A Real Thai Kitchen

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.

Our Big Buddha Arriving

What a day! Our Buddha arrived safely ( weighing 3tonnes not 2 tonnes!). But doesn’t he look great?

Mudras

Images of the Buddha were produced from the fifth century onwards. The sacred nature of the representation is reflected in the artistic goal of creating an aura of equanimity, perfection, and holiness. The large number of rules governing the execution of a portrayal or a statue require an erudite understanding of Buddhist symbolism. Any Buddha figure made by a skilled artist exhibits a multitude of characteristics that communicate subtle meanings and intentions to the viewer.

About Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama
ca. 563 – ca. 483 BC

Siddhartha Gautama lived in the present-day border area between India and Nepal in the 6th century before Christ; his exact birth date is unknown. Because the life of the historical Buddha is inseparable from legend, the following text is not meant to be a historically exact biography, but a short life story based on what has been passed down by generations.

563 BC – Birth

Siddhartha Gautama is born in Lumbini, near the Nepalese-Indian border to his father, King Suddhodana, ruler of the Sakya tribe, and his mother, Queen Mayadevi. The father gives his son the name of Siddhartha (=the one who obtains success and prosperity), his second name is Gautama (=name of the clan).

Seers predict that Siddhartha will either become a Universal Monarch or a Buddha. Asita, the wisest of the seers, is sure that he will become a Buddha (=one who has supreme knowledge). His mother dies seven days after the birth.

563-547 BC

Siddhartha spends his childhood in the palace of his father at Kapilavastu, Southern Nepal, where he is raised by his aunt Mahaprajapati until the age of seven. In his early childhood, during a ploughing ceremony, Siddhartha makes his first unprecedented spiritual experience, where in the course of meditation he develops the first jhana (=meditative absorption) through concentration.

As a young boy he learns the skills of a warrior, including the technical and athletic skills of man-to-man fight. Siddhartha is trained in spiritual disciplines and becomes proficient in the art of archery.

547 BC

At the early age of sixteen, he marries his beautiful cousin Princess Yasodhara, who is of equal age.

547-533 BC

The young prince spends thirteen more years together with his wife in the royal court of his father. Three palaces are built for him, one for the cold season, one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season. Siddhartha enjoys the lavish court life while his father is trying to screen him from all troubles and worries. A son is born while Siddhartha is in his late twenties.

533 BC – The Four Sights

Despite of the amenities of life, Siddhartha is not satisfied with the mere enjoyment of fleeting pleasures due to his inquiring and contemplative nature. One day, he leaves the palace for an excursion and there he encounters what so far has been purposely veiled from him:

He sees a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse being cremated, and a sadhu (=holy man, hermit). Siddhartha realises that there is old age, sickness, and death, and that people ultimately have little control over their lives. The fourth sight provides the inspiration that leads to a dramatic change in his life.

533 BC – The Renunciation

In the night of his 29th birthday, Siddhartha gives up his life as a prince and secretly leaves the court while everyone is asleep. He travels far and crosses the river Anoma, where he shaves his hair and hands over his princely garments to his groom Channa, with instructions to return them to the palace.

533-528 BC

The Bodhisattva (=future Buddha), who once lived in luxury, becomes a penniless and homeless wanderer. He leads a life of self-mortification and spiritual study, becomes first a disciple of several then famous Brahman teachers, and later attracts his own disciples.

After a long and exhausting period of searching and self-mortification, he finally becomes disillusioned with the Indian caste system, Hindu asceticism, and the religious doctrines of his time. He gives up the ascetic life and loses all of his disciples as a result. Nevertheless, he continues his search for truth through the practice of meditation.

April/May 528 BC – Enlightenment

While meditating under a Bodhi tree in Bodh-Gaya, south of Gaya in the state of Bihar, India, the Bodhisattva experiences the Great Enlightenment, which reveals to him the way of salvation from suffering. He spends seven weeks meditating in the vicinity of the site of the Bodhi tree and attains the status of a fully realised Buddha at the age of 35.

June/July 528 BC – First Sermon

Buddha finds his former five disciples in Benares. In his first sermon he teaches them what will become the gist of Buddhism. Upon hearing it, one of the disciples instantly attains the status of an arhat (=one with enlightened wisdom). This event marks the beginning of the Buddhist teaching and his disciples become the first five members of the sangha (=Buddhist order).

528-527 BC

During a short period of time, Buddha establishes a great reputation in western Hindustan by converting thousands of people to the dhamma (=the Buddhist teaching). People hear the dhamma delivered either by himself, or by the monks of his order. During this time he delivers the fire sermon.

March 527 BC

The Buddha briefly returns to the palace of his father to convert the royal family and ordains many of the Sakya tribe.

