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Land Of Smiling Faces…

Thailand is situated right in the center of the Indochina Peninsula in southeast Asia. It is the worlds 51st largest country by size, but has the title of being the world’s largest exporter of rice. (They are 6th in total rice production). Thailand is the world’s 20th most populous country, and over 95 percent of the country are Buddhist.

Before June 23, 1939, Thailand was known as Siam. (and also from 1945 – 1949 when it changed it’s name from Thailand back to Siam for a brief period before reverting again to Thailand from 1945 onward). There is some debate as to the reasoning for the word Thailand. Some scholars say that the word Thai comes from the Thai word Tai meaning independence. Others argue that it actually refers to the group of central plains Thai people that inhabited the area.

Thailand is unique in that it is the only Southeast Asian country which has never been colonized. It is also unique in that King Rama IX (9th), the leader of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, has been in power since 1946, making him the world’s longest running head of state. Thailand is one of 64 countries to have conscription (armed forces service requirement) and that directly contributes to a rather large armed forces of over 800,000.

For a bit of a cultural description of the Thai people and way of life….you can check out this Discovery Channel documentary. (sorry for the watermark!)

 

The Recipe:

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When choosing our dish from Thailand, we had plenty of staple dishes we could have made, Thai Fried Rice, Pad Thai and more, there are hundreds of combinations. Not only that, but we also live in Sydney ,which just might be the unofficial 2nd home for Thai food in the world. There are literally hundreds of Thai restaurants located within the cities suburbs. So I decided to pick a dish that I had never actually eaten before, a Massaman Curry with Beef. I am embarrassed to say I had never had this before, especially after learning it was voted #1 in a culinary poll that listed the worlds 50 most delicious dishes. Now that might be subjective of course, but I was informed by my wife that this is in fact a Thai staple dish.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 600g of beef (your choice, trimmed of fat and cut or cubed)
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp massaman curry paste
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed in 3cm pieces)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (pieces or whole)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice (preferably jasmine or thai rice)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate (paste)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 cardamom pods (lightly crushed)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method: 2 Hours

The 1st step is to prepare your ingredients. If necessary, cut the beef into cubes or strips (I bought an already chopped portion of stir-fry beef). Peel the potatoes and wash them, then cut them in to 3cm sized cubes (medium to large pieces).

I made 2 bowls for the rest of the ingredients, 1 wet bowl and one dry bowl. Mix the fish sauce, the chicken stock and the tamarind concentrate into one bowl and set aside. In another bowl, put the brown sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. (make sure you slightly crush or puncture the pods. Use the backside of a spoon or the flat part of a knife and press down on them gently….this releases the flavor).

Dry and Wet bowls

Now that you have everything prepared for cooking, heat up the vegetable oil in a pan and then brown the beef. Once the beef has been browned evenly on all sides, remove it from the pan and place it onto a bowl or plate.

Next, put 2 tablespoons of the coconut cream into the pan and cook until hot (about 20 seconds). Add the 2 tablespoons of massaman curry paste and heat for about 2 minutes or until aromatic. (it smells awesome!)

While this is going on, you can heat up another pan to prepare to dry roast the nuts (unless you bought them already roasted).

Return the beef to the pan, and then add in the dry and wet bowls, the remaining coconut cream and the cup of coconut milk. stir this all together and bring to a boil.

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Put the nuts on the pan you have prepared and dry roast until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes depending on temperature). BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN!

Dry Roasting Peanuts

Dry Roasting Peanuts

Add the nuts into the large curry pan and stir through. cover the pan and then let it simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir Occasionally. It is ready when the beef is tender.

After about 1 hour of simmering, you can go ahead and prepare the rice. We used a rice cooker, but either way you prepare the rice, make sure and wash with cold water before cooking. You want 1 1/2 times water to rice. So 1 cup of rice and 1 1/2 cups water etc….. if you are doing it on a pan just follow directions on your rice package, or cook until soft.

When your rice is finished, you should be ready to serve. Place a bed of rice on a plate or bowl, and pour the curry over the top and enjoy!.

DIVING DEEP:

For those of you interested in even more about Thailand’s more recent history, I have included a short video from AlJezeera about the political turmoil that has been going on in the last few years. There are tons of videos and articles if you search the net for more info!

 

Also you might enjoy learning the traditional Wai greeting.

 

CREDITS:

For this recipe we need to credit our guide recipe at Taste.com.au here.

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