At Sticky Rice Cooking School we have a Jag Kitchen and state of the art equipment, but reading Nancie McDermott’s account of the kitchen she used during her teaching years in Thatoom, Surin, reminds me of my own journeys to Thailand and the most wonderful food that the families create in their simple but fully functioning kitchens.
Our kitchen was typical of those in the Thai countryside. It was located beneath the house, which was elevated on posts with the living area upstairs. We had two small charcoal stoves, a few side tables, and two immense ohng jars made of glazed earthenware, one filled with drinking water and one filled with rice. There was also a thoo, a big freestanding cupboard with small, oddly shaped ceramic cups encircling its legs. These were tiny moats, a simple but effective means of barring tenacious ants from tiptoeing up to raid the prepared foods and condiments stored in the thoo. The tables held our batterie de cuisine– the cutting board, a hefty circle of tamarind wood a foot wide; several mighty cleavers and an array of paring knives; two large mortars with pestles, one Lao style, deep enough for pounding green papaya salad and the other Thai style, squat and heavy for grinding and pounding curry pastes; maw gaeng, soup and curry pots of assorted sizes; a wok; and an array of long handles spoons, sieves, and scrapers for stir frying and deep-frying.
We didn’t have a special steamer- my students simply crossed two chopsticks in the wok and placed plates and bowls on top of them when we wanted kai toon (savory egg custard) or haw moke (fish in banana leaf packets). We also managed without a refrigerator, since I loved the Thai habit of daily trips to the fresh market and enjoyed this chore almost every morning. It’s a habit I fell into of necessity and have continued in the years since for the pleasure it brings me.
..extract from Nancie McDermott Real Thai- The Best of Regional Cooking.
To see a picture of the Lao style mortar and pestle called a khok, scroll down to our Global Pantry article which shows a good example from our cooking school.
Handmade in Thailand of long-lasting clay, this is a traditional mortar & pestle used to make a wide range of Thai and Laotian dishes. This mortar is a crude, simple fired clay, very “rustic” in appearance and definitely not a work of art; however, it’s highly functional.
The pestle is made of beechwood as any other material would break the mortar.