Monday, April 23, 2012

Thai Iced Coffee

It's Spring! Not like that's news to any of you, but I just want to be extra excited and happy it's Spring! It means the days are warmer, longer, and the season here on Martha's Vineyard is bustling up with excitement of what's to come this Summer. But before even mentioning Summer, let's stick with Spring and it's daffodils, fresh breezes, and most importantly, iced drinks. 

Lately I've been browsing Robert Danhi's newest cookbook, Easy Thai Cooking: 75 Family-Style Dishes You Can Prepare In Minutes which Tuttle Publishing sent to me as a review copy. Who's Robert Danhi? Well, in short, the man knows everything and anything that has to do with Southeast Asian cuisine. I had the pleasure of meeting him and attending a demonstration he did at CIA a few years ago about Asian Sauces. Here's an excerpt that I wrote in 2009 about that demo that illustrates Chef Danhi's work:
When you think about Asian Cuisine, what are the things that come to mind? Beef Teriyaki, Crispy Tangerine Chicken, normally dishes made with a specific sauce. While attending a conference on Asian Sauces at the Culinary Institute of America on November 11, 2009 presented by Chef Danhi reminded me that Teriyaki, Soy Sauce and Hoisin are not the only ones out there.  Chef Danhi has been all over Asia discovering the sauces that make up a cuisine, the sauces the grandmothers make at home.  Starting with the explanation of the how-to process of Soy Sauce, Chef Danhi takes us on a culinary adventure like no other. He is an amazing storyteller, illustrating flavors, developing stories and above all capturing the audience with his words.  His story is of photojournalism that leads him to meet the love of his life, his wife. At the same time of meeting this love consequently he meets his culinary love, Southeast Asia.  He tells of walking down the streets and up dark alleys, finding the old lady that has been cooking squatted down for the last decade; of the amazing smells that slapped him in the face as he walked past street stalls; the colors invading his sight were uncontrollable to him.  
The Asian Sauces guided tour was an awakening of the senses and started with a snack of Roasted Peanuts with chili and lemongrass flavors swirling around on your tongue. Commencing with the soy sauces and how they are brewed the traditional method. They both had a rich soy flavor which would ideally marinate meats. Moving on to one of my favorites, Plum sauce made from preserved Chinese plums, ginger and chili. It is normally used as a dipping sauce for roast duck and other roasted meats, but Chef proposed trying it over vanilla ice cream. Marvelous! Following the plum sauce was the Oyster Sauce, a unique recipe made from the founder of Lee Kum Kee products in 1888. Tradition says it was a mistake, as with all wonderful culinary discoveries that an oyster soup reduced to a syrupy sauce and this sauce was invented! Oyster sauce is a basic Chinese sauce, used in cooking and also marinating. After these sauces were explored, the trip kept moving on with Hoisin Sauce which can be best described as a spicy-sweet sauce made from selected spices and ground soybeans; Black Bean Garlic Sauce, mostly fermented black beans and garlic; Chili Garlic Sauce, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and one that graces the tables of our Farq Hall, Sriracha Chili Sauce.
At the end of this culinary travel, Chef Danhi exhorts foodies everywhere to Question Everything! Ask, wonder, and be curious. A cuisine is not just the flavors but the geography, etiquette, ethnic diversity, history and population. Experiment Everything.
As you can see, he's extremely passionate about this food and the culture behind it. The book is complete with tips on stocking your pantry with Thai staples, as well as help with planning a Thai Menu. Chapters range from Snacks to Seafood, and one of my favorites, Noodles and Rice. Ending with Desserts and Drinks, I thought it'd be appropriate