Can you cook Thai food?

Upon learning that I am half-Thai, folks want to know, “Can you cook Thai food?” When I was younger, the answer was no. As in why on God’s green and blue earth would I want to? My mom can cook wonderfully though, thank you.

As I got older, I became annoyed by my mom’s badgering.

“She can cook Thai food.”

We were at another Thai temple/fundraising/holiday function. The girl in question had her head down, dutifully cooking.

I wondered if I should feel competitive towards her. I think at the time I just wanted to hate her.

“That’s nice.” I said while I scanned the horizon for something to eat.

But eventually I did cave. While I was in college, I realized that I missed my mom’s cooking (and Hawaii’s amazing diverse Asian cuisine). So I learned to cook from cookbooks, then websites, and magazines.

In our old kitchen in Lamphun, Thailand, 2007

My brother gave me a Northern Thai cookbook many moons ago. He was much more culinary than I ever was. I attempted a few stir fry dishes from the book and was successful. Then I looked more carefully at who the author was because he obviously knew what he was doing. When I flipped through the colored pages, I also recognized that this was food my mom made or ate. Larry chose the book well.

And then, I called my mom and asked her how to make Thai red curry. Of course, I tried to visualize it first, like recalling memories that happen so often you forget the details. Then I tried it and I continued to play with the recipe for years. I would vary how much curry paste or coconut milk to put in. In the States, Thai basil was hard to come by so Italian basil had to do. I did vegetarian versions often and I began to experiment with sweet flavors in the spicy sauce.

Baking is so much more fun. (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014)

But if I’m honest I felt more proud when I pulled off a French Silk Pie or created my own pie dough from scratch. It was much more fun to learn to bake and become a pretend expert baker having never grown up with baking in my own family. My mom used the oven to store pots and pans and maybe once a year roast a turkey in it.

I appreciated the warmth the oven gave off in cool Colorado or Oregon winters. Betty Crocker became a friend that I could trust. I felt American when that was not something I was consciously aspiring to.

Is it true that we’re attracted to what is different?

Kanom jeen or pork dumplings with crispy garlic (Chiang Rai, 2014)

When we were in California, at a Thai restaurant in Oceanside, I remember when my then-BF asked the waitress how she made such a great sauce for the eggplant and minced pork dish. She brought out the cook and so he asked her how the dish was made. The cook stared at him and back at me, confused.

Then she pointedly said to me. “Don’t you know how to make it?”

Feeling put on the spot and a little ashamed, I responded, “I could probably figure it out.”

Somehow I manage to fail as a Thai person to both sides of the spectrum.

When I moved to Thailand it seemed ridiculous to cook Thai food at home when cheap, quick, and tasty Thai dishes were ubiquitous.  I began to appreciate that certain places only served particular foods, like khao soi, Pad thai, or noodle soup. Food is also regional which I think we have a tendency to forget.

Besides it’s a rare bird that can cook everything well. Usually, we gravitate towards a particular set or menu anyway, whether it’s stir fry dishes with rice or noodle dishes.

I can think of many friends who complained of having the same foods rotated throughout the week: Sunday leftovers, spaghetti on Wednesday, and meatloaf Fridays, and so on.

Interestingly, when it came to Thai, I cooked stir fry dishes with rice or curry. I love hot rice. I’m a little odd this way as many Thais prefer noodles.  I think they have gotten sick of rice because they have it all the time, sort of like bananas, lots of Thais hate bananas, too.

Luckily I’m with someone who can eat both Thai and Western food. I say this because some expats prefer to eat their own food more often than the local fare. I grew up with both, so I’m not one of those people who say, “I never feel full when I eat rice” or “I could never eat just bread and potatoes”.

 

Do you cook? What do you like to make?

22 thoughts on “Can you cook Thai food?

    1. We need to be in the hi-tech future where we can insta send hot fresh delicious food to each other by ??? air waves or transporter 😛 because I’d like to try some SA food too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It was interesting to hear the chef come out and ask why you don’t know how to make the sauce and the eggplant pork mince dish. Some of us think that food is an essential part of our identity and so we need to learn to cook and love certain foods. On the other hand, we really are entitled to cook what we like – or not cook – and eat what we want. I’m like you. I eat both Asian and Western food. Some days I’d prefer one or the other or maybe some kind of fusion food, but generally I eat widely. When I cook I like to cook simple – boiling or a simple stir fry is usually what I go for. One of my favourite kinds of sauces is oyster sauce and it can come out sweet or savoury depending on what condiments you mix it with, and I find it goes well with most meat and vegetable stir fries 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there’s a story I tell about college days where I cook fried rice or stir fried chicken and because I use oyster sauce all my friends thought it was amazing. Hahahaha. I wasn’t even a good cook then.

      Well, the boyfriend was asking how to make the dish, so the waitress had the cook come out of the kitchen. And once the woman saw me she asked why I didn’t know. It’s part of the assumptions we have about one another. She was Thai, btw. But I’m so over being embarrassed or ashamed over what I’m “supposed” to do or be.

