Salads, Thai Food

Tao Jiao Lon – fermented soy bean dip


This is an old school Thai dish that isn’t easy to find in restaurants, particularly as a veggie option. It’s really tasty and health, especially as it’s eaten with a lot of fresh vegetables. It can be eaten alone or as part of a Thai meal. It’s made with fermented / salted soy beans and coconut milk. It has a delicate flavor compared to some spicier Thai dishes.

So what do you need?

  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 50ml veggie stock / water
  • 100g mushrooms (I used fresh shitake mushrooms)
  • 100g firm tofu
  • 2 or 3 small red shallots
  • 2 sticks of lemon grass
  • 3 – 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 – 4 large red / yellow / green chillies (prik chii far)
  • 4 tablespoons salted / fermented soy beans
  • 2 tbsp. roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1-2 tbsp. palm sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Fresh vegetables and coriander leaves to eat with it

So what do you do

Start by prepping the ingredients.  Finely chop the  mushrooms shallots and finely slice the lemon grass and chillies and tear the kaffir lime leaves in half. Rinse the soy beans so they are not too salty and pound 3 tbsp. of them with the peanuts in a mortar to make a thick paste.  Then fry the mushrooms in the oil with a tsp. of soy sauce as they cook crumble in the tofu and cook for about a minute. Set this aside in a bowl.  Put the coconut milk in the frying pan with the stock / water, 1 tbsp. of palm sugar and 1 tbsp. tamarind paste, add the diced shallots, lemon grass, the kaffir lime leaves, most of the chillies and a tsp. of soy sauce and then stir in about 2/3 of the soy bean paste and stir until everything dissolves. It’s a good idea not to put all of the flavourings in at once as you may need to readjust the balance of flavours. You can taste the sauce and see is you think it is well balanced. It shouldn’t be too salty, too sweet, too sour or too spicy so adjust the flavourings as you see fit. Add the remaing tbsp. of rinsed soy beans and as long as it’s not too salty add the rest of the soy bean and peanut paste as this helps thicken up the dip. Simmer until it starts to thicken up but is not too dry and then put it in a bowl and garnish with some sliced chillies and some coriander leaves. The dip should be room temperature or slightly warm when served but so while it cools down prepare your veggies for serving it with. White / Chinese cabbage is good as are cucumber and yard beans and a bunch of coriander leaves is a must. If you can find it, I couldn’t today, then fresh white turmeric root finely sliced is a traditional accompaniment. To serve just spoon the dip onto the vegetables or make little parcels with the cabbage leaves and some coriander leaves. Yum!

Salads, Something fruity

Crunchy apple, pecan & blue cheese salad


This salad has a great crunchy textures and a delicious mix of flavours.

I started by tossing about 100 g of pecan nuts in a tsp. of maple syrup with a pinch of salt which I then toasted in a hot oven for a few minutes turning a couple of times until they just started to brown (you could do this under a grill too). Next I sliced a  courgette and grilled it on a griddle pan with a little olive oil. Then I sliced a couple of smallish heads of fennel and two small red shallots. Then washed a bunch (about 50g) of rocket and cored and sliced two apples and put them in a bowl of water with a good squeeze of lemon juice. Then I made a dressing with about a tbsp. of olive oil, a tbsp. of maple syrup a pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, a tsp. of Dijon mustard and a splash of water which I mixed together. I assembled the salad scattering the rocket first and then adding the other fruit and veg. I then crumbled 110g of blue cheers on top (feta would work well too) and the sprinkled over the pecans and a little chopped parsley and then drizzled over the dressing. I served it with some small cubed roast potatoes, it would also be great with a fresh crusty loaf.



Salads, Thai Food

Yam woonsen 

This is a great Thai salad that can be served as part of a Thai meal or eaten on it’s own for lunch.

If you are using dried vermicelli / glass noodles then start by soaking an 80-100g packet. Quickly fry a handful of cashew nuts until golden, drain and leave to one side. I used about 150g of fresh glass noodles, cut into manageable lengths. Meanwhile steam / blanch about 100g mushrooms (if you use large mushrooms slice them) here I also added a few chopped beans to the steamer once the mushrooms were nearly ready. Chop up a couple of small shallots / spring onions and put them in a mixing bowl. Next grate about a quarter of a carrot into the bowl, a chopped tomato, a small bunch of Chinese celery and some coriander leaves. Roughly crush 3-5 birds eye chillies with the back of a knife and add these, add the juice of a smallish lime and a tablespoon of light soy sauce. Add in the noodles and the steamed mushrooms and beans, a splash of water and about a 1/4 tsp. sugar (optional) and mix everything together. Taste and add more soy sauce, lime or chillies to balance the flavours. Add most of the cashew nuts and mix in. Make sure the yam is not too dry, if necessary add a little more water, the noodles can sometimes keep absorbing liquid. Serve on a bed of leaves, here I used the celery leaves, you can also use some lettuce. Sprinkle over the remaining cashews and garnish with some coriander leaves.


Green bean, ratatouille & feta salad

I made this as a large dish to serve at a party using almost 6kgs of seasonal vegetables. It’s good for a party as it can be made in advance and served at room temperature. You can obviously scale down the quanties if you like, but it will keep in the fridge so it’s worth making a reasonable amount.  I cooked everything in a large, wide, thick based saucepan. I started by heating up about half a cup of olive oil and then I peeled and sliced about 600g onions and slowly fried them. I added a whole bulb of garlic which I crushed with a teaspoon or so of sea salt and some black peppercorns and added to the pan. Then I deseeded and slice 4 bell peppers, about 800g, and added these and then I quartered 1kg of small purple aubergines and added them (you can cube a large aubergine instead). Next cut 800g courgettes into batons and added these. I fried everything for a while and then added 1.5kgs of cheery tomatoes and added a couple of bay leaves and a bouquet garni and a can (220g) of pitted black olives and a mixed everything together. Next I put 1kg of green beans on top and covered the pan for a few minutes to sweat some of the juice out of the veggies. Then I tool of the lid and simmered the veggies on a low heat for about an hour until everything was cooked and the juice was nice and rich. I allowed the ratatouille to cool to room temperature and then took out the bay leaves and the bouquet garni  and put the ratatouille in a serving bowl and cubed a 200g block of feta cheese and sprinkled it on top. I served with homemade focaccia, to mop up the juices, and a Spanish omelette.

Salads, Thai Food, Veggie sides

Spicy sweet corn salad

This isn’t a traditional Thai salad / ‘yum’ but an adaptation that works well to make fresh and crunchy salad.

I steamed a couple of locally grown organic cobs of corn with their skins on for about 10 mins. They weren’t that big, one large corn would probably be equivalent. I then allowed them to cool and in a dry pan roasted a large handful of peanuts until they started to brown, I put these in a mixing bowl and the roasted a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds and added them to the bowl. I chopped up a few small shallots and about a dozen cherry tomatoes and added them.. Next I peeled the corn and sliced the kernels off and added them to the bowl. I added the juice of two small limes and finely sliced a couple of bird’s eye chillis, two finely sliced young tender lemongrass stalks and a handful of chopped coriander leaves and added them along with a tablespoon or so of light soy sauce. I mixed everything together and tasted the salad to check there was a balance between the salty, spicy, sweet and  sour flavours. I served this as part of a Tai meal with other dishes however if you want to make a meal of it then mix in an equal quantity of cooked brown rice. I did this the following day with the leftovers for my lunch and it was really good too.



Salads, Snacks, Thai Food

Fresh spring rolls

These make a great, healthy snack, light lunch or appetizer and go really well with a light tamarind based sauce. Play around with the veggies you put in them. This will make about 24 spring rolls.

So what do you need?

  • 1 bock of tofu (150-200g)
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 200g bean sprouts
  • 150g golden needle mushrooms
  • 50 g rice vermicelli noodles
  • half a carrot
  • 4-5 spring onions
  • a small bunch of Thai (small) celery
  • fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3-4 tbsp. (light soy sauce)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. (black) sesame seeds
  • handful coriander leaves
  • handful mint leaves
  • handful sweet basil leaves
  • 1 large red chilli
  • 24 dried rice paper discs
  • 24 small lettuce leaves
  • extra fresh herbs / sprouts for garnish

Dipping sauce

  • 2 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp. palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. plain peanuts

So what do you do?

Start by making the dipping sauce mixt the tamarind paste with hot water and stir in the palm sugar until it dissolves add the soy sauce and chill and taste and adjust the flavor. Then in a dry frying pan roast the peanuts and allow to cool. Meanwhile roast the sesame seeds.

Next pound the garlic and a roughly equal quantity of ginger and the peppercorns in a mortar. Put these in a bowl with a couple of tbsp. of soy sauce and then chop the tofu into small oblongs and marinate them for a while. Meanwhile blanch the beansprouts,  mushrooms and noodles for a minute in boiling water and then drain them and allow to cool. Then fry the tofu in sesame oil until golden and crisp, drain and allow to cool. Grate the carrot into a mixing bowl. Chop up the spring onions, and celery and add them. Deseed the chilli and cut it finely and add it to the bowl along with all the herbs and the sesame seeds. You can add some finely grated fresh ginger to the bowl too if you like a couple of tsp. is fine. Then add the mushrooms, beansprouts and noodles to the mixing bowl along with a tablespoon or two of soy sauce. Mix everything together thoroughly give it a mix occasionally while you are making the spring rolls too to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Then fill a shallow container that’s bigger than the spring roll papers with warm water. Put a paper in the water for about 5 seconds until it softens and then put it on a board or plate and place a lettuce leaf in the centre close to one end. Then with your hand lift enough filling from the bow probably about 3 heaped tablespoons worth and put it on the lettuce leaf then start rolling the spring roll as you get towards the widest part fold in the sides and roll it up it will stick together itself. Place it on a tray and do the next one. Once you get the hang of it you should be able to roll each one as the next paper is soaking. Leave a bit of space between each one on the tray so they don’t stick. Once they are all done you can put them in the fridge until you want to serve them. Crush the peanuts, pour the dipping sauce in a bowl and sprinkle the peanuts on top along with a few coriander leaves. Cut the spring rolls in halves and put them in a bowl standing up and decorate with herbs or sprouts (I used sunflower sprouts) and serve with the dipping sauce.

Salads, Thai Food

Noodle salad

This is a bit of a hybrid salad, Thai spicy noodle salads are normally made with glass noodles, but this is made with fresh rice noodles, it has Vietnamese flavours too and is a bit like having unrolled fresh spring rolls. You can use whatever veggies you like or have available to go in the salad. This makes a big bowl of salad, plenty for two as a meal.

I made a dressing using 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 1/2 tbsp of light soy sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar dissolved in 3 tbsp hot water, 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce the juice of a lime and a couple of crushed fresh chillis, I mixed everything together and added a tbsp of dry roasted (black) sesame seeds. I then prepared a block of firm tofu which I cubed and fried with a three cloves of crushed garlic until golden, I also dry roasted a handful of raw peanuts and then crushed them.

I put about 300g large flat rice noodles in a bowl with a couple of handfuls of lettuce leaves, half a grated carrot, a cupful of blanched bean sprouts, a good handful of fresh sunflower sprouts, some blanched green beans and mushrooms, a handful of cherry tomatoes, some chopped spring onions, and a handful of fresh herbs, coriander, sweet basil, mint. I added the tofu and peanuts to the salad. Just before serving I mixed everything together with the dressing.