When I was in Thailand two and a half years ago, I took a cooking class at one of the many cooking schools geared for tourists. The class started the morning in the market, where the instructor helpfully pointed out all the different fruits and vegetables while my fellow classmates and I gawked (or gagged, depending on the person) over animal carcasses. We then headed to the kitchen, where we were paired up with a partner and set to work on four different dishes.
My partner was a delightful French girl who felt the exact same way about measuring stuff as I did: she didn’t much care for it. We ended up with a green chicken curry that neither of us could eat (too many chili peppers) and a massaman curry that was out of this world (if I do say so myself).
I remember furiously writing down lists of ingredients and step-by-step instructions on how to make each dish while in the class. Even as I was writing the notes, I knew in my heart there was no way I was ever going to be whipping up any of those dishes in my kitchen in Japan. First of all, I’m not really a whip-things-up kind of girl. I’m more of a “order things up”or “microwave things up” kind of girl.
When I do cook, I aim to use as few steps, ingredients and dishes as humanly possible and still end up with a meal that’s edible (to some degree). If I can cook an entire meal by throwing everything into one pot and letting it simmer for thirty minutes, then this is a success. If I can eat the meal out of the same pot, well, then, I deserve a medal (or at least a break from all this cooking… sheez!).
The recipe for beef massaman curry lists fifteen ingredients and eight steps. That’s about twelve more ingredients and seven more steps than I’d care to deal with. Besides, Thai food recipes call for things like kaffir lime, tamarind paste, fish sauce and coconut milk. I had a hard enough time buying regular milk in Japan. (One time I accidentally bought something called “milk water” at the convenience store; it turned out to be neither milk nor water To this day I still have no idea what it was.) Needless to say, my foray into Thai cooking was short-lived (approximately five hours); which was just a bit longer than my foray into Japanese cooking. (Never happened. Do you realize how many dishes the average Japanese meal uses?! I’ve had meals served to me in forty-two different dishes… and that’s just the first course!).
Now that I’m in rural Northern Thailand for the next two months, I’m far far away from the convenience of microwave dinners and pizza delivery. I’m also pretty far away from any shop selling ingredients I can actually recognize. But, seeing as I have some time on my hands and ready access to fun things like fish sauce, I figure now is a good time to learn how to make Thai food… or at least a good time to attempt to learn how to make Thai food.
Seeing as this is a big step for me, I thought I’d better start off with something I’m familiar with — really familiar with: pancakes! But not just any pancakes, true Thai-style pineapple pancakes. In Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, you can find these pancakes being whipped up for breakfast or dessert at guesthouses or cafes or even on the street corner. I ate a lot of pineapple pancakes on my first trip to Thailand. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any places around here that serve up pineapple pancakes… This might have to do with the fact that I usually don’t leave the house until two o’clock. This might also be due to the fact that Thai people don’t actually eat pancakes for breakfast; instead they tend to eat noodles or rice dishes or even curry. So maybe Thai-style pineapple pancakes are not really Thai-style, but more like what-Thai-people-make-for-wussy-foreigners-who-can’t-stomach-curry-at-8-AM-style. But, hey, that’s still Thai… kind of.
First, I started things off the traditional Thai way: with pancake mix. Scoff if you will, but I was informed that this was extra special Thai pancake mix by an actual Thai person. The package even had fancy Thai writing on it (followed by the fancy helpful English writing).
After pouring the mix into pancake-size dollops on to the skillet, I added some sliced pineapple on top. Luckily, I happen to be living in a very famous pineapple-growing region in Thailand, so pineapple is pretty easy to come by. Heck, pineapple is a tourist attraction in these parts! According to the roadside tourist map below, pineapples can be found mere blocks from other important tourist attractions such as the hut, the double hut and the hut with a church attached! So maybe when you come to visit me (as I know you’ve been dying to do), you could pick up a pineapple or two for the people back home… and maybe check out one of the fun tourist attraction huts. Doesn’t that sound like fun?!
After adding the pineapple, I sprinkled the pancakes with a little coarse brown sugar for some texture (and because it’s sugar… and sugar is like bacon: it makes everything better!). Once they were finished cooking, I served them topped with bananas and honey. I then sat back, enjoyed my breakfast and thought about what authentic Thai food I’d try to cook next.
Hmmm, I bet there’s some kind of authentic Thai brownie mix out there.