3 tips (8/7/96)
Not a recipe, but I am frequently asked the questions that led to
these three "hintlets"
1: Thai food and fat [cholesterol]
coconut milk is a vegetable product, and cholesterol is an animal
fat. Hence, I told, there is actually no cholesterol in coconut
milk. There is however a lot of fat. (We seem, as a culture, to
have reached the point of saying "cholesterol" when we mean fat).
If fat is an issue with you, then I suggest you "cut" the coconut
milk with stock. Thus if you are making a pork curry, mix two
parts of good pork stock with one part of coconut milk, and use
the mixture in place of the pure coconut milk specified in the
2: Thai food and salt
Salt, as such, virtually never appears as an ingredient in a Thai
dish (it is occasionally added to fruit juices and effervescent
soft drinks, but that is as a replacement for salt lost in
perspiration in our tropical climate). There is however quite a
lot of salt in fish sauce. If sodium in the diet is a problem,
then I suggest you replace fish sauce by a good quality low
sodium soy sauce.
3: The wok, and cooking styles.
There is nothing magical about a wok: it is a low tech solution
to the cooking needs of the region. True 95% of Thai households
own at least one, and probably 95% of all cooking is done with a
wok (and a rice cooker). But Thailand is a third world country:
the wok that sells for 300 baht or so in the market ($12) is
costing - when you allow for the difference in wage levels and
costs of living - roughly the equivalent of a pan costing $200 in
America. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the poor
families of rural Thailand optimise the use of their pan.
But a wok is only a frying pan, with a curved base suitable for
high heat over unregulated high pressure gas cookers or charcoal
braziers. You might just as easily use a modern high tech, non
stick deep sided flat bottomed saute pan. Indeed one of my wife's
favorite pans is a Farberware sautee pan: 40 cm in diameter, 8cm
deep and very effective.
However Thais cook at high temperatures (certainly higher than
electric woks), and at these temperatures little oil is absorbed
by the food. Also the design of the wok means you need very
little oil to start with.
However I would add two comments: in many cases in a non-stick
pan, you need little or no oil, and in many cases you can replace
"stir fry" by "stir poach" in which you use a little water or
stock as the medium in which you stir cook the food.
In 95% of cases you won't notice the difference, except perhaps
that the food will have a cleaner purer taste, and be less oily
(it doesn't work for belly pork though...)
Don't let the rich peasant nature of the food put you off: try
it, experiment, be bold, and above all else
Colonel Ian F. Khuntilanont-Philpott
Special thanks to - Muoi Khuntilanont.