Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cooking and Eating in Saraburi Part 2

The following morning over coffee I made the mistake of jokingly suggesting we order food from a stall that purportedly served a very good laab moo. After the suggestion was quickly shot down as silly, a quick conversation took place and the next thing we knew, a spread of food was placed before us. Time for breakfast meats!

A very safe yet very tasty laab moo was placed in the middle of the table. After about a bite, it was suggested we order yet another. So it goes. Gotta love that mint!

There was also phak pla and a not pictured tom saep (sour soup)

If there is a lesson in all this, it is don't joke about food when you are with Thai people because it will likely be served to you.

After breakfast we needed to buy the ingredients necessary for two desserts: bua loy and tubtim grop.

For coloring the bua loy we bought taro

and pumpkin

For the tubtim grop we needed to buy water chestnuts.

We also needed fresh coconut for both of the desserts.

Once again, I succumbed to the durian devil and spent the day only semi conscious. I think it would be best to turn the keyboard over to someone who was really there to describe this dessert making session. Here's E to tell us all about it:

The first dessert we attempted was tubtim grop which translates literally as "crispy rubies." Some sources say this dessert is an imitation of pomegranate seeds. Although the water chestnuts make bigger, crunchier rubies than pomegranate seeds would, the connection is clearly in the brilliant color and transparent coating. For some reason we decided to use artificial coloring to achieve the characteristic redness, although apparently there is some natural fruity source which would have worked just as well. I have to admit, that I had no idea how to make this dessert and my friend F had never made it either, so we had to experiment quite a bit before getting a satisfactory product.

First, the cooked water chestnuts had to be chopped into reasonably small chunks and submerged in pink water. They were dyed instantly.

When the rubies were red enough, we transferred them into a bowl of tapioca starch, tossing them until they were coated. On our first attempt the starch was stuck together in little granules which cooked into globs of jelly, so we had to start over and sift the starch until it had a powdery consistency.

The next step involved boiling the coated water chestnuts. This part required some careful technique. The water had to be boiling consistently, so the starch would solidify quickly and adhere to the water chestnut, but not too vigorously lest the jelly be dislodged. Needless to say it required a few attempts before we had successful rubies. Once they were cooked we submerged them in cold water until we were ready to eat.

Notice the brass wok in the above picture. Apparently brass is used for cooking desserts because it is less likely to burn the sugar. In any case, it is an attractive example of traditional Thai cookware.

Normally tubtim grop is served with jasmine or jackfruit infused syrup and coconut milk, but we didn't have time to make the syrup, so I improvised by using honey, coconut cream and the usual ice. It was refreshing despite the shortcuts.

When the tubtim grop was finished, it was on to bua loy (floating lotus). My friend and cooking instructor, F, was equally inexperienced when it came to making this dessert, but we were determined to do it from scratch, rather than taking shortcuts like we did with the first dessert.

The first step involved making color from natural sources to mix with the dough. We decided to do three colors. Green from pandan, purple/grey from taro and orange from pumpkin. We bought steamed taro and pumpkin from the market and simply mashed them up to mix with the dough. The pandan, picked fresh from outside the house, had to be chopped and pounded in a mortar and pestle with a little bit of water to extract the brilliant green juice We then squeezed the color into a bowl for use in the dessert.

Next, we prepared the coconut milk. I have to say, milking coconut was probably my favorite part of this culinary weekend. We did it twice, once for curry and once for the desserts. For curry you can use the whole coconut, including the brown outer layer, but for dessert it must be white coconut only, which is sweeter and moister. The first squeeze of the coconut, which requires very little water, or none, depending on the moistness of the coconut, is known as hua kati (literally: coconut milk head), or coconut cream and the subsequent two or three squeezes which require the addition of water and plenty of massaging are known as hang kati (coconut milk tail) and is probably what you get when you buy lowfat coconut milk.

The above basket, is a strainer used especially for making coconut milk.

The bua loy dough was a simple mixture of sticky rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, salt, coconut milk and the color/flavor additive. After mixing the three batches individually, we rolled the dough into a zillion little balls.

As with the tubtim grop these balls had to be boiled until they floated (hence the name) and then skimmed out and submerged in cold water until ready to eat. Another method involves boiling them directly in the coconut milk, but that only works if you are planning to eat it right away, otherwise the balls continue to cook and absorb liquid and you end up with a gummy mess (or so I am told).

Aren't they cute?

The last step in this labor intensive process was cooking and flavoring the coconut milk. We used only the hang kati and sweetened it with palm sugar. We also added a pinch of salt and the remaining pandan juice which gave it a fantastic flavor and pale green tinge.

When everything was finally ready, we scooped the coconut milk over the confetti-like dumplings and tucked in.


anonymous paul said...

so you just drop the water chestnuts in the boiling water r do you use the strainer to submerge all of them the same time? i'm surprised how simple the prep of this is. will try soon

Anonymous said...


You just drop the water chestnuts in the boiling water and cook them for about three minutes. They will float to the top and turn transparent when they are finished. Good luck.