A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THESE THAI RECIPES
Colonel Ian Philpott was a prolific contributor to the Chile-Heads mailing list. "The Colonel" had written down the traditional Thai recipes made by his wife, Muoi Khuntilanont, and then added his own commentary in his own indomitable style. Muoi worked in a Thai restaurant Manchester, New Hampshire for many years back in the late 1990's. I'm not quite sure how she came to the USA and landed there, but it it was lucky for those who had a chance to enjoy her food! She returned to Thailand some time just before her husbands death.
Ian was a goodcooking.com user and sent me his wife's collection of recipes to post on the website. "The Colonel" sadly died in 1998.
As he said of his wife Muoi Khuntilanont:
The quantities are approximate: my wife is a professional chef and measures quantities in pinches, small and large piles on the palm of her hand and handsful, rather than neat teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. However experimenting with her measures I have converted them to more meaningful quantities. But as always if you like a spice you can use more, if you don't you can use less. Temperatures and times are approximate: Thai charcoal braziers don't have thermostats, and few Thai chefs use a clock - the food is cooked when you are happy with the result.
Several recipes, especially stir fry recipes call for adding ingredients to hot oil in a wok or pan. I strongly advise the use of some sort of eye-protection, as whatever damage hot oil can cause if it "spits" it will [appear] much worse if backed by the chemical fire of chillis.
Was the Colonel a real colonel in the Thai Army? This is yet to be researched!
3 tips (8/7/96)
Not a recipe, but I am frequently asked the questions that led to these three "hintlets"
1: Thai food and fat [cholesterol]
coconut milk is a vegetable product, and cholesterol is an animal fat. Hence, I told, there is actually no cholesterol in coconut milk. There is however a lot of fat. (We seem, as a culture, to have reached the point of saying "cholesterol" when we mean fat). If fat is an issue with you, then I suggest you "cut" the coconut milk with stock. Thus if you are making a pork curry, mix two parts of good pork stock with one part of coconut milk, and use the mixture in place of the pure coconut milk specified in the recipe.
2: Thai food and salt
Salt, as such, virtually never appears as an ingredient in a Thai dish (it is occasionally added to fruit juices and effervescent soft drinks, but that is as a replacement for salt lost in perspiration in our tropical climate). There is however quite a lot of salt in fish sauce. If sodium in the diet is a problem, then I suggest you replace fish sauce by a good quality low sodium soy sauce.
3: The wok, and cooking styles.
There is nothing magical about a wok: it is a low tech solution to the cooking needs of the region. True 95% of Thai households own at least one, and probably 95% of all cooking is done with a wok (and a rice cooker). But Thailand is a third world country: the wok that sells for 300 baht or so in the market ($12) is costing - when you allow for the difference in wage levels and costs of living - roughly the equivalent of a pan costing $200 in America. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the poor families of rural Thailand optimise the use of their pan.
But a wok is only a frying pan, with a curved base suitable for high heat over unregulated high pressure gas cookers or charcoal braziers. You might just as easily use a modern high tech, non stick deep sided flat bottomed saute pan. Indeed one of my wife's favorite pans is a Farberware sautee pan: 40 cm in diameter, 8cm deep and very effective.
However Thais cook at high temperatures (certainly higher than electric woks), and at these temperatures little oil is absorbed by the food. Also the design of the wok means you need very little oil to start with.
However I would add two comments: in many cases in a non-stick pan, you need little or no oil, and in many cases you can replace "stir fry" by "stir poach" in which you use a little water or stock as the medium in which you stir cook the food.
In 95% of cases you won't notice the difference, except perhaps that the food will have a cleaner purer taste, and be less oily (it doesn't work for belly pork though...)
Don't let the rich peasant nature of the food put you off: try it, experiment, be bold, and above all else