As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love Thai food, especially curries.  So, when I volunteered to plan a cooking class for a college group I belong to, I jumped at the chance to make it Thai-themed.  My previous Thai cooking adventures at home have yielded less than spectacular results.  Although the beef curry I made was edible, it was definitely missing something.  I was hoping that a Thai cooking class would teach me once and for all how to make a decent curry paste and a scrumptious curry.

So I started searching for Asian cooking schools in the Pittsburgh area and came across Chop, Wok, and Talk.  I emailed the owner, Dorothy Tague, to ask questions and start planning things.  She was very flexible with her schedule, rearranging things so we could get a date that was good for us.  Since she couldn’t accommodate our large number of people (seventeen) at her cooking school in Bloomfield, our group had to find an outside location at which to hold the class (a church near our school). 

When it came to picking the menu, it was a difficult task considering she had so much to choose from.  Besides Thai food, she also does Chinese, sushi, Vietnamese, tapas, Moroccan, an English tea, and brunch.  Dorothy was very helpful in the menu selection process, suggesting dishes that required more hands-on work rather than just sitting back and watching.  For our plan we could pick 4 dishes: two appetizers, an entrée, and either a noodle dish, salad, or dessert.  We settled on chicken satays, shrimp pad Thai, spring rolls, and Panang beef curry. (more…)


There are only three things you need to know about this recipe: 1) flank steak, 2) fried egg on top, 3) plantains on the side.  Drooling yet?

I found this recipe in The Book of Latin American Cooking, and it is the national dish of Venezuela.  It is very colorful with its brown meat, black beans, red tomatoes, and yellow plantains, hence the name ‘pabellón,’ or flag.  The sweet bananas, oddly enough, really complemented the salty meat, and the egg on top added an extra complexity to the flavor.  I have found other recipes for this dish that omit the plantains and/or the egg…how terrible!  I think these additions really make the dish.  Don’t skimp!

Finally, even though spending $13 on a hunk of meat can be off-putting, it’s a lot of meat- at least six servings if not more.  All in all, this is an extremely filling dish with a great balance of sweet and salty flavors.  It is by far the best dish I have made out of any of my ethnic cookbooks in the past few months!

Pabellon Caraqueno

Ingredients Cost
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak or skirt steak $13.00
1 1/2 c. beef stock, about $0.89
1 medium onion, finely chopped $0.30
3 garlic cloves, minced $0.10
2 medium tomatoes, chopped $1.15
salt pantry
2 T. olive oil pantry
6 eggs, fried in olive oil $0.90
1 ripe plantain or 2 underripe bananas, fried in oil $0.20
Rice for accompaniment $0.84
Beans for accompaniment $0.80
Total cost (6-7 servings) $18.18
Cost per serving ~$2.61

Cut the steak into two or three pieces so it can fit into a saucepan, and add stock to cover.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, over very low heat until the meat is tender, one and a half to two hours.  allow the meat to cool in the stock, drain, and shred the meat with fingers.  Combine meat with onion, garlic, and tomatoes.  Season to taste with salt.  Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the meat mixture until the onion is coked and the mixture is quite dry.

To serve, put the rice in the center of a plate and top with meat.  Place the fried egg on top of the meat.   Arrange the beans and plantains on the side.

I live in a neighborhood with an abundance of Thai restaurants, and my order of choice is usually some type of curry.  I just can’t get enough of that sweet yet spicy, coconut-milk-drenched goodness.  In my post-meal food   coma I always think ‘wow, that was tasty, maybe I could try making that at home sometime!’  Well, this weekend I finally got around to doing just that.  The recipe that I chose was from Complete Thai Cooking, which had a picture of Chiang Mai jungle curry that looked similar to curries I’ve had while eating out.  The day before I wanted to cook it, I made the curry paste.  This process was simple enough: just roughly chop up the ingredients and let a food processor do the real work.  The recipe actually called for white peppercorns, but I couldn’t find them in either of the grocery stores that I visited, so I substituted black.  The paste looked delicious and even smelled hot. Yum.  So I put the paste in the fridge and the next day I made my curry.  The results were very tasty, but not quite what I’ve experienced in restaurants.  Mine was a bit creamier and thicker than I’m used to, and also only slightly spicy (not blazing hot!).  I’m also used to a sweeter curry than this one.  All in all, though, I would make this again and if it was a dish at a restaurant I’d order it.  If I made it again, I’d try to find yellow bean sauce (the original recipe calls for 2 T.) and fresh red chilies (I had to substitute green).

Chiang Mai Jungle Curry

Ingredients   Cost
2 T. oil   pantry
1 lb. lean beef, thinly sliced   $6.05
1 ¾ c. coconut milk $1.19
salt and pepper pantry
Spice Paste    
3 T. Red Curry Paste (see below) $1.10
2 T. palm sugar pantry
4 shallots, roughly chopped $1.13
2 garlic cloves $0.10
2 large fresh red chilies, seeded and chopped $1.40
1 lemon grass stalk, roughly chopped   $0.40
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped $0.30
½ tsp. dried shrimp paste   pantry
4 T. lime juice   $0.89
Rice for accompaniment $0.84
Scallions     $0.43
Red bell pepper   $0.99
    Total cost (5 servings) $14.82
    Cost per serving $2.96
Red Curry Paste    
6 dried red chilies, seeded, soaked, drained, roughly chopped $1.15
2 T. chopped lemon grass   $0.30
1 T. chopped shallots   $0.56
1 T. chopped garlic   $0.10
1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger   $0.10
2 tsp. coriander   pantry
1 tsp. cumin   pantry
6 black peppercorns   pantry
1 tsp. salt     pantry
1 tsp. shrimp paste   pantry
    Total cost  (6 T.) $2.21

For red curry paste: Put all ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste.  Transfer the paste to an airtight container.  May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. 

For curry: Make the spice paste.  Put all the paste ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste.  Heat the oil in a large skillet and stir-fry the beef over a moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the spice paste and stir-fry for 3 additional minutes. 

Pour the coconut milk into the pan, stir to mix and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer the curry gently, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes or until the beef is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serve the curry over rice and garnish with thinly sliced bell pepper and scallions.