FLP Thai Cooking Class

by Hayoung Chang ’18

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Today, I ventured down to the depths of Northwest Labs to attend a Thai food cooking class. Led by a Thai chef, the class was filled with a diverse mix of people including hungry college students like me, grad students, as well as old people. After a swift safety briefing, we familiarized ourselves with the authentic Thai ingredients, utensils, and layout of the cooking lab, a neat and comfortable space.

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Following the instructions of our instructor chef as well as the recipe, we got to work. Chopping vegetables and mixing sauces, I was glad to get my hands dirty with some Thai spices. My partners prepared the vermicelli noodles. Mixing it all together, the fresh peppers, hint of spice and succulent noodles combined to create a wonderful dish. I could hardly believe that I had cooked it myself!

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Next, we started preparing the curry by warming some coconut milk. The fragrance bubbling up from the pot was enough to make my mouth water. With my stomach growling, we added dollops of spice and sauces, plopped in some tofu, tomatoes and pineapples, and brought the curry to a gentle boil. Once the consistency was just right, we sprinkled some basil to finish it off. 

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The taste was amazing, to say the least. Perhaps the fact that we had cooked it from scratch had heightened my senses. The curry was just the right amount of spicy, creamy and silky smoothness. The warm and soft tofu complemented the sharp sweetness of the pineapple. Drizzled over jasmine rice, the dish was a huge success.

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Overall, I immensely enjoyed the experience. Not only did I learn how to make some great curry, I also learned to appreciate food, and real food. These days, we consume so many processed and pre-cooked foods, that we often forget where food comes from. By partaking in the process of transforming fruit, vegetables and grain to a delightful dish, my eyes were opened to the true nature of food. Perhaps that’s a little too cheesy, but hey, at least I got the best curry recipe under my belt.

Far East Feast

As my friends and I sat down for dinner on Thursday night, they had no idea what HUDS had in store in the servery. I, on the other hand, had been anticipating this meal all week: a Chinese New Year celebration. After doing my research, I learned that the traditional meal served on New Year’s Eve typically includes both meat and fish, as well as eight individual dishes which reflect the number’s significance as a good luck symbol.

HUDS certainly delivered its version of the traditional Chinese New Year feast. I walked away with a full plate, excited to try the dining hall’s take on (the vegetarian) Buddha’s Delight, the hoisin glazed salmon, spicy green beans, peking cabbage, and some egg fried rice.

my plate

While I might be alone on this one, I was most excited for the Buddha’s Delight (pictured below). The elaborate vegetarian dish is one often served by families on Chinese New Year, and the dining hall staff created a great replication. Their version included tofu, water chestnuts, carrots, pea pods, baby corn, broccoli, and scallions, with soy sauce and sesame oil tossed in, and topped with a nice blend of ginger, sugar, and garlic. While the ingredients created a perfect combination, the dish was a bit too saucy, but a tasty addition as it leaked onto the cabbage and green beans underneath.

buddha's delight

Continuing to break outside the normal veggie offerings this evening, the Chinese New Year fare included spicy green beans (read: green beans with crushed garlic, diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and cumin) and peking cabbage. The green beans definitely had an extra kick, making them an exciting and delicious break from the usual, but not quite what I would call spicy.

green beans

The fried foods were all table favorites: vegetable egg rolls (top) and pork dumplings (middle). I can speak for the egg rolls, and they were spot on this evening. Perfectly crisp on the exterior, without too much breading, and enough to give all of the inside veggies just the right flavor. The egg fried rice (bottom) was also well executed – filled with celery and mushrooms for an added touch.

veggie springrolls

pork dumplingsfried rice

Last but not least on my plate was the hoisin glazed salmon, cooked just right. Hoisin sauce, similar to American barbecue sauce, is made from a combination of soybeans, garlic, sugar, sesame seeds, and chili pepper. The slightly sugary sauce adds a sweet and savory marinade to the dish without taking away from the main attraction.

salmon

HUDS’ Chinese New Year meal was a complete success if you ask me. With a few tweaks and improvements, next year’s edition could be even better, but watching my friends walk into the dining hall to find the surprise was worth my full week’s wait. While my Chinese friends were able to celebrate a taste of home, my American ones (myself included) were able to enjoy a cultural experience we won’t forget.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/glossary/g/HoisinSauce.htm