After the winter season wrapped up in Hakuba and seeing a world champion sumo match in Osaka it was time to say goodbye to beautiful Japan and hello to hot and sunny Thailand! Since we landed in this amazing country we have been in awe of the kindness and love this country exudes. I play this game when I travel while walking down the street, I smile at people – and see how many people smile back. It’s not an over-the-top smile, just a soft happy smile. To my surprise, this is by far the happiest and smiley-ist country I have ever been to. No matter what a Thai person is doing they will always smile back, huge and joyful- I have now learned it’s called the Thai Smile.
The next greatest thing here is the food, oh my god the food! Vibrant fruits, smoothies, spicy soups, noodle bowls, satays. I mean summer food can’t get much better. Food heaven. So I set out to learn how to make some Thai dishes in a cooking class (surprised?). I teach cooking classes when in Fernie, so I thought lets support the local community and dive into a small town class. We were in the north of Thailand in a little town called Pai, very laid back and nestled in the mountains. Pai is the ultimate chill out, read a book, go for a hike, mountain bike, learn muay thai boxing and eat good food kind of place. It was my Thai-Fernie away from Fernie.
The tiny cooking class started in the afternoon. This local lady, our chef, didn’t have her driver’s license so instead of her walking to the market I offered to come early and drive her on the back of my scooter. I secretly wanted in on the local market and she happily agreed. Here I was with a nervous little Thai women clutching me as we drove into town to the afternoon market. There are three markets each day in this town, a morning, afternoon and night market. The morning market is more commercial produce and meats that have driven far distances. The afternoon market is only food grown or raised in the community and the night market is local vendors selling street food and goods. Naturally this little Thai chef chooses to support her community and so this brought us to the sweltering hot entrance of the afternoon market.
If you are anything like me and want to know what every strange looking foreign food is, this was the place. You could pass a stand with fresh tamarind– a long brown bean pod with sticky and tart date-like brown seeds and then right next to the tamarind stand is a lovely elderly lady selling ant eggs wrapped in banana leaf. Yes, after a few deep breaths I tried ant eggs…when in Thailand right!? We went from stall to stall, each having their own specialty, and gathered the ingredients we needed. I had no idea you could buy fresh rice noodles (like you can pasta) which requires only stir-frying and no boiling, mind blown. There were a few stands here I understood why us foreigners get upset stomachs from the food. After working in the food industry in Canada where cross-contamination is avoided at all cost, then here I was watching a lovely lady handle raw chicken, then without washing her hands go straight for the tofu and then give you change with one hand while wiping her forehead with the other. But like I said, When in Thailand!
We returned with all the ingredients in tow, a tricky endeavor as these scooters are small. Among the super tasty recipes we made, this is one of them with a few twists. You can easily add more vegetables like finely grated carrots or use spiral sliced vegetables as the noodles. Bring some of Thailand’s flavour into your kitchen and hopefully bring the summer sun to Fernie.
Authentic Healthy Pad Thai
- 300-350g of thick rice noodles (you could use zucchini noodles too)
- 1 knob of ghee or coconut oil
- 1 package of organic chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch peices
- 1/2 block of firm tofu, diced small
- 2 local eggs
- 1½ Tbsp + 1½ Tbsp coconut oil or sesame oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup green onion, chopped
- 3 cups bean sprouts, for garnish
- 3-4 large leaves of kale thinly sliced
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- ¼ cup crushed peanuts or salted cashews
- 1/4 cup chicken/vegetable or bone broth
- 3 Tbsp coconut sugar or raw cane sugar
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 1 1/2 Tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp chili sauce (I used sambal oelek)
- In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients and whisk together. Cut up tofu and place in bowl to marinate, toss until evenly coated.
- Prep chicken, garlic, green onions, kale and lime wedges.
- Place a large pot of water to boil on stove.
- In a sauce pan over medium heat melt ghee, add garlic and chicken. Once chicken in cooked through, move chicken to the side of the pan and crack egg and scramble. Once eggs are cooked though add sauce, tofu and kale. Reduce heat to low when sauce and tofu are heated though.
- Once water is boiling, cook rice noodles according to package instructions (usually only 3 minutes), drain and add to sauce pan. Stir and coat noodles in sauce.
- Transfer to serving plates and top with a handful of bean sprouts for each plate, crushed peanuts and squeeze fresh lime juice on just before eating.