Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday on the Big Island

How are you spending your Saturday? Me? Funny you should ask! A couple months ago a girlfriend (thats her in the photo) told me about a cooking class that was coming up. It was all about Spices and Thai cooking. She invited me to come along. So I just paid in advance and decided nothing would come in the way. I am SO glad I went. It was held up in Waimea at the Anna Ranch, which was a very nice facility. Chef Nicolai Winkler was our chef du jour. He was very friendly and personable. He taught us how to make 3 different curries. Red, Green and Yellow. He also taught us a lot about the herbs and spices that can go into making a curry.

For instance in his yellow curry, today he included tumeric, ginger, golongal, cumin, hot pepper vinegar (more about the vinegar later) lime juice, sea salt, garlic and 1 thai chili. He taught us that the easiest way to begin muddling the mixture is to start with salt in the mortar bowl as it keeps the garlic from slipping around as you muddle it. Finish "mushing" (a technical culinary term) the dry ingredients before adding the liquids to maintain a paste texture.

Today's red curry included 1 thai red chili, red chili flakes, christmas berry or red pepper corns, sweet paprika, ginger, garlic, lime juice and rice vinegar.

The green curry we made today included basil, lemon grass, lime zest, kafir lime leaf, cilantro, green chili pepper, nutmeg, and chili pepper vinegar.

Now to make something with any of these curries, you can add coconut milk or some kind of stock such as vegetable stock, chicken stock or fish stock. Then thicken it by using the old stand-by of corn starch in a little cold water. You can serve it over rice and add a salad for a complete dinner!

He also said you can saute up a little aromatics including lemongrass, ginger and garlic, then add one of the curries above before stirring in a little coconut milk. Yummy!

One of my favorite things to get in a Thai restuarant (but something I never did see in Thailand!) is summer rolls. They are such a healthy little appetizer filled with fresh herbs and vegies and wrapped in rice paper. We all had the opportunity today to try our hand at rolling a summer roll. I still need to practice my technique, but wouldn't get fat eating my mistakes since they are so low calorie!

Of course a summer roll needs a dipping sauce. I usually have a little sweet chili sauce with peanuts on top, but today Chef Nicolai made four sauces. For the green sauce he started with sugar in the mortar to which he added mint, cilantro, chili pepper, and a substantial amount of fish sauce (aka patisse). That was very crisp and fresh tasting!

Sauce numba 2 was a citrus soy sauce. It was very simple with sugar, lime juice, chili pepper vinegar and soy sauce (aka shoyu).

The 3rd sauce was a homemade sweet chili sauce made from the red curry past to which he added sugar and more chilis. That was also delish!

Sauce numba 4 was a bottle thai sauce to which he added coconut milk.

To wrap the day up he finished with a quick to prepare green papaya salad. The prep included using a mandolin (not the musical instrument...the kitchen appliance!) Then he juilienned the papapya. To the mortar he added sugar, red curry paste, red onion, and water. He tossed the papaya with small yellow grape tomatoes and then added the dressing.

Everything was spicy...but nothing was so hot that it burned. It was just very tasty!

I do wish his class would have included lunch since it was from 11-2pm (lunch time) and it did cost $55. I think we were all expecting to be able to eat more than just the one bite of summer roll and one mouthful of papaya salad. For my critique, I would recommend that he show us how to do something and then let the "students" do the muddling and prep while he continued on. He could have prepared in advance enough papaya salad and summer rolls so that we could have made a little plate and sat enjoying those while he did a summary.

I wish menehune man would have been able to attend with me just because I think he would have enjoyed it too. I am actually in the mood to try out some of these recipes....and I am not one that can usually be found in the kitchen!

Chef Nicolai had bottles of his special rice wine vinegar that he had infused with chili peppers available for sale. I purchased the large cruet because it appeared to have a secure topper whereas the smaller bottle had an open hole in the top. When I was about 3 miles from home I started smelling something pungent. The cruet had tipped over and spilled out about a cup of vinegar all over my car! Oh my!

One more suggestion, Chef, please place secure tops on bottles you are intending to sell!

So, anyways...that was my day! It was fun and relaxing (except for shampooing my car) and a nicely timed break. As our day was wrapping up at the cooking classes, a herd of white cattle came meandering down the hill behind the building we were using. So you can get a glimpse of Waimea...paniolo (cowboy) country

NOW...back to the sweat shop!

a hui hou!

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