Khao sawy a.k.a. Chiang Mai Noodles a.k.a. Yum!

March 31, 2008 at 1:15 pm (food, recipes)

khao sawy in Chiang MaiIn Thailand, especially in Northern Thailand and around Chiang Mai, we ate these yummy noodles in a red/yellow curry soup (see photo on left). I don’t really see this dish in Thai restaurants in the U.S. and I don’t know why. It seems like it would be a dish that would be quite popular here – it’s topped with fried noodles! (Apparently, Marnee Thai in the Sunset has khao sawy/Chiang Mai noodles during lunch, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else.)

Khao sawy that I cooked in classI cooked dinner for Christina and Ben last night – they did me a huge favor for me and I wanted to thank them. Since khao sawy is hard to find in restaurants, I figured that I’d make it for them. Plus, I made it in the cooking class that I took in Thailand (see photo on right), so I figured I wouldn’t be completely lost.

Other items on the menu:

  • jicama (not green papaya) saladgreen papaya salad but with jicama instead of green papaya (I forgot to add the peanuts – oops! I’m eating leftovers with peanuts added for lunch right now and it’s much better.)
  • coconut sticky rice with mango (the yellow/Philippine-type mangos that are grown in Mexico are really good now so go get some)
  • strawberry lemonadestrawberry lemonade (It’s not Thai, but it was quite refreshing. I threw some strawberries into a blender, added some lime juice and sugar, and then added it to Odwalla lemonade)

Here are the “tricky” ingredients that you’ll need. Except, it’s not actually that tricky and they’re easy to find, at least in California. The Ranch 99 in Daly city had everything. Sunset Super has pretty much everything except for the curry paste.

round and fat egg noodlesThe egg noodles that are used in Thailand are pretty flat. I bought these round and fat egg noodles (fresh, not dried) and it was a bit odd that they were so round, but it was still tasty. If you want to be more authentic, maybe you can try to find flatter egg noodles.

red curry pasteYou can find red curry paste in these little tubs in the non-refrigerated sections. They’re in a vacuum packed bag inside the tub so they don’t need to be refrigerated before opening, I guess. The red curry paste has all the ingredients that are in the curry paste we made in the class. But it also has quite a bit of salt. Since fish sauce is supposed to be used as the salty component, I had to cut back on the fish sauce so that the curry wasn’t too salty.

You actually mix Indian curry powder into the Thai red curry paste. Old school fusion cuisine. I just used whatever you find at regular grocery stores. My apartment smells really good now because of that whole mix of spices.

coconut, grated and frozenIn the class, we made coconut milk by squeezing freshly grated coconut milk in cheesecloth into water. Here, you can buy coconut milk in a can, frozen coconut milk, or frozen grated coconut that you squeeze yourself. I used frozen coconut milk that comes in a package like the one in the photo. But the photo is actually of frozen grated coconut. I’ll have to try squeezing that into milk some day. And maybe compare it to the frozen and canned coconut milk.

palm sugar candyThe only palm sugar that I found was palm sugar candy that I broke into pieces and dissolved into the curry. In Thailand, the palm sugar was a thick paste. The candy seems to be pretty much the same thing except with less moisture. You probably could just use regular sugar or brown sugar.

Here’s the recipe, from the cookbook from the cooking class and then modified a bit by me!

Ingredients (for 1 serving):

    • 150 g egg noodles (50 for deep frying and 100 for boiling)
    • 50 g chicken or tofu
    • Optional: vegetables (I used red bell peppers)
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1 tsp Indian curry powder
    • 1 tbsp red curry paste
    • 2 cups coconut milk
    • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce for vegetarians)
    • 1 tsp palm sugar
    • Garnishes: chopped green onion, chopped coriander leaf, chopped shallots, limes cut into eighths


      1. Deep fry the egg noodles (50 g) until they are golden. You don’t need to have the oil any deeper than about 1 inch because the noodles float up to the top as soon as you put them in the oil. And it only takes a few seconds to fry them to the right level, so keep a close eye on them and don’t let them get too brown.

      2. Boil the rest of the egg noodles (100 g).

      3. Mix the red curry paste with the Indian curry powder.

      4. In a wok, heat the oil over low heat. Add curry paste and stir continuously until fragrant.

      5. Add chicken and 1/4 cup of coconut milk and stir constantly until chicken is cooked. If you want to add any vegetables, add them in at this point as well.

