot dogs being outlawed wasn’t enough, it seems taco trucks are now in jeopardy on the streets of LA:

Led by District 1 County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the L.A. Board of Supervisors has passed new restrictions that will effectively eliminate taco trucks from our streets. Under Supervisor Molina’s new rules, taco trucks will have to change location every hour, or face a misdemeanor charge carrying a $1000 fine and/or jail.

LINK: saveourtacotrucks.org