Thai food is often steamed, quickly stir-fried, or
grilled, and such cooking methods, plus the use of fresh ingredients,
make it unusually healthy. For this reason, it is being widely adapted
for use in spas, especially the many new ones that have opened in
Thailand over the past few years. At the famous Oriental Hotel Spa,
for example, a wide range of dishes have been developed that are both
delicious, as well as, low in calories and cholesterol. The menu includes
not only salads, red chicken curry, and vegetable fried rice, but
also invigorating health drinks concocted with fresh local fruits
like papaya, pomelo, mango, guava, and tangerine, as well as, assorted
herbal teas made from lemon grass, galangal and basil. These health
drinks are also offered at other well-known spas like Chiva Som in
Hua Hin and The Banyan Tree in Phuket.
While the cooking process tends to be relatively brief,
with a minimum of complications, preparation of some dishes may require
considerable time and effort. Generally this involves peeling and
chopping the various ingredients, as well as, blending them with a
mortar and pestle. In more elaborate dishes, particularly those known
as royal or palace-style, fruits and raw vegetables are skillfully
carved into beautiful shapes that amount to an art in itself, adding
to the aesthetic appeal of the presentation.
A simple kind of tidbit is fun to make. You need shallots,
ginger, lemon or lime, lemon grass, roasted peanuts and red phrik
khi nu chillies. Peeled shallots and ginger should be cut into small
fingertip sizes. Diced lime and slices of lemon grass should be cut
to the same size. Roasted peanut should be left in halves.
Chillies should be thinly sliced. Combinations of such ingredients
should be wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves and laced with a sweet-salty
sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, dried shrimps and lime juice.
Mixing crushed fresh chillies with fish sauce and a dash of
lime juice makes a general accompanying sauce for any Thai dish.
Adding some crushed garlic and a tiny amount of roasted or raw shrimp
paste transforms it into an all-purpose dip (nam phrik). Some pulverised
dried shrimp and julienned egg-plant with sugar makes this dip more
complete. Serve it with steamed rice, an omelette and some vegetables.
Salad dressings have similar base ingredients. Add fish sauce,
lime juice and sugar to enhance saltiness, sourness and sweetness. Crushed
chillies, garlic and shallots add spiciness and herbal fragrance.
Lemon grass and galanga can be added for additional flavour.
Employ this mix with any boiled, grilled or fried meat. Lettuce leaves,
sliced cucumber, cut spring onions and coriander leaves help top off
a salad dressing.
Soups generally need good stock. Add to boiling
water crushed peppercorns, salt, garlic, shallots, coriander roots,
and the meats or cuts of one's choice. After prolonged boiling
and simmering , you have the basic stock of common Thai soups. Additional
galanga, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, crushed fresh chillies,
fish sauce and lime juice create the basic stock for a Tom Yam.
To make a quick curry, fry curry or chilli paste
in heated oil or thick coconut milk. Stir and fry until the
paste is well cooked and add meats of one's choice. Season with fish
sauce or sugar to taste. Add water or thin coconut milk to make curry
go a longer way. Add sliced eggplant with a garnish of basil and kaffir
lime leaves. Make your own curry paste by blending fresh (preferably
dried) chillies, garlic, shallots, galanga, lemon grass, coriander
roots, ground pepper, kaffir lime peels and shrimp paste.
Single Dish Meals
Heat the cooking oil, fry in a mixture of crushed chillies,
minced garlic, ground pepper and chopped chicken meat. When nearly
cooked, add vegetables such as cut beans or eggplants. Season
with fish sauce and garnish with kaffir lime leaves, basil or balsom
leaves. Cooked rice or fresh noodles added to the frying would
make this a substantial meal.