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Thai cooking with Pranee Halvorson

Posted Oct 04 2011 3:53pm

My husband and I recently took our second Thai cooking class at PCC Natural Markets with Pranee Halvorson . (A description of the first class, including a recipe for coconut-ginger vegetable soup, appears here . ) We love Pranee's classes because not only are her cooking creations delicious, they are easy to make and clearly explained, so we can go home and create fabulous tasting Thai food in our own kitchen. Pranee isn't a vegetarian, but is well versed in vegetarian cooking. She's originally from Phuket, Thailand, which celebrates the annual vegetarian week in Thailand in a big way; she has no problem translating Thai flavors into vegan recipes. Pranee says she experiments over and over again with her vegan recipes to make sure that even though they are plant-based, the results are the same as the non-veg versions. And she frequently passes along preparation and cooking tips that aren't always apparent when reading a recipe on your own.

The first thing she made was Tom Yum Hed, sweet and sour soup with mushrooms, lemongrass and cilantro. This soup had a prep time of 15 minutes and a cooking time of five minutes, and the taste was amazing. Pranee showed us the proper way to prepare lemongrass for soup, and although I've posted this video before, I think it's worth posting again because it makes such a difference in the final product when you extract all the flavor from the lemongrass.

Next she made Gaeng Keow Wan Ja, green curry with bamboo shoots, eggplant and basil. You can make your own green curry paste, or use a brand like Thai Kitchen or Thai and True. (Make sure to read the labels of any jarred curry sauce to be sure it doesn't contain fish products.) This was spicy hot and delicious.

The next dish on the menu was Tow Hue Med Mamueng, stir-fried tofu, cashews, sweet peppers, young corn and onions with spicy-sweet sauce with basil. In this dish, Pranee substituted Judy Fu's black bean sauce for the oyster sauce. (You could also try miso.) Although the sauce is pricy, it's amazing, and a little goes a long way. Judy Fu is a local Seattle chef, and I don't know if her sauce is available everywhere, but black bean sauce is always available in Asian markets.

Dessert was interesting. Pranee made Namtao Buod Chee, kabocha squash in warm, sweet coconut milk. Because kabocha wasn't yet in season here at the time of the class, Pranee subbed a buttercup squash. This was something I would never think to make for dessert, but it was the perfect ending to the dinner — a warm, sweet comforting finale to a great meal. I could hear a chorus of "mmmmmmmms" as each person tasted the dish. The whole meal, for 25 people, was prepared and consumed in about 1-1/2 hours!

OK, so now you may be wondering, did we successfully make any of these dishes at home? Well, as a matter of fact, my husband has made the soup several times with amazing results. His soup may not look as elegant as Pranee's version, but it tasted fabulous, and the one you see here, stuffed with mushrooms and broccoli, made a perfect light supper, and several lunches.

He also tried his hand at a stir-fry, also with stellar results. We're finding the soups and sauces to be very versatile and easy to vary by using different vegetables. Pranee's blog isn't vegetarian by any means, but she includes a number of vegan/adaptable recipes that I'm providing links to. I think you'll be pleased with the results if you try them.

Stir-fried mung bean sprouts and tofu with garlic chives

Phuket red curry paste

Thai mixed vegetable stir-fry (use black bean sauce instead of oyster sauce)

Stir-fried cabbage with garlic and ginger (use tofu instead of turkey. use black bean sauce or veg oyster sauce instead of oyster sauce)

Pranee has a youtube channel with lots of cooking demos and other interesting information.
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