      You bring up a good point though, food is very much part of our identity – or it can be. And this is why I find the topic so fascinating. Even the assumption that women should know how to cook or they are considered “less” is thrown into the mix as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. To this day I dislike mashed potatoes because my mom made them literally almost every day. Meat, vegetable, mashed potatoes. Every time. Gah. I can make them sure. But I wouldn’t eat them. Now, I do eat them sometimes. But if I were to ever make them, I would vary the recipe. Leave some skin on, add some cheese, add some green, anything to mix it up, please!

    I loved her spaghetti though. And her lentil soup. And this cucumber and sour cream dish. I learned how to make them all too. Because yum. Those were by choice, the mashed potatoes were not, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahhaa. That’s interesting. You got me wondering if there was anything my mom made that I didn’t ever want to eat again. Hmmm. I don’t think so.

      But you are not alone! I think my BF has tuna sandwich trauma because his mom used to put a lot of mustard in it – and he likes mustard!

      Like

  3. I think it’s important to learn to cook because it allows you to eat healthier and cheaper than what you get in restaurants. That said, I never had much of a interest when I was growing up and I really don’t know how I survived college, haha. I think I lived on bagged salads, pasta, eggs, and little else… Now I can make some more things hehe, but I need to step up my game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up a good point. When you do eat out all the time, you can’t control portions as easily or what’s put in it.

      But I do know of a family that ate out all the time. They either didn’t know how to cook or didn’t have any inclination to learn. I can’t help but wonder what that does to the body and mind b/c it’s not like they ate salads from McDonalds, if you know what I mean.

      I’ve enjoyed the cooking journey, and I’m looking forward to continuing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my favorite things to cook is eggs mixed with spices, cheese, mushrooms, etc. They’re versatile and one of my favorite foods. I do really like rice too and our homemade chicken soup. My husband loves Thai food, but I always have to be careful because of my peanut allergy. I do love that as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to try more authentic cuisine because there are so many delicious foods out there! Now I want to travel and go on a food expedition🤤.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Eggs are great for that. I miss having a burner, but one day I’ll have a proper kitchen again.

      Asian food can be great for those with wheat allergies, but then you discover how much other stuff goes into Asian cooking!

      I’m fairly certain if folks went on world food tour – we could bring out world peace 🙂

      Like

  5. Generally I like what I cook but I do get into a rut of stir fried variations or steamed meat variation…so this when Western dish comes in handy. Like tonight a prosciutto, avocado, buffalo mozzarella and tomato sandwich.

    Tomorrow it’s shanghai choy and noodles at home.

    I generally have adopted a few of my mother’s recipes since university. At the time of studying and reading, I found cooking for myself therapeutic. So I rarely resented my mother’s teaching efforts. No, I’ve never made dumplings/dim sim. Too complicated…or maybe I’ll miss it when mother dies.

    Of course having a partner raised differently has provided a few simple recipes in my head.

    I do consider cooking my mother’s recipes, some of them, are comfort food to me….and a direct link to family heritage for real.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, now that I’m much older I appreciate what my mom was trying to do. I also look back and see how much of her advice rang true. But at the time, ah, youth, I didn’t care! Ha!

      These days I really enjoy living in a country that has affordable great food and an abundance of local produce. It helps balance out the fact that I’m cooking primarily from a slow cooker! Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know almost nothing about Thai food except for the little I’ve eaten in restaurants and even then I question if what I ate was authentic Thai food. I’m Chinese but I cannot cook many savory Chinese dishes. It probably has to do with my simple tastes and my lack of motivation to learn difficult dishes. I do eat white rice as a regular staple. Interestingly, the brand my family and I like best is Jasmine rice from Thailand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a Japanese rice girl myself. 😛 I just love it. I’m sure it’s the ‘worst’ kind because it tastes sooo good. I could eat a bowl plain. Hahahaha.

      Yes, I’m so curious to go to China and taste authentic and real Chinese food. I’m sure I’ve had some dishes very close to the real thing in Thailand and from my mom, but I want to chomp down in the Motherland!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, I’ve never had Japanese rice before. I should try it one day to see what it’s like. I also enjoy Korean rice because it is more glutinous when cooked. The rice tends to stick together more and is wetter. Some people might find it hard to eat, lol, like my mom who prefers rice that is cooked but drier so the rice grains don’t clump together.

        Eating a whole bowl of rice plain reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents were trying to teach me how to eat rice with side dishes. My mom would put a little soy sauce in my rice so it would taste more appealing to me. I did not conform very well to the expectation I was supposed to finish an entire full (sometimes over full) bowl of rice. It was always too much for me. Now as an adult I am glad to be able to choose for myself how much rice is enough for me during a meal.

        I haven’t been to China and/or eaten the cuisine there either. There are so many varieties, I imagine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It sounds like Korean rice is very similar to Japanese rice. I used to douse my rice with soy. I think I always ate it that way.

        I’ve since gotten out of the habit since I eat mostly Thai or Japanese food and it’s simply not necessary. But I am a sodium addict. I love salty foods!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE Thai food. Yummo! I love eating it. I know I wouldn’t have the patience/skill to make it myself. I’m so thankful for the people that have been blessed with the ability to create these delicious dishes. Yummo x2!!! ☺️🌹👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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