Shophouse is an architectural style often seen in South East Asian cities and towns in which the business is at the street level and the family quarters are in the back or upstairs. Business and family are only separated by thin cement walls and inevitably the two realms mix creating a unique retail experience. The retail experience that we are interested in is the dining and eating experience. To us, Thai cuisine is all about eating among the cacophony of family, friends, strangers and whoever happens to be nearby.

Friday, October 22, 2010

where to get quality fermented mud fish around here?

ปลาร้า the blue cheese of Thai cuisine
I'm not sure if Seattle is ready for the more pungent side of Thai cooking, but they are ready for some depth in flavor.
Half the fun of doing this Shophouse project is locating ingredients that either maintain the flavors of the motherland or contribute to the story that we are telling.
kaffir limes
We've found a fish sauce that we like. It's called Tra Chang - let me reference a post from our previous blog 86 seattle. Fortunately we brought back several litres of this fish sauce from Rayong, Thailand to keep us going. You can also buy it at the Viet Wah down on MLK.
We also have been lucky to find ingredients from the local business that are subtly important to Thai cooking like fresh kaffir limes. Apparently they get the limes from someone down in California, as the US won't allow imported kaffir limes. There is only one harvest a year and we jumped on it. Kaffir limes add an important citrusy bitter kick to curry pastes. The limes were so fresh and fragrant that I got some weird kind of hangover headache from peeling and smashing the limes. Or maybe I was just hungover, I don't remember.
More locally, we have also found some great finds. Oxbow farm out in Carnation sells their amazing cilantro root. I have never seen cilantro root like Oxbow's. I got in several fat bunches that completely permeated the walk-in cooler. We pound the fragrant cilantro roots in a mortar and pestle with garlic and peppercorns to complete this important trinity of Thai marinades for grilled meats. I'm not sure why the roots are cut off of cilantro bunches when you buy them in the store. This is just one of the mysteries of the produce business, like Why do they put those little stickers on the apples.
white gold from Oxbow
We've also become big fans of Mad Hatcher chickens. These chickens from Ephreta are always succulent. Further, we can get various sizes to fit our application, like medium sized for ข้าวมันไก่ khao mun gai or smaller for ไก่ย่าง gai yang.
Ok, I'm done talking up ingredients and going Thomas Keller on you all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sausage vortex

don't stare too long
I was really hoping to document the debut of our Monday night "food off the path" nights at Licorous with scores of pictures. However, time was tight with a multitude of catering events and many restaurant obligations. I had to put my head down and focus without a camera in my hand. I only got one picture; that being a photo of the sausage vortex. I think of it as an ode to the art of Walangkura Napananka. I don't know if she would appreciate it, but maybe an art collector would pay a few grand for it.
The good news is that the night got off to an excellent start with lots of glowing happy faces.
Sausage will be on the menu again for Monday, October 18th. The sausage is called ไส้อั่ว "sai ua" and is from the North. We use Thundering Hooves pork which is ground with handmade red curry paste, extra lemongrass, lime leaf, palm sugar and a touch of fish sauce. I crave this sausage because the aromatics are so refreshing, something that cannot be said for many sausages.
We enjoy eating this sausage when having a few beers or cocktails. It is often paired as a side to นํ้าพริก "nam prik" chilli dips, or served on its own with little piles of herbs, chillies, ginger and cabbage leaves. As with much of Thai cuisine, the dish is interactive. You can mix and match the amount of heat and herbaceousness to your liking and roll it up in the cabbage. Or use the cabbage as a cool down from the chillies. Or just eat the sausage. Whatever, it is up to you.
We will be posting our next Monday menu on Friday.

Monday, October 4, 2010

spicy soap opera

toasting shrimps
What do Korean soap operas, Thai housewives, chilli shrimp paste and sliced white bread have in common? They all come together daily at around 6:30 PM to create a scene that proves that the world is getting smaller. Imagine curling up in front of the TV with a stack of white bread and a little jar of your favorite chilli paste and watching the drama of feudal gender bending Korea unfold. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
not too spicy but guaranteed to make you cry with pleasure
I am not here to talk about the Korean Wave, or whether it is corrupting the children or enriching the culture, but to talk about making and eating nam prik pao, or what I call toasted shrimp and chilli paste. It is pretty simple to make but the flavors created are complex. Fry garlic, shallots, dried shrimp and dried red chillies. Smash it all. Cook it down with tamarind, salt and palm sugar. Put it in a jar and save it for your favorite TV drama. Ten minutes before your show comes on, toast some white bread and get comfy. Spoon the paste onto the toast and let the emotions flow.
serious drama
Another option is to come down to Licorous on Monday nights starting October 11th from 5PM till close where one of the items I will be serving is toasted shrimp and chilli paste on toast. There isn't a TV at Licorous, but you can watch my friends and I bust our buns and create some serious emotions with our food and drink.