Archive | She Bakes RSS feed for this section

Thai Custard with Mung Beans: Khanom Mo Kaeng Thua (ขนมหม้อแกงถั่ว)

Just as the name of Marcel Proust is often mentioned along with a reference to the French cookie/cakelet, madeleine, the name of Maria Guyomar de Pinha (Thao Thong Kip Ma ท้าวทองกีบม้า) is almost always invoked at every mention of Portuguese-derived desserts which had been assimilated into Thai cuisine. All this took place in the reign of King Narai the Great (สมเด็จพระนารายณ์มหาราช) — the period in 17th century Siam wherein foreign influences abounded politically, linguistically, culturally, and, in this case, culinarily.

Maria Guyomar de Pinha is said to be a Japanese-Portuguese woman who made a definite hand print on the Ayutthaya royal court kitchen, an influence that is still in effect today. Despite the enduring legacy, so very little about the woman is known. While certain aspects of her life have been documented, much information that is in circulation remains unsubstantiated. The little we know about this woman is fascinating, though. I’ll talk more about the woman whom the Thai refer to as Thao Thong Kip Ma in future posts.

For now, let’s focus on one of the desserts which she supposedly introduced to the Siamese court: khanom1 mo kaeng (ขนมหม้อแกง). Continue Reading →

Comments are closed

Pork Chops with Crispy Garlic and Lemongrass

Your experience as an expat living in North America may be different, but for me the loneliness that already gnaws on your heart from time to time throughout the year becomes so intense it tears you up around the holidays. Funny how even with all the friendly faces around, something about this time of year never fails to trigger the kind of deep longing for home that you never get used to or outgrow — the kind that makes you nearly double over and sob.

One Christmas Eve, I made pork chops with crispy garlic and lemongrass, missing Mom who used to make these all the time.

how to prepare lemongrass
While it usually takes me a few times to successfully replicate many things in Mom’s repertoire before getting them just right, I nailed this dish the first time mainly because it’s so easy to make.

The very delicious and versatile crispy lemongrass and garlic slices certainly make the pork chops special. Most people are already familiar with crispy garlic and how mild, sweet, crunchy, and delicious it is. Crispy lemongrass, on the other hand, could get some more love for its herbal fragrance that is not at all overpowering. You can make a large batch of crispy lemongrass and garlic and keep that in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later. These golden “sprinkles” add crunch and flavor to plain starchy items, such as steamed rice, boiled new potatoes, plain noodles or pasta, etc.

The pork chops are to be served with steamed jasmine rice. I also recommend coconut rice with these as it goes so well with the crispy lemongrass and garlic. Oh, and don’t forget that which makes everything better: nampla prik.

baked pork chops crispy garlic lemongrass
Mom’s Pork Chops with Crispy Garlic and Lemongrass
(Serves 4, or 2 very hungry people)
Printable Version

4 bone-in, not so lean, pork chops (no thicker than 3/4 inch)
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons baking soda (I’ve found that this helps tenderize the pork chops and keeps the loin parts from being dry and tough. It’s still imperative, though, that you not overcook the pork.)
2 stalks lemongrass, sliced crosswise very thinly (use only 5 inches from the base and keep the rest to infuse Tom Kha Gai or Tom Yam with)
5-6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise as thinly as you can
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • Marinate the pork chops with fish sauce, honey, ground pepper, and baking soda. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour, up to 4-5 hours.
  • Meanwhile, put the sliced garlic and lemongrass into a small (8-inch) frying pan along with the vegetable oil. Heat up the oil, the garlic, and the lemongrass together over medium heat until the mixture starts to sizzle. Monitor the heat closely and stir things around almost constantly (the mixture tends to brown more quickly around the edges). You want the garlic and lemongrass to turn golden slowly until they become very crispy. Too high temperature will burn them before they get to that point.
  • Once the garlic and lemongrass are crispy, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • In another pan, preferably nonstick, sear the outsides of the pork chops over medium-high heat just until you get a good color on both sides of them. There’s no need to cook them all the way through.
  • Finish off your seared pork chops in the oven, being careful not to overcook them.
  • Sprinkle the prepared crispy garlic and lemongrass over the pork chops and serve them immediately with steamed rice.
  • Comments are closed

    Durian Flan คัสตาร์ดทุเรียน

    durian recipe
    Ah, durian. Can you think of any fruit that’s more controversial and divisive? You either despise it or adore it.

    Those who hate it, please avert your eyes (Now that you’re here, may I interest you with some Thai or gluten-free recipes in the archives?). Those who can’t have enough of it, please read on.

    Durian (ทุเรียน), as is the case with most fruits, is best eaten fresh. The opportunity to enjoy perfectly-ripe Mon Thong (หมอนทอง) or Kan Yao (ก้านยาว) durians in their natural state alone justifies flying half way around the globe, if you’re a durian fiend like me. Short of that, the only durian avatar that does any justice at all to fresh durians would be durian in sweet coconut cream over sweet coconut sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียวน้ำกระทิทุเรียน). On a good day, I’m also willing to make an exception for sweet durian paste (ทุเรียนกวน) — the concoction most commonly used as one of the most popular mooncake fillings. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.

    But durian cakes or cookies? Nah. Growing up or these days whenever I visit Bangkok, it has never occurred to me to seek out or make any treats wherein durian serves merely as a perfuming agent. I don’t have anything against durian chiffon cake or durian-flavored spritz-type cookies — the most common of all inferior durian avatars; I have eaten tons of them and would still continue to do so, if force fed. I just don’t think those are the best applications for such an expensive fruit whose greatest virtue lies in the creamy, custardy texture and sublimely sweet taste. I’ve seen tons of durian cake or cookie recipes where you’re supposed to whip up a huge batch of batter with just a tiny bit of durian pulp added. The exiguity of durian used in those recipes only serves to magnify their pointlessness.

    You don’t really taste durian that way. You detect mild durian scent and that’s about it. (At a risk of undermining the width and depth of my love for durian, the scent is not the best part about durian; the texture and flavor are.) I’m sure there are people who don’t agree with this, but such is the fate of all opinions in this world.

    Besides, I don’t really see the point of consuming any durian derivatives if you live in a place where plump, golden, sweet, and creamy flesh of the incomparably delicious fruit can be found any time, anywhere.

    Alas, things are different here in Chicago and I am forced to drastically lower my standard. In my neck of the woods, “fresh” durians are available in two forms: frozen whole durians (sometimes thawed and sold at room temperature to lead people into thinking that they’ve never been frozen) and frozen prepared durian pulp (pitted durians wrapped in cellophane and frozen).

    Both are barely edible.

    In this case, transforming durian into durian-flavored treats is more than justified in my biased mind. Still, some respect needs to be paid to the king of fruit. Though undressed, abused, gutted, and previously-frozen, the thawed-out monarch still reigns and I am obligated to treat him accordingly. If he can’t be restored to his former glory, at least I need to make his avatars as close as possible to the taste and texture of the original.

    And that means sweet, creamy, and custardy.

    In future posts I will be writing about three ways which I like to use frozen durian pulp: durian in sweet coconut cream over sweet coconut sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียวน้ำกระทิทุเรียน), durian coconut gelato, and durian coconut flan. While the first is strictly Thai, the second and the last are obviously not traditional Thai desserts. I’m doing my best to keep them as Thai, or at least Southeast Asian, as possible. The use of coconut milk certainly helps make that goal possible.

    In case you have been distracted by my rambling, we’re making durian flan today. I’m offering two ways in which you can make this.

    durian recipe
    1. Do you have a favorite sweet potato or pumpkin flan recipe which you’ve successfully used over the years? If so, all you need to do is:

    • Replace the sweet potato or pumpkin with equal amount of durian pulp.
    • Reduce the amount of sugar in the flan proper(not the caramel) by 30% as durian pulp is much sweeter than sweet potato or pumpkin.
    • Replace all or half of the milk (or half and half or cream) with coconut milk.
    • The only caveat for this method is that if your favorite recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, it’s too complicated to swap out ingredients. In that case, your best bet is to go with the other way to make durian flan.

      2. Follow my recipe:
      Print It

    • In a blender, liquefy 16 ounces of durian pulp (thawed), 3 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz.) of full-fat coconut milk (I use Chaokoh, of course), 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch; set aside.
    • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Get some boiling water ready, along with one 8-inch pan and a larger pan into which the smaller pan can fit.
    • In a saucepan, melt together over medium-low heat 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. Do not stir, but swirl the pan gently to allow the sugar to melt and caramelize evenly. Watch the caramel very closely. When it takes on the dark amber color, immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the caramel into the 8-in pan, trying your best to cover the bottom of the pan entirely. Should you fail, fret not; the problem will somewhat solve itself after the custard is baked.
    • Pour the prepared durian mixture over the caramel. Place the filled pan inside the larger pan, place the whole thing in the oven, and pour boiling water into the larger pan just enough to come half way up the side of the smaller pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is barely jiggly. Remove the custard from the water bath, let cool, refrigerate for 3 hours, and unmold by running a knife around the edges and turn the pan over gently onto a serving plate.


    Comments are closed