May 5, 09:29 PM
— Oi Cheepchaiissara
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’ve no idea, but according to TV presenter Jimmy Doherty (of “Jimmy’s Farm” fame), chickens originated in Thailand. No wonder we like chicken curry!
Wikipedia is a little bit more cautious about where chickens come from, suggesting “multiple maternal origins,” mainly from the Indian subcontinent. But I’d still like to believe the Japanese researchers, named Fumihito, Miyake, Sumi, Takada, Ohno, and Kondo, who in 1994 wrote “One subspecies of the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus gallus) suffices as the matriarchic ancestor of all domestic breeds.”
As a matter of fact, the red junglefowl looks very much like the rather lively rooster we photographed above (at, believe it or not, a camel farm in Suffolk).
Do I have any recipes for red junglefowl? No. But I have lots of great recipes for the standard, delicious, everyday kind of chicken you can buy in the supermarket.
All you have to do is to download the FREE Index to my e-book series “Thai Food Secrets” and look up Chicken recipes. There are 19 of them, including “Green Curry with Chicken and Thai Aubergine,” “Spicy Chicken with Roasted Curry Paste,” and “Chicken with Water Chestnuts and Ginger.”
My tips for great chicken dishes? Use organic chicken for the best flavour. Finely slice chicken breast in the Thai style for cooking in curry sauce. And always use fresh herbs – such as Thai basil which is especially good with chicken.
Apr 13, 08:47 PM
— Oi Cheepchaiissara
A very good friend of mine owns a lovely Thai restaurant in Brewer Street, which branches off Regent Street in London. As you can guess, Regent Street has many more people walking up and down it. So, my friend employs a “sandwich man” to stand in Regent Street with a placard directing people to the restaurant.
I wish I could do the same, but my cooking classes need to be pre-booked. It’s no good just turning up, hoping to find a spare place. So here’s the next best thing: a virtual squirrel with a placard.
Actually, it’s a real squirrel, photographed outside my house in Colchester (but we’ve added the sign). He just happened to have his arm in the right position.
Thank you, Mr. Squirrel. You’ll get your wages soon. I bet you’re glad you don’t work in Regent Street.
Mar 25, 02:48 PM
— Oi Cheepchaiissara
My son is going to Ghana this summer to teach English in a school for orphans. He’s taking a very hands-on approach to charity and I admire him for it.
We have many well-run charities in Thailand, some of which need this kind of direct activity, but there are others that simply welcome donations. This means you don’t have to rescue personally all the children, elephants, dogs, etc. Qualified helpers do the work, financed by the money you give to their organizations.
Here are five Thai charities I think are very worthwhile.
SOS Children’s Villages of Thailand
SOS Children provides orphaned and abandoned children in Thailand with a new mother, a family and a home where they can stay until they are ready for independent life. It currently cares for more than 450 children at five purpose-built SOS Children’s Villages, including one in my home town, Hatyai.
Elephant Nature Foundation
This charity for the welfare of Asian elephants is one that encourages direct participation as well as donation. Its showpiece is Elephant Nature Park which provides a sanctuary for rescued elephants. You can make day trips, pay overnight visits, or become a long-term volunteer – the choice is yours.
Tour de Thailand
No, it’s not like the Tour de France – because it’s a charity bike ride rather than a race. The 9th Annual Tour de Thailand takes place in November 2011, during which some of the participants will cycle the entire 1370-mile route from Chiang Mai to Phuket. You can also join for one of the shorter Northern, Central or Southern sections. Supported charities include Operation Smile (repair of facial deformities in children) and the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand.
Soi Cats And Dogs (SCAD)
If you’ve been to Bangkok and seen the plight of the so-called “soi dogs” (street dogs) – and cats – you’ll know that this is a really worthwhile charity. SCAD runs a Rehoming Centre that finds new homes for the animals, either locally in Thailand or overseas. The charity has a real vision for future growth, including city-wide Animal Birth Control clinics, a full-service veterinary hospital, and an animal welfare education programme to reach every child in Thailand.
The Karen Hilltribes Trust
You need to read the remarkable story of how this UK-registered charity originated: the Karen people themselves dedicated a water system in their village to a young English volunteer named Richard Worsley who had helped them during his six-month stay but who later died in a road accident in Germany. Richard’s mother then started the Trust and since 1999 has raised over £1.5 million, enabling it to sponsor projects in 300 Karen villages in a remote region of Thailand.
Dozens of others
I looked for a good directory of charities in Thailand and found ThaiCharities.org which needs a lot of updating but is a still a good place to start. It lists Thai charities under headings such as Children, Animals, Community Development, Religious and Human Rights Charities, Healthcare, Disaster Relief, etc.
Please take a look at some of the charities I’ve suggested. And take care, if you’re tending elephants or cycling along busy roads.
Mar 11, 05:56 PM
— Oi Cheepchaiissara
Here are 10 quick tips for cooking fish and seafood in the Thai style. There’s a lot of other information you’ll need, which is why I’ve put together an e-book called Thai Seafood Secrets. In this e-book (for iPad and other computers) you’ll find recipes plus how-to guides and lots of illustrations. Shown above: Steamed Fish with Preserved Plum, from Thai Seafood Secrets.
Seafood Tip 1. A healthy alternative to deep-fried fish: grill or bake it, adding lovely ingredients such as pineapple or sweet pepper.
Seafood Tip 2. Steaming fish: make sure the heatproof plate is large enough to hold the fish but small enough to fit inside the steamer.
Seafood Tip 3. Filleting: slice the top portion of cooked fish, then remove the bone in one piece to access the fillet underneath.
Seafood Tip 4. Fish prepared in Thai style: score it a few times both sides. This helps flavour to seep in and fish to cook more quickly.
Seafood Tip 5. Kill crabs humanely or use frozen ones. See my e-book Thai Seafood Secrets for many ways to cook seafood in the Thai style.
Seafood Tip 6. You can cook seafood dishes with a small amount of sauce or liquid: gently simmer and baste with the sauce to help cooking.
Seafood Tip 7. Most fish/seafood dishes need fish sauce or light soy sauce for added flavour and taste. Salt brings flavour without aroma.
Seafood Tip 8. Avoiding cooking seafood such as crabs, mussels or clams in a nonstick pan if you don’t want scratch the pan – and who does?
Seafood Tip 9. Large prawns: peel off their shells then cut and remove the black line which is the intestinal tract.
Seafood Tip 10. Use fresh seafood for the best flavour and texture – or unfreeze frozen seafood slowly overnight in the refrigerator.
Feb 28, 09:00 PM
— Oi Cheepchaiissara
My cooking classes finish around 2.30pm, which leaves plenty of time for you to take a look around Colchester before going home. You may be surprised at what you find, especially if it’s been a while since you last visited “Britain’s Oldest Recorded Town.
Colchester’s buildings span 2,000 years, from the ancient Roman wall and gates, to the medieval castle, the eighteenth century Hollytrees Museum, the turn-of-the-century Town Hall, right up to the present day.
Yes, our town actually has an ultra-modern, space-age building under construction: Rafael Viñoly’s Firstsite arts centre. Some people call it a “white elephant” (we know about THOSE in Thailand), but actually it seems (only “seems”) to be made of solid gold. It is expected to open in October 2011 (cost £26,000,000).
So what can you do in Colchester in the afternoon? I recommend a walk by the River Colne, which flows right outside my dining room window. We have swans, ducks, moorhens, squirrels, and other wildlife, despite being just a quarter-mile from the busy town centre.
At Middle Weir there’s a delightful waterfall on the site of a former mill and near here you can enter Lower Castle Park and stroll up the hill towards the Castle.
If you like museums, you’re in the right place. There’s one in the castle and another one (Hollytrees, above) in the house opposite.
The castle is at one end of the High Street, along which you’ll find coffee shops, pubs, and the classy Williams & Griffin (“WillieGee”) department store. You can’t miss the magnificent Town Hall, completed 1902 (cost £55,000).
Dozens more shops are packed in Culver Square and the other pedestrianised areas to the south of the High Street: Debenham’s, H&M, Apple Store, Waterstone’s, Sainsbury’s, and so on, and yet another museum: Tymperleys Clock Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of clocks in the country. It’s worth a visit – and it’s FREE!
On the west side of town you’ll find the Hole in the Wall (quite literally, a hole in the Roman wall, but next to it is a pub by that name), close to the Mercury Theatre, the modern building between the wall and the huge Victorian water tower, above.
Now there’s an idea! Why not take in a play while you’re here? Of course, you’ll have to book in advance, which is why I mention it in this post.
If you’ve parked near to the cooking class, you can return to your car via the Dutch Quarter, the area on the north side of the High Street that was once settled by the Huguenot weavers. It’s packed with historical interest: a former hot-bed of the Peasants’ Revolt, not to mention the one-time home of Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, and the long-time home of Jane and Ann Taylor, authors of children’s verse including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
So that’s only a very short walk, just over a mile, around Colchester. There’s much, much more.
Around here is where the Emperor Claudius (remember “I, Claudius”?) paraded when he visited Colchester (Camulodunum), which pre-dated London as the Roman capital of Britannia, in AD 43. Check out the visitors’ sites and plan your own trip. But please be sure to book up a cooking class before you come.