      6. Add the remaining coconut milk (you can adjust this amount to your taste).

      7. Add fish sauce and palm sugar (also to taste)

      8. To serve, place boiled noodles in bowl. Pour curry over the noodles and top with the deep fried egg noodles. Serve with the lime, shallots, cilantro, and green onions.

      Here’s the final product! khao sawy - final product


      Permalink 1 Comment

      Question about sharing reviews…

      March 27, 2008 at 6:17 pm (restaurants, review)

      I often have to wait a long time at some of my favorite restaurants. But I have also been recommending my favorite restaurants in pretty public ways, like on this blog. Should I stop publishing my recommendations for my favorite restaurants because that will lead to longer wait times for me? Or maybe I should continue making these recommendations to help keep these restaurants in business and available to me. Or maybe I should monitor how long I have to wait at a restaurant and use that to decide whether I publish a review.

      Of course, this assumes that my reviews are being read and actually have a significant impact on how many people go to restaurants.

      Then again, just yesterday, some people (a friend of mine has passed along my reviews to them; I had never met them before) said that they “worship the ground that I walk on” because they ate at a place that I had suggested. But then again, they were from DC, so maybe it’s not that hard to recommend SF restaurants that will please them?  It just has to be better than restaurants in DC?


      Permalink Leave a Comment

      Crayon Physics! I want to play this game!

      March 20, 2008 at 10:52 pm (games)

      Maybe you’ve seen it already. If you haven’t, you need to check it out. It’s such a simple basic concept, but the variations on top of that basic concept could be endless.

      Can you make springs? How about umbrellas and parachutes and balloons? Can you burn stuff? Heat or cool stuff? Can you draw things with different states of matter? Can you change the friction of surfaces? Can you coordinate the timing on multiple objects? How complex can your machinery get? Rube Goldberg complexity? Does this game have AI to figure out what to do with an object it’s never seen before? Or can you just apply the rules of physics and there’s no need for complex AI? And what if someone’s a bad artist – how closely does a drawing have to resemble a real thing before it’s recognized?

      Maybe I’ll have to play the game and try all these things out! There’s a demo version available, but you can only draw squares and nothing else.

      Update: Even the basic game is really addicting. It actually might be more fun because you have to make things work with only blocks. It’s better than Snood! But they only have a limited set of levels. 😦 But then again, now I’m free to go to sleep. If they had more levels, I probably wouldn’t have gone to sleep for a while…

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      If I had $200 for ingredients and tools for a reality tv cooking competition…

      March 19, 2008 at 8:38 pm (food)

      As I’m getting ready for tonight’s Top Chef episode, I’ll write up a post that I’ve been meaning to write since last week’s episode. This season, they’re allowing the “cheftestants” to bring and use $200 worth of ingredients and tools. I don’t think the items on my list would cost $200, but here’s what I’d bring:

      sourdough starter – I don’t have any starter going, but I’d have some if I were a serious chef and it would make awesome bread and I’d have to bring it with me. I wonder if any of the SF chefs brought that. People don’t really make bread on this show, probably because of the time constraints. But when they do have time they should make bread. Or they should be given more time so that they can do things that take a little bit more time.

      Mortar and Pestle, Thai...

      mortar and pestle – I’m talking about my big granite Thai mortar and pestle. Squishing and pounding gets more flavors out than slicing things with a food processor blade. Plus, I think it would be really intimidating to be pounding away while other chefs are cooking. One time when I was pounding away in my kitchen, the people who live upstairs came down to see what was going on and to make sure everything and everybody was okay. Or maybe they were just annoyed and came down to passively aggressively get me to stop.


      sticky rice steamer – Another Thai tool. Everyone loves sticky rice and this is a great tool for steaming the rice so it’s all evenly sticky and delicious.

      hazelnut paste – Ground hazelnuts and sugar. Yum! Even if I didn’t use it in the dishes that I cooked, I’d sneak little tastes to keep myself sane and energized.

      By the way, so far, I’m rooting for Jennifer from SF and Stephanie!

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      Reason #5 for topping cupcakes with ganache

      March 18, 2008 at 4:22 pm (food)

      You can make truffles with the leftover ganache! Just roll the ganache into balls and roll them in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, cinnamon, or any combination of these and other spices.  Then there are no leftovers because everyone eats the truffles up very quickly! Who wants to eat balls of whipped cream or balls of buttercream?

