Virtual meanderings

Tag Archives: Tom Yum

Last day in town. What better than a…

… cooking course?
Mmm, Thai food, yum yum yum!
OK, before we get too ecstatic, let me say that one should not generalize about Thai cuisine. It has quite a few dishes that are tasty (to the European), and quite a few that are not. I had my share of both. But the traditional Tom Yum soup got me hooked like a hippie on LSD, like a teenager on extasy, like a… you get the point.

The delicious Tom Yum soup

The delicious Tom Yum soup

Courtesy: random blog

    When I was preparing this post, I fiddled with the idea of providing the soup recepy. But honestly, why do that if anyone can look it up online in 5 seconds – for example, here? The web abounds of posts that chew over the same story again and again – especially about travelling, and especially about Thailand.

It all started because I remembered about a book I had read. A unique kind of book, where cooking recepies were smoothly integrated into the book’s narrative, becoming a part of the story itself. This was even reflected in the book’s title – “Mock Faustus | Corrected Complemented Cooking Book”. I loved this book for its subtle humor and I was immediately tempted to sneak a paragraph about it into this blog post and claim to be following into its tradition. Wait, what tradition? Who on Earth knows about a Latvian book written in the seventies? Amazon? Amazon, take two?

Amazon says: “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” If I ever saw a sign trying to tell me “never”, that would be it. Not willing to give up without finding at least a small trace in English about the book, I dug some more online, and I was only able found this in a 2003 article from a Latvian “visual arts” magazine called Studija.

“It is strictly required that partridge pate be served only in shells collected in the Balearic Islands shortly before a typhoon,” as Marģeris Zariņš wrote in 1973 (“False Faust, or a Corrected and Supplemented Cookbook”). The hero of the book was an old apothecary, alchemist and pseudoscientist, a Latvianised Baltic German Jānis Vridrikis Trampedahs, who in 1930s Latvia enjoyed for his dinner treats prepared by a servant-woman brought specially from Scotland, each dish being served in the corresponding fine dishes to the sound of appropriate music – after which he visited the outside loo, as is usual in the small towns.”

So much for the book being a masterpiece and a modern classic. So much for its excellent unobtrusive humor. According to online search engines it is as if it never existed – such is the gradual fate of the culture of small countries. Oh, well…

So – cooking, cooking, cooking…

Unlike many tourist destinations I’ve been to, one-day cooking courses are a well-established offering all around South East Asia. All I needed to do in order to get enrolled was mention it to the guy at the hostel. One short phone call later, and I was all set for the next day. As usual, I was picked up from the hostel in the morning and delivered to the cooking course school (a school by day, a residential house with a beautiful yard where the school owners lived by night). Running the whole enterprise was a kind and smiling Thai lady with excellent English in her mid-twenties, helped by her younger brother (who was in fact the one to pick me up in his van in the morning).

      I do not need to tell you what I would eat that day – it would be my own dishes! (okay, I told you).  Within about six hours we would prepare six different meals – a soup, an appetizer, a salad, a couple of main courses and a desert.

    There is no way you could cook six dishes in a day from scratch! – you’d think. Well, in Europe maybe not. Asian cusine, however, is no French. In Asia meals are designed to be cooked fast. Meat! It is never cooked in big pieces that take a lot of time to get ready. It is always cut into small bits – and those take just a minute to cook/bake/boil. Same goes for just about everything – cut it to small pieces, and it cooks in no time.  In fact, the actual time to clean and slice all the ingredients and get the sauces ready takes 80% of the time, while the cooking itself – only 20% (is this another application of the 80/20 rule? I do not know).

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