Easy, crowd-pleasing ThaiPublished on August 30, 2011

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  • Ottawa's Kit E. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Pad Thai with prawns. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

Ottawa's Kit E is legendary for her hospitality and generosity. A native of Thailand, she is a wife, mother, marathon runner and fabulous home cook, who regularly whips up Pad Thai and other traditional dishes for neighbours, family, friends and sometimes even strangers.

Kit is humble about her impressive cooking abilities, but willingly shared some tips on how the rest of us can serve tasty, healthy, homemade Thai food.

How important is food in the culture and lifestyle of Thailand? Food and its presentation are at the heart of everything, every day. Whether you are socializing with family, entertaining friends or conducting a business transaction, every ritual of life in Thailand involves food and the dishes look as beautiful as they are delicious.

Why do you think Thai food is becoming so popular? Thai food is perfect for feeding a crowd because it's inexpensive, easy to make, fresh and flavourful. Best of all, you can stock most of the ingredients in your pantry so you can prepare it on short notice, which is important to Thai people because our gatherings are often very spontaneous.

What are some of your favourite dishes to prepare? For guests, I enjoy making Tom-yum Koong which is a hot and sour prawn soup, as well as Kuay-teow Phad Thai Koong Sod, which is Pad Thai with prawns.

Can you share some shortcuts to make serving Thai food even easier? Instead of cooking from scratch, buy Pad Thai sauce and Tom-yum soup base in Chinatown, both of which have a long shelf life and taste really good. Look for chopped lemongrass, which can be frozen, and packets of Knorr tamarind soup base - you can sprinkle this into your dishes, to taste, instead of tamarind concentrate. Also, since the rice noodles need to be softened before making Pad Thai, I often soak a large quantity at the beginning of the week, then drain and keep in a bag in the fridge, pulling out what I need for each batch.

What are a few serving and decor tips for a more authentic Thai meal? Use your best tableware and have individual tiny flower arrangements at each place setting. It is traditional to serve at the table. Put the soup in a large bowl or tureen and the Pad Thai on a large platter; bring both to the table at the same time. Thai meals are not eaten with chopsticks; use a spoon and fork instead. Gewurztraminer is the ideal wine pairing and classical music playing softly in the background would be very typical. For dessert, a fresh fruit salad including mango is perfect. It is also very traditional to send any leftovers home with your guests.

Kuay-teow Phad Thai Koong Sod

(Pad Thai with Prawns)

Ingredients:

300 g thin rice noodles

12 medium prawns or jumbo shrimp, ? peeled and deveined

½ cup bean curd (tofu), diced

4 tbsp pickled white radish, finely chopped

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup white sugar *

¼ cup fish sauce *

¼ cup tamarind concentrate *

1 tsp dried red chili powder *

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup Chinese chives or green onion tops, ? cut in 1-inch pieces

¼ cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

1 cup raw bean sprouts, rinsed

*These ingredients can be replaced with purchased Pad Thai sauce

Preparation:

Soak the noodles in warm water until soft (at least 20 minutes), then drain well in a colander.

In a medium non-stick frying pan, fry the bean curd in 2 tbsp oil until golden brown, then add the pickled white radish.

Season with sugar, fish sauce, tamarind concentrate and dried red chili powder (or add ½ cup purchased Pad Thai sauce diluted with ¼ cup water).

Add remaining oil and stir-fry prawns or shrimp 2-3 minutes until cooked.

Add the softened noodles and gently stir-fry, adding 1-2 tbsp water to keep from sticking.

Taste seasoning and adjust to your liking. When noodles are heated through, push them and the prawns to one side of the pan.

Add the beaten eggs to the open space and when they begin to set, quickly scramble them, adding chives. Stir all to combine.

Transfer cooked Pad Thai to a platter. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and place bean sprouts on the side (having sprouts on the side rather than mixed in the dish makes it easier to save leftovers). Serves 4.

Tom-yum Koong (Hot and sour prawn soup) - 2 servings

Ingredients

10 - 15 prawns or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

5 - 6 slices galangal *

2 - 3 sticks of lemongrass, diced *

3 - 4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded *

2 ½ cups water (or 1 ¼ cups water + 1 ¼ cups milk)*

½ cup roasted chilli paste or sour shrimp paste *

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

5 bird chilli peppers, chopped finely *

2 - 3 stalks fresh coriander, including roots, chopped

Preparation

1. In a medium saucepan, put galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves

into water; bring to a boil. Add prawns

2. When prawns are cooked (approximately 5 minutes), remove pot from the

heat.

3. Season the soup with roasted chilli paste, fish sauce and lime juice.

4. Ladle into 2 bowls and garnish with chillies and coriander. Serve

immediately

* The specialty ingredients for this soup can be purchased at most Asian

supermarkets. Look for containers of chopped lemongrass to save time; these will keep in the freezer for months. Bird chillies are slender red peppers with a fiery taste. You can substitute other fresh hot peppers if you prefer. If you like a thicker soup, use half milk and half water as the base.




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