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…)


If you’re living pretty much anywhere in the eastern half of the U.S., you’ve been experiencing the same things I have over the past few days: blizzard-like conditions keeping you house-bound, stir crazy, and pining for spring.  So, what better to do than spend all day cooking, right?  That’s exactly what I did this weekend when my boyfriend came into town and our ski trip got canceled.  Saturday we made an Indian eggplant-tomato dish as well as some nan and baba ghanouj.  Sunday we tackled a dish from Kuwait: kebab al rubyan (shrimp balls).  Now, let me emphasize, this dish is not for the time-pressed or the budget-constrained.  It is for those who are snowed in and happen to have 3 pounds of shrimp in their freezer or live within walking distance of a grocery store (I am the latter).

There are three different components to this dish (which is what makes it so demanding): an onion/shrimp/spice stuffing, an outer shrimp paste covering, and a tomato/onion/tamarind sauce.  The shrimp paste is wrapped around the stuffing and formed by hand into balls, and the balls are cooked in the sauce.  Let’s just say that our shrimp balls ended up more like one big shrimp mess.  They completely fell apart while cooking in the sauce, and they looked nothing like the picture in my cookbook where they are dark brown on the outside.  I’m not sure if anything could fix the falling apart problem- a little flour?  Egg?  Well, if you can get past the fact that you’re not going to actually get a ball-shaped end result, this recipe is pretty tasty.  It’s slightly spicy, a little acidic from the tamarind sauce, and has a good texture from the chopped up shrimp.  So, if you have excess energy or three hours to kill, here’s the recipe!

Kebab al rubyan (shrimp balls)

Shrimp paste Cost
2 lb. 3 oz. shrimp, shelled and deveined $15.29
1 c. cooked rice $0.84
3 T. fresh cilantro, chopped $0.75
1/2 tsp. turmeric pantry
1/2 tsp. salt pantry
1 T. butter pantry
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped $0.64
7 oz. shrimp, shelled and chopped $3.06
1 tsp. baharat spices* pantry
1 tsp. dried lime or grated rind of 1 lemon $0.79
1/2 tsp. salt pantry
2 T. raisins $0.15
1 T. butter pantry
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped $0.64
2 T. cilantro, chopped $0.50
2 medium tomatoes, chopped $1.35
1 tsp. baharat spices pantry
1/2 tsp. salt pantry
2 T. tamarind, soaked in 2 c. warm water pantry
Rice for serving $0.84
Total cost (6 servings) $24.01
Cost per serving $4.00

Shrimp Paste In a food processor, process the shrimp, rice, cilantro, turmeric, and salt until thoroughly blended.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Stuffing Melt the butter in a pan and sauté onions until tender.  Add the chopped shrimp, baharat spices, dried lime or lemon rind, salt, and raisins.  Cook until the shrimp is tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Tamarind Sauce Melt butter in a pan and sauté onions and garlic until tender.  Add cilantro, tomatoes, baharat spices, and salt and cook for 2 minutes.  Strain the tamarind liquid and add it to the sauce.  Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Preparing the shrimp balls take a piece of shrimp paste the size of an egg and flatten into a 4-inch patty.  Place a tablespoon of stuffing in the center of the patty, then close the paste around the stuffing, shaping it into a ball.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Gently drop the shrimp balls in the simmering tamarind sauce.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  When cooked, remove balls from sauce with a slotted spoon and serve over rice.  Pour some of the sauce over the rice.

*baharat spices: Mix together 1/3 tsp. black pepper, ¼ tsp. coriander, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. cloves, 1/3 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. cardamom, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, ½ tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. dried limes, ¼ tsp. curry powder