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      For people who like eye candy. And eye cupcakes.

      March 16, 2008 at 7:19 pm (food)

      These are photos of cupcakes that I made for our end-of-season volleyball celebration. It’s too bad that we didn’t win the championship this season because then maybe the cupcakes would be have been even more delicious. These 2nd place cupcakes have a light and fluffy cake (no egg yolks, only egg whites) filled with raspberry whipped cream and topped with raspberry chocolate ganache and a fresh raspberry.

      This is how they were filled. I wound up with a happy belly filled with cupcake middles.


      Here’s what they look like after they were assembled. I’m going to make more cupcakes with ganache on top. Why?

      1. Easy to make (heat cream and mix with chopped chocolate)
      2. Easy to decorate (no piping needed)
      3. You don’t wind up with a huge pile of frosting on top of your cupcake (I like a high cake to frosting ratio)
      4. It’s really tasty!

      raspbery ganache cupcakes

      Hoooooo! Next season, we’ll have a better outcome in the playoffs and we’ll have tastier cupcakes!

      Permalink 3 Comments

      How I picked a digital SLR body and lens

      March 13, 2008 at 11:16 am (photography)

      I’ve collected a bunch of advice from different sources and I think I’ve narrowed the choices down enough to make a decision about a digital SLR body and initial lens to purchase. Here’s a summary of the most influential information that I collected in case it helps anyone making a similar decision.

      Nikon and Canon have the most lenses available for their cameras. And I learned that you can rent very good lenses for a small fraction of the cost of buying one. So that’s very good for lenses that I’d only use occasionally or lenses that I wanted to try before buying. This makes the decision to switch to a dSLR much more palatable. But based on the availability of lenses, the field gets narrowed to only Nikon and Canon.

      One person told me that he decided on Nikon because he knew a lot of people who already have Nikon cameras and lenses and he could borrow lenses from them. I’m not in the same situation. Another person told me that she went with Canon because their products tend to be cheaper and she couldn’t tell any difference in quality. That’s probably the boat that I’m in.

      The most to-the-point advice I got online was from David Sifry. He suggested the Canon Digital Rebel XT 350D camera body (why do they have to have so many different parts to the name?) and a Canon 50 mm / f1.4 USM lens – good starting equipment that would still allow me to have very high image quality. The most compelling reason to get this setup is that it works well in low light situations and would allow me to get away from washing out my subjects with flash (camera has low noise at high ISO settings and lens has large maximum aperture).

      Canon 55 mm / f1.4 USM lensI also learned that many people use this lens for the large majority of their photos. So that reassures me that I’d get a lot of use out of this single lens. Another appealing feature of this lens is that it has autofocus, but I can also manually tweak the focus myself without switching entirely out of autofocus (full-time manual focusing). This lens is a prime lens (no zoom), which would give me a higher quality lens for less money. To get the same quality in a zoom lens, I’d have to pay a lot more money. So I’d rather zoom with my feet (it’s free!) than pay more money to be lazy. There will probably be situations where I can’t move my feet (cliffs, wedding ceremonies), but I can always crop photos later if I want. And I can also invest in additional lenses later (I’m guessing that my priorities would be wide-angle for landscapes and macro or lens extenders for macro shots, but we’ll see).

      I decided to look into the more recent version of the Canon Rebel XT, the XTi. Just to see if I thought that any of their features would be worthwhile (XTi is currently about $100 – $150 more expensive). Here are some links: Good evaluation of XT. Good evaluation of XTi. Good and thorough review of XTi that includes comparisons with XT, and also includes a nice table of the main differences.

      The most appealing improvements in the XTi:

      • Multi-pronged approach to fighting dust. This would make it easier to take good care of the camera and it would be really good for being able to change lenses with less worry while hiking or traveling.
      • Larger LCD
      • Better interface. I’m pretty good at getting used to interfaces, even when they’re not good. But I do enjoy a good interface. And if it makes taking pictures more efficient, sign me up!
      • Eye sensor to turn LCD off when you look through viewfinder. So you can setup your shots without the light from the LCD getting in the way! Clever!
      • (10 Mpixel resolution vs 8 Mpixel. The pros and cons of this improvement probably cancel each other out. It’ll help to be able to crop photos and still have enough resolution left. But it’ll make it more of a pain to upload and download them.)

