About 8 years ago, before I started a family, I traveled to Thailand with my husband. It is a trip I will never forget and if I have a chance to go everywhere else on my bucket list I would definitely go back. For those interested, there is an active Chabad network all around Thailand where you can find a warm meal for Shabbat and Shabbat services.
One of the highlights of my trip were staying in a really fancy five-star hotel for less money than a 2 star hotel in the US. Another was accidentally taking a non air conditioned train on a two hour trip to see the Bridge on the River Kwai. It was one of those crazy fun experiences, which required multiple showers upon returning to the hotel to get the soot out of my hair and off my face, but the experience of bonding with the locals who didn’t speak a word of English and couldn’t understand why we would be traveling on a second class train (neither did I, to be honest) but they were so kind and sweet to us. Maybe it was pity?
I love to explore and learn from all the foods I see when I travel -- even the ones I can’t eat. One of the most popular street foods was fried bananas and fried taro. Even though I had been eating vegetable chips for years I had never thought to buy Taro and make it myself. Fried bananas have become an easy dessert that everyone in my family loves.
From Bangkok we traveled North to Chiang Mai an area of Thailand known for soft adventure, trekking, mountain resorts and of course the night bazaar. It also happens to have a dozens of cooking classes. I always search out a good cooking class while traveling. It is a great way to learn about the food culture and ask all those questions I have. This class was for vegetarians and started out at the market where I saw fresh baby corn for the first time. I never saw it outside of a can! We bought our ingredients including some fresh delicious mango that we drizzled with chili powder to snack on. We chose to make a Green Curry Paste, taking turns with the mortar and pestle, to grind it up to a paste. We made Thai Sticky Rice for a sweet dessert of Mango with Sticky Rice that I thought would be too much like rice pudding for my taste (I don’t’ like rice pudding), but was actually amazing! We also made a sweet and sour tofu and vegetable dish that I have recreated many times since.
When I came back home I couldn’t wait to try these dishes again for friends and family. Curry Paste is common among many different Asian cuisines. The Thai curry is made from a bunch of small green or red chili peppers mixed with lemongrass, galangal (a young ginger), garlic and kaffir lime. You will likely have to go to an Asian market to find some of these ingredients or you can make do with regular ginger and fresh squeezed lime juice – it’s not the same but is easier to find. I haven’t been able to easily find Thai curry paste kosher, but I’ve been told that it is now available at Whole Foods.
If you have not tried cooking Thai food, I hope you will give it a try. Start with a Green Curry Paste and use it in the Tofu Vegetable Curry. For dessert, cool things off with Mango with Sticky Rice.