523 BC

Four years later Siddhartha’s father, King Suddhodana, dies. Buddha returns to the palace and Mahaprajapati, where Buddha’s aunt -upon meeting Buddha- becomes the first woman to ordain, despite of the protest of some contemporaries. From this moment on women were admitted to the sangha. According to Indian tradition, however, they were separated and under the authority of male monks.

523-483 BC

In the 45 years following his enlightenment, Buddha travels around Northern India to teach the tenets of Buddhism. He is extremely successful and attracts first thousands, then ten thousands, and later hundred thousands of people from all walks of life, who voluntarily decide to follow his teachings, the dhamma. During the monsoon, when travelling becomes difficult due to the weather, Buddha and his close followers interrupt their journey. During these month, monks, as well as laypeople, receive the teachings at a site selected for retreat. One such site is Sravasti in Nepal, which has become very famous since then.

Buddha’s success does not only attract admirers, but also provokes envy and ill will. Several attempts are made on his life, but all of them fail. Although he is being criticised and defamed, this does not affect the popularity of his teaching.

483 BC – Buddha passes into Nirvana

Having achieved the goal of spreading the teaching to the greatest number of people, Buddha dies at the age of eighty years, as a result of food poisoning. He dies in a forest near Kusinagara, Nepal, in the company of his followers reclining on a bed where he speaks his last words: “All compounded things are ephemeral; work diligently on your salvation.” With these words on his lips, he passes into the state of Nirvana.

About Buddhism

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist master)

The Spirit Of Cooking

I was once on holiday in Goa, India and went to a cashew nut factory. We toured through the factory and had each process explained to us. We heard how the nuts are first removed from the shell by smashing each one manually, and that the oil around the nut is so toxic that it burns the hands of the workers, so they rub coconut oil/grease on their hands as a barrier. The whole nuts that emerge from the shell are sorted away from the broken ones; whole ones are more valuable, so each smash of the anvil makes a difference to the pay. All day long the women and workers squat on their haunches breaking and peeling and sorting the nuts in a dark and hot, and dusty building. Mountains of cashew nuts are piled in heaps, beautiful in colour and texture, the smell of roasting nuts filled the air, and I am mesmerised. I am jolted from my blissful trance when I focus on the workers, I feel their suffering, their poor aching limbs, and the desperation of their lives hits me. They smile with black or toothless grins as we stop to watch them, they are covered in dirt and wear ragged cloth on their bony limbs, but they do not stop working, clamping each nut, peeling and shelling, then discovering its worth. Their hands are black and greasy from the coconut oil; blisters show where the barrier didn’t cover the skin but each one I am told is grateful and happy to have such a good job. I wonder to myself if this can be true.
Since that experience I have never once eaten cashew nuts, especially whole ones, without thinking of those workers and that factory in Goa. Knowing where ingredients come from and how it got to be here in a bag in a supermarket near me, fascinates me and gives me a fuller understanding of how the world goes round and how the people in the world live and work.
That’s what gives meaning to the food I prepare.

Claire Fuller

Big Buddha Comes To Stirling

Exciting culinary things are happening in Stirling at the moment with the soon to be open Sticky Rice Cooking School. Extensive work has been going on at 96 Old Mt Barker Road to renovate and refurbish the old 1940’s deli and residence into a brand new state of the art hands on cooking school.

Local owners Claire and Mark Fuller have committed a huge investment into the once run down premises, and day by day new life is being breathed into the place with the installation of huge bi-fold windows, oversized entrance doors and a gigantic 2.1 m lava stone Buddha weighing 2 tonnes which has been imported specifically for the cooking school by Iki Furniture at Aldgate and which is due to be crane lifted in to place in early Sep.

Be Celeng Base Manis (Pork in Sweet Soya Sauce)

This is a perfect Indonesian dish to wow your friends at a dinner party. It’s rich and sticky and best served with a green veg steamed or stir fried and plain rice.
Technique Tips
It can be made in advance and in fact requires long slow cooking and cooling which enhances the flavour. Use a wide top pan so that you achieve the reduction of the liquid each time you heat and cool the contents and never cover the pan. Use second grade pork like neck or shoulder not the lean cuts which will dry out during the long cooking time. The key is to add the liquid gradually throughout the process so never cook in one go if you want to achieve the best results. I was taught to cook this in an outdoor kitchen in Bali at the Bumbu Bali Cooking School where we cooked up almost 12 recipes in a day! Next time you visit Bali, I recommend a days cooking there, you will certainly learn from the best.
Ingredients
2 tbls Coconut Oil- this is available in jars from the Asian supermarket
5 shallots , peeled and sliced
5 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
600g boneless pork leg , shoulder or neck cut into 2cm cubes
8cm Ginger peeled and sliced
4 tbls Kepas Manis- (Sweet soya Sauce) ABC brand is best.
2 tbls Dark Soya Sauce
1 tsp Black peppercorns
2 cups Chicken Stock
6-10 birds eye chillies left whole
Preparation
1.    Heat coconut oil in a heavy wide top saucepan. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 min over medium heat or until lightly coloured.
2.    Add pork and ginger, continue to sauté for 2 more mins over high heat. Add sweet and salty soya sauce and crushed black pepper, continue to sauté for 1 min.
3.    Pour in a little of the chicken stock , add the chillies and simmer over med heat for aprox 1 hour in total, but allow to cool down and stop cooking twice during this process and top up with chicken stock out of the allowance each time.
4.    When cooked there should be very little sauce left and the meat should be shiny and dark brown. If the meat becomes too dry during cooking, add a little chicken stock.

Balinese Spiced Chicken

500g Chicken thigh meat
1 tbls peanut oil
3 Asian shallots sliced thinly
1 Garlic clove chopped finely

Pounded Spices
5 thin slices galangal
2 tsps chopped coriander roots and stalk
1/4 tsp cumin powder
3 pieces candlenuts
½ tsp white pepper

400ml coconut cream
½ tsp dried turmeric
1-2 tbls grated palm sugar
½ tsp Asian chicken stock powder
1 tsp green curry paste
2 small red/green chillies sliced
3 potatoes peeled and cut into pieces
2 salam leaves
¼ tsp dried nutmeg powder
1 clove

Using a pestle and mortar pound the candlenuts, galangal, coriander, cumin and white pepper into a smooth paste.

In a wok, heat the oil and fry the garlic and Asian shallots until golden. Add the spice mixture and fry until fragrant 1-2 minutes.
Add the chicken and coat with the spices until sealed. Add the potatoes and mix through and cook for 3-5 minutes until fragrant.
Add the coconut cream, and all other ingredients and stir through gently until well incorporated.
Leave to cook for 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened slightly.
If the curry gets too dry during cooking, you can add small quantities of milk, coconut milk or water.
Serve with Asian Roti bread and steamed jasmine rice.

Adelaide Cooking Classes

An exciting new culinary experience is opening in the Adelaide Hills for lovers of Asian Cooking and Travel.

The Sticky Rice Cooking School is due to open in November 2008 for ‘real’ hands-on cooking classes  in challenging cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Burmese, Nepalese, Laos, Malaysian, Indonesian, Cambodian, Japanese, Moroccan and Lebanese.

Expert instruction is provided by local and visiting chefs who will take you on a fun and entertaining food journey. You will be shown the finer points of how to create great Asian cuisine for yourself and you are guaranteed to take away a wealth of knowledge about the ingredients and cultural background of the food.

Chefs in 2008 include Kelly Lord from the famous Spirit House restaurant and cooking school in Yandina and internationally known master of Indian and vegetarian cuisine Kurma Dasa who has recently been screened on SBS and Foxtel.

Classes will suit competent cooks, work and friendship groups and travellers who have had their taste buds awakened overseas and want to learn how to create authentic and classic Asian dishes at home.

Classes are held weekdays, weekends, and evenings and run for approximately four hours. Your visit includes time to dine on the delicious food and complimentary wine, stock up at the cook-shop and browse the antiques and gifts for sale.

Chef lead Food Tours to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos are also available for the passionate traveller.

The Sticky Rice newsletter contains details of up-coming classes, chef profiles, recipes and how to find the cooking school and make an online booking.
If you would like to receive the Launch Edition of the Sticky Rice Newsletter you can register your details via the newsletterlink on the front page.

How to season your wok

So you’ve got a nice shiny new wok, time to fine tune it into a precision cooking tool. First of all, wash out the machine oil, get some rock salt, turn your gas up high and cook the salt. Get it smoking, stir the salt around, we want to get the salt into the fine cracks and grooves.

After 10 minutes or so, dump the salt and pour in some cooking oil. Carefully swish the oil around or use a paper towel to smear the oil all over the inner surface. Get it smoking,

Turn off the heat, wipe out the excess oil with a paper towel and allow to cool. Store it as ususal.

Now here’s the key. When you’ve finished cooking with your wok, don’t scrub it clean back to bare metal. Just lightly wash it, scrub off any crusty bits. Dry your wok, put it on a gas jet on high until the water has evaporated. Pour in a small amount of oil and rub it around your wok, remove from heat, allow to cool and store it as usual.

That’s it. This will ensure that your food takes on a nice ‘woky’ flavour.