Don’t blink or you’ll miss it, warned chef J Gamboa as he prepared to do a cooking demonstration on Thai cuisine. He was the guest chef in last Saturday’s cooking class at the Maya Kitchen and Culinary Center and, with Thai chef Malichat Intaramolee, he was sharing the recipes of some dishes in his restaurant Azuthai.
True enough, before the audience knew it, the tom yum goong was already cooked and ready to be served. Perhaps Thailand’s most popular soup, tom yum goong consists of prawns gently simmered in a sour-salty-spicy broth, enhanced by the flavors of galangal, lemongrass, lime (or lemon) and coriander.
Though the flavor is complex, cooking it is really quite simple, as chef J so effectively showed us.
What could take time, though, is the preparation. “In Thai cuisine, the time you save in cooking, you have to spend in the preparation,” chef J pointed out.
In the case of tom yum goong, there was the lemongrass to be pounded, the galangal to be peeled and sliced, the mushrooms to be quartered, and the prawns to be shelled.
However, once all that was done, cooking the soup would take just a little over five minutes.
Similarly, the other dishes chefs J and Malichat demonstrated were just as doable, if a bit more complex: green chicken curry simmered in coconut milk, chili garlic prawns, and sticky rice with mango.
There was also the steamed, boneless whole apahap. With an alluring broth of lime, fish sauce, garlic, coriander leaves and chilies, it’s one of the most in-demand dishes in Azuthai. Since it’s one of my favorites, it was so gratifying to finally learn how to make it myself.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, the multi-awarded chef J is executive chef of the family-owned restaurants Cirkulo, Tsukiji, Milky Way and Azuthai.
Chef Malichat worked in five-star restaurants in Europe, China, Pakistan and Thailand before coming to the Philippines.
Tom Yum Goong
3 large prawns
2 stems lemongrass, 4 inches long each (use white part only)
2 ½ c shrimp stock
1 pc kaffir lime leaf, torn
3 slices galangal, peeled, each cut into 1/3-in thick circle
½ – 1 c button mushrooms, quartered
4 pcs oyster mushrooms
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce (patis)
3 tbsp dayap juice or calamansi juice or lemon juice (See tips.)
1 ½ tbsp Thai chili paste
1 ½ tomatoes, quartered
¼ c fresh wansuy (coriander) leaves
Peel the prawns, but leave about 1-in shell near the tail. Slit the backs of the prawns and remove the black veins. Set aside. Pound the lemongrass stems so that they flatten.
In a large saucepan, bring the shrimp stock to a boil. Add the kaffir lime leaf, the pounded lemongrass and the galangal. Simmer for three minutes. Add the button and oyster mushrooms. Simmer for two more minutes.
Stir in fish sauce, dayap juice, Thai chili paste, tomatoes and the prepared prawns. Simmer just until prawns are cooked, about one minute. Ladle into soup bowls. Top with wansuy leaves and serve. Makes two to three servings.
For more tips, recipes and stories, visit author’s blog www.normachikiamco.com, and Facebook fan page www.facebook.com/normachikiamco. Follow on Twitter @NormaChikiamco.
Azuthai Restaurant is at the Milky Way Bldg., 900 Arnaiz Ave. (Pasay Road) corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati.
The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center is on the 8/F, Liberty Bldg., 835 A. Arnaiz Ave. (Pasay Road), Makati; tel. 8921185/ 8925011 local 108/ +63947-8352290; www.themayakitchen.com.
To make an easy shrimp stock: In a saucepan, add one shrimp broth cube to the 2 ½ c water and boil until shrimp broth cube is completely dissolved.
If using lemon, chef J advises to use only the yellow kind, as the green lemon is bitter.
The local name for lemongrass is tanglad. Look for it in the vegetable section of large supermarkets. It’s also available in weekend markets and in wet markets.
When making this recipe, chef J says you should always use equal amounts of the fish sauce and lemon (or dayap or calamansi) juice, i.e., for every tablespoon of fish sauce, use 1 tbsp of dayap or calamansi or lemon juice.
Galangal is a type of ginger root. It has a milder, mellower flavor than ginger. It’s available in the Saturday market of Salcedo Village, Makati and in major supermarkets.
Thai chili paste is not to be confused with chili sauce. Chili paste is dark and has the consistency of a thick paste. It’s sold in bottles in the condiments section of major supermarkets. It gives the soup a reddish color.