Thais who are surprised that I enjoy their spicy foods such as som tam and lahb are positively shocked when I list jungle curry (gaeng ba) among my favourites. This is one dish even some Thais find too spicy. Consider yourself warned!
Ever think about where the food on your table really comes from? Maybe not, but it is sometimes a very interesting story. The fact is that a lot of plants don't originate in the places that are most associated with them. I discovered this when researching a book about Thai food a few years ago (sadly, it was never published). I found out that, although the chili pepper is widely associated with Thai cuisine, the chili plant is not native to Thailand, or even Asia. That discovery, along with the ones that followed, form the basis of this web site.
“Traveling Chili” is the story of the journeys plants have taken around the world, to end up at our supermarkets and on our tables. The facts are sometimes stranger than fiction, and there are even one or two radical make-overs along the way. This site also shares some of the local knowledge I've gained about how some foods are used, and I might even share a recipe or two.
The most recent articles published to the site are listed below.
Chinese keys, also called wild ginger or grachai in Thai, is a root in the same family as ginger. Although becoming hard to find in Bangkok, it is still quite plentiful in the markets of the north, where you'll most likely find it at the same stalls selling fresh ginger and cloud ear mushrooms. Chinese keys are probably the hardest spice to find outside of Thailand.
This has to be one of the most common dishes in Thailand, from food stalls to fancy restaurants. Some variation of this recipe will appear very regularly at the curry stalls, often several times a week. The dish is easy to prepare and can be made hours in advance, since it is quite acceptable to serve at room temperature.
Clear soups (gaeng jood ) are a favourite at the curry stall. Contrary to any impressions you may have about Thai cuisine, it's not all about heat. A Thai meal is a balance between spicy, salty, sweet and sour. Clear soups provide the perfect middle ground when there are other highly seasoned dishes on the table.
Clear Soup (<em>gaeng jood</em>)
Thai name: Som Tam Tua Kaek
There are those that would insist that som tam can only be made with green papaya, but in fact Thais have created an almost infinite number of variations on the dish, using a variety of fruits and vegetables. This one offers an interesting way to dress up a simple vegetable like fresh green beans.
In Thai: Som Tam Mama
Instant noodles - often called Ramen noodles in the US - are a very popular light meal or snack in Thailand. While they may be something you thought you left behind when you left college, chances are you never ate this well back in school.
This can be a nice and easy side dish, or a way to quickly dress up tuna for a light meal. Tuna seems to offset the spiciness of the chilies, so this salad may not be as hot as it might seem from the recipe.
Use whatever type of lettuce you prefer. I like red coral but regular iceberg works nicely as well.
Glass noodle salads (yum woon sen) are one of the most common yum salads you'll find in Thailand. They can be quite light, but with a sweet and tangy taste. A bit of ground pork is the most common meat, but you can also add a few shrimp or some cooked squid if you like. You can also leave out the meat entirely for a vegetarian version.
Glass Noodles (woon sen) are made from the starch of the mung bean and water. Their almost clear quality gives them their name. Unlike other types of noodles, Glass Noodles rarely make an appearance in the types of noodle dishes eaten for lunch. They're more commonly found in hot and spicy salads, stir-fries or as fillers for clear soups (gaeng jood).