      Canon Digital Rebel XTi 400D

      These are all features that I would take advantage of so I eventually decided to go with the XTi aka 400D. The extra cost may even payoff in the long run (dust control). Cannon has announced that there will be an even newer version – XSi aka 450D. (The main addition to this version is having a live view on the LCD. I don’t mind looking through the viewfinder so I don’t need this feature. ) But hopefully the release of this new model will cause the prices of the XTi aka 400D to go down soon. I was planning to wait a few months before purchasing everything, so the timing should be perfect.

      That’s the decision process that I went through, but if your situation is different from mine or you want more information, the Digital SLR Guide was very useful for guiding people through the camera selection process based on their photography personalities needs. It also has very good explanations of camera terminology.

      Hopefully, future posts will include photos from this new camera setup!  I’m so excited!

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      UCSF makes me look rich!

      March 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm (finances)

      I just did my taxes this afternoon. UCSF is reporting my income in a very strange way this year. On the W-2 form, I have $r as regular income. But that amount is less than the actual income that I earned ($a). They also report (on a 1098-T) that I’ve received $s in scholarship money and that I paid $t in tuition. But I don’t pay my tuition. It’s paid for me. The money from the scholarship that was used for tuition never went though my hands.

      So $r + $s – $t = $a. The numbers do add up properly. But for tax purposes, IRS and friends think that I’ve earned $r + $s which is greater than $a. The gist (especially for people who didn’t bother to follow the variables): I’ve been artificially pushed into a higher tax bracket!

      I calculated my taxes both ways (easy to do with TaxCut software): 1) the way it should be calculated based on the money that has actually gone into my pockets and 2) the way it’s being reported by UCSF. The tuition credit helps to keep this situation from being worse than it could be, but it’s not enough to make things even out. So the screwy way that UCSF is reporting my income is costing me $137!

      UCSF makes me look rich, but they actually make me poorer.

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      Pinnacles has started a photography fire in me

      March 10, 2008 at 10:19 pm (hiking, photography)

      There are a number of great hikes in the Bay Area, but I think a lot of them start to look the same after you’ve been on a few of them and covered the range of landscapes. So I thought that I had exhausted the geography and flora that the Bay Area has to offer. I was wrong! I went to Pinnacles National Monument near Hollister and had an awesome day of hiking! I went with a group of 8 people, all of them happy and funny and wonderful. We had such a great time that we all applauded after we emerged from our hike. The landscape is a little like parts of Arches National Park, but it’s got Californian vegetation. And they have caves, though they are actually more like crevices between rocks that have been filled with other rocks. The light filtered in between the rocks and it was a really beautiful and cool experience to walk through the caves a.k.a. crevices between rocks that have been filled with other rocks.

      Swedish Fish took this photo of
      (The Group – Swedish Fish + Some woman going down the hill):

      Speaking of light, I’ve been thinking more and more about investing in a digital SLR. There are a lot of photos that I would like to take, but I know they won’t come out because of the limitations of my camera – difficulties w/ low light, slow response time, etc.. I can control the aperture and exposure time, but that’s difficult to navigate through the menus. And the range that I can cover and the lens are still limiting – I can never get the depth of field that I’d like to get. A bunch of the happy, funny, wonderful people had digital SLRs and they seemed to be happily snapping away, and I kept wondering how much more I could do if I had different camera equipment. I found this website that has a buying guide for beginner digital SLR users… I wonder if it’s sound advice. It all seems reasonable, but the monetary investment would be so huge that I don’t want to make a decision lightly. I’ve determined that the camera body is not so important and the lens(es) that you use matter much more, but I have no idea what sort of lens(es) I’d need to cover the photography situations that I will encounter. Any words of wisdom out there for me?

      Here are some of the photos that I was able to take with my camera. I wish I could show you all the other photos that I was imagining. The theme of these photos is “Optical Illusions.”

      These are actually large rocks and a regularly sized tree. It would have been pretty disappointing to see a puny pile of rocks:high peaks

      Don’t they look like they’re really high up? They did do a good job getting up, but the height at which they appear to be in the photo is mostly from the camera angle:climbers

      This is a photo (taken by Swedish Fish) of me and Laughing Ophthalmologist, who does not usually tower over me like this. Also, notice how she has a huge smile on her face. Maybe it’s because her digital SLR gives the illusion of a huge smile. Actually, the smile is not an illusion, she actually is like this in person!:
      two people

      For anyone interested in going on this hike, we started at the Bear Gulch Visitor Center.

      We started on the Condor Gulch Trail (across the road from the Visitor Center and the trail starts at the little bridge), which has a constant but moderate uphill climb and a good view of High Peaks. (1.7 mi)

      When we hit the T-intersection with High Peaks Trail, we took a left. This part of the trail went up and down through the High Peaks. Very good views of the hills and valleys surrounding the peaks. Since it’s March, the hills were really green. I would imagine that it wouldn’t be as nice of a view in the summer or fall. (0.6 mi)

      We then stayed on the High Peaks Trail for the Steep and Narrow section. This is a decent description of this section, but it’s not more strenuous than other parts of the route. There’s a bathroom at the end of this section. (0.7 mi)

      Taking the “left” option at the bathroom, we continued on the High Peaks Trail (1.5 mi).

      We took a small detour loop (go left) on the Rim Trail which takes you to the lovely surprise Bear Gulch Reservoir. (0.4 mi)

      You can then take the Bear Gulch Cave Trail through the previously described “caves” or you can take the high road and bypass the caves on a parallel route. Sleepy Weasel and Runs With Head Down say that you can hear everything that is said in the cave very clearly. Watch what you say. (0.7 mi)

      We merged back with the Moses Spring Trail… (0.2 mi)

      That takes us back to the Bear Gulch Trail on which we walked along the road back to where we had parked our cars at the Bear Gulch Visitor Center. (0.3 mi)

      The whole route was 6.1 mi and it took us about 4 hours. I wasn’t actually really keeping track of time so the this is a huge estimate.

      Permalink Leave a Comment

      Another brilliant use for pears

      March 7, 2008 at 9:02 am (food, moroccan, restaurants, review, san francisco)

      I went to Aziza for the first time last night. It was recommended by a number of people. I may be getting too used to the high quality of food in San Francisco because while the food was very well done, Aziza didn’t wow me enough to be very memorable among San Francisco restaurants. We had a goat cheese, tomato jam appetizer (they gave us a huge chunk of goat cheese, more than I buy for myself at once, but Mark amazingly did a good job polishing it off), I had a scallop dish with lemon saffron rice and pea shoots and chanterelles (the scallops had an inappropriately fishy taste, but other than that, it was very tasty), and Mark had a couscous with an assortment of root vegetables (sophisticated and deep flavors). All very nice, in general, but nothing knocked me over… until the dessert.

      I must be feeling a need to try anything with pears, maybe because of the lost pear, bacon, and cheddar sandwich. They have a pear frangipane tart on their menu. It came with bitter almond ice cream and huckleberries. That part was okay. But the tart seriously blew me away with how creative and perfect it was. The pears were thinly sliced and caramelized on top and created a creme brulee-like top but with the added texture and flavor of pear. The frangipane part was so delicate and soft and light, with just the right amount of almond flavor. It was almost cakey, but it had the more dense and chewy texture of almond paste. I don’t know how such a combination of textures can be achieved. The bottom was a well-executed perfect short-dough crust. So brilliantly simple and brilliantly mind-blowing all at the same time.

      The waitress was also lovely enough to give us a pot of mint tea that was orphaned. Thanks! I hope the tea was as grateful to be adopted as we were in adopting it. I often find that mint teas are sweetened too much, but this was just mint. Plus, the teapot had the most perfect spout ever. I haven’t figured out how to make a spout that pours well and doesn’t drip. I enjoyed the spout on this teapot so much that I kept pouring the tea over and over again. I imagined that other people watching me thought that I was drugged up, but it really was so fascinating. Not a single drop dripped.

      And they also had really nicely shaped bowl and plates. Very deep and round. Beautiful for presenting food, but kinda hard to eat out of because you had to angle your knife in order to cut anything at the bottom of the bowls’ large basins.

      Ha ha, my restaurant reviews have turned into reviews of the food and of the dinnerware! Maybe that can be my schtick.

      Permalink 2 Comments

      Next page »