Basic School Lesson 5: Miscellaneous Ingredients


Banana Leaves. The large flexible leaves of the banana plant are used throughout Asia to wrap foods for steaming or baking. They keep the food moist and impart a mild flavor. Remove the thick central stalk, rinse the leaves well and blanch in boiling water to soften. Foil can be used instead.

These two ingredients are used in curries as well as in desserts and beverages. Coconut milk is the liquid squeezed from the grated flesh of mature coconut after the flesh has been soaked in lukewarm water. Coconut cream is a richer version.

To make your own coconut milk, use 3 cups grated coconut to 5 cup water or 2 ¸ cups water to get coconut cream. Soak the coconut in the water for 15 minutes. Mix well with your hand, then tip into a muslin-lined strainer placed over a bowl. Squeeze all the liquid out of the muslin. The operation can be repeated with the already squeeze coconut to produce thinner coconut milk which is acceptable in Tom Kha Soup. However, all this is very time consuming, and removing the flesh from a coconut is very difficult without the right implements.

Fortunately, ready-made coconut milk is available in cans in most places around the world. Stir the contents if coconut milk is required or scoop the cream off the top if you need coconut cream. However, if coconut is totally unavailable, then boiled milk may be used as a substitute.

Please note that coconut milk is not the liquid, which is found inside a fresh young coconut. That water is coconut juice, which is used in mixed tropical drinks, and has none of the properties of coconut milk.

Fresh young coconuts contain a refreshing juice with soft, jelly-like meat. The young coconuts also perfect for desserts. Its flesh is also available canned.

BEAN CURD [Tofu, Tao Hou]
Tofu or bean curd is a soya bean extract to which a setting agent has been added. Soft tofu is white, and is used extensively in Chinese dishes. Hard or firm tofu is make by compressing soft bean curd. Tofu is available in many other forms-fried, fermented, etc.

FRIED GARLIC AND ONION [Kratiem Jeiw, Hom Jiew]
Fried Garlic, Fried Onion. These are chopped garlic cloves and onions or shallots that have been deep-fried until golden and crisp. They are used as a garnish to add a good aroma. Available in packets or they can be prepared at home.

Mature, freshly harvested garlic is pickled in brine made up from vinegar, sugar and salt. It is used in making dishes and also served with curries. Another choice is pickled ginger.


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