One of the things that people from all over the world have come to love about Thailand is the local cuisine. Thai food is known for its aromatic appeal, trademark ingredients like lemongrass and lime leaves, and of course its spicy kick. And while roast tends to be the go-to for a festive spread, some South Africans may be looking to take a detour from tradition – perhaps somewhat of an exotic twist. Thai-inspired dishes could be just the thing to bring the boost of flavour that will make this festive meal memorable.
Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Thailand due to most of the population being Buddhist. But that doesn’t stop festivities from taking place in populous, urban pockets like Bangkok, which sees many tourists from around the world flocking to the city’s many malls. Bright light displays and Christmas-themed installations welcome visitors from the West for some family-friendly entertainment, good food and good conversation.
New Years Eve is when much of the festive cheer comes to the country. And, as Sadudee Sangnil, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for UK, Ireland and South Africa explains, the period from Christmas to New Year is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the spirit of the season. “A big part of the culinary tradition in Thailand involves people coming together to cook and share a meal.
For some people, the festive season is the ideal time for a barbeque or a hot pot and for others, it’s a meal that brings together the more traditional flavour profile of the region. It’s around this time of year that we really see the meeting of east and west, with meals being shared in a communal dining style, with staples like steamed rice or, in Northeastern style, sticky rice.”
For South Africans who are looking to bring a touch of Thai magic home, there’s no better way to do it than through food – an aspect of life that really captures a sense of community and good will.
To inspire the foodies, Sangnil recommends these three delicious recipes, all of which are easy to prepare and feature ingredients that are readily available on local shelves.
- Pad Thai Koong (fried noodles with king prawn)
A classic Thai dish, pad Thai (also written as phat thai), is sometimes referred to as the national dish of Thailand. A version of this noodle dish was thought to have been introduced to Thailand (then known as Siam) centuries ago by Chinese or Vietnamese traders. The local people then adapted it to their tastes with the addition of homegrown ingredients. But it was after the Second World War that the dish really gained in popularity across Thailand. In those post-war years, the production and sale of rice noodles was promoted by the Thai government as a patriotic venture and led to the humble noodle dish being labelled pad Thai.
Serves: 2 people
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 250g king prawns (this also works well with beef, chicken or just vegetables)
- 90g rice noodles
- 50g beansprouts
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 6tbsp fish sauce
- 3tsp tamarind sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp preserved turnip (not essential)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp red chilli
- ½ lime
- 2 tbsp crushed peanuts
Soak rice noodles for 30 minutes in room temperature water.
Heat and season the wok. Add king prawns and stir fry for a few minutes.
Add egg and stir fry. Before the egg is fully cooked, add the noodles, sugar and turnip. Stir fry until all ingredients are mixed well and noodles are wilted.
Add the tamarind and season with fish sauce. Then add bean sprouts, green onions and the red chilli. Stir fry quickly to ensure everything is well combined.
Remove from heat and serve with crushed peanuts and lemon wedge on the side and garnish with coriander.
Recipe courtesy of Kim Kaewkraikhot, Chef Director and owner of the Chaophraya restaurant group, featured on www.fanclubthailand.co.uk.
- Som tam (papaya salad)
An unmistakable taste of Thailand, som tam is a classic Thai dish. Usually made with green papaya, this deliciously addictive dish is as versatile as it is spicy. Som tam originates from the north-east of Thailand but is popular all over the country. Although it can be eaten on its own, som tam really comes into its own when teamed up with other Isaan favourites including sticky rice and grilled chicken. The most popular main ingredient is green papaya, but cucumber is one alternative if you are preparing the dish at home and can’t find green papaya in the shops.
Serves: 1-2 people.
Preparation time: 10 minutes.
Cooking time: 5 minutes.
- 1 large green papaya (or 2 small ones)
- 1 garlic clove
- Handful cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Handful peanuts (roasted or fried)
- 5 snake/long beans or a handful of French beans
- 1-2 Thai bird’s-eye chillies or one large red chilli if you don’t want it too spicy
- 1 tbs fish sauce (or Thai light soy if you want it vegetarian)
- 2 tbs tamarind juice
- 2 limes squeezed (save the empty limes)
- 1 tsp palm sugar dissolved in boiling water
- 6-8 dried prawns (optional)
- Peel the skin off the papaya, cut in half and scrape out the seeds.
- Grate the papaya with a Julienne peeler or grater.
- Mix all the wet ingredients in a bowl. The sauce should be sweet, sour and salty.
- Pound the chilli and garlic in the pestle and mortar (or mixing bowl), then add the beans and dried prawns (if using prawns). Bruise and then add the papaya, tomatoes, and peanuts.
- Pour in the sauce.
- With a large spoon in one hand and the pestle in the other (this may take some practice), scoop and pound until everything is well combined, and the juice of the tomatoes has made its way into the dressing.
- Scoop onto a plate, making sure you get all that lovely dressing.
- Serve with absolutely anything or just eat it on its own.
Recipe courtesy of chef, Gary Butler, featured on www.fanclubthailand.co.uk.
- Chicken/Beef massaman curry
Massaman curry is a firm favourite for visitors to Thailand. Such is the popularity of this flavour-packed dish, CNN Travel nominated it as the Number One dish in their 2020 list of “The World’s 50 Best Foods”. If you fancy creating a delicious chicken or beef massaman curry at home, try this recipe from Thai chef, Nawamin Pinpathomrat, a.k.a. Dr Boss.
For the curry paste:
- 1 ½ tsp of coriander seeds
- ½ tsp of cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamom seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 10 whole dried red chillies, soaked to soften
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 4 shallots
- 1 stem fresh galangal
- 2 stems of lemongrass
- 1 tsp of kaffir lime rind
- ½ tbs of sea salt flakes
- ½ tbs of white peppercorns
- 1 tbs of shrimp paste
For making the curry:
- 500ml can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp massaman curry paste
- 500g stewing beef steak, cut into large chunks or 600g chicken thighs/drumsticks
- 300g small/new potatoes, peeled
- 3 small onion, halved
- 50g roasted peanuts
- 4 kaffir lime leaves (optional); available from Thai shops or dried from supermarkets
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 4 star anise (optional)
- 1 tbsp palm or soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (or 1/2 tbsp salt)
- Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
- Heat 2 tbsp coconut milk in a large pot with a lid. Add the curry paste and fry for 5 min with low heat.
- Then stir-fry in the beef/chicken until well coated and sealed.
- Stir in the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook at least 30 minutes for beef/ 15 minutes for chicken until the meat is tender.
- Add the potatoes, onion, lime leaves, cinnamon, sugar, fish sauce and most of the peanuts then let it simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the remaining peanuts, and then serve with jasmine rice.
Recipe courtesy of Thai chef, Nawamin Pinpathomrat, a.k.a. Dr Boss, featured on www.fanclubthailand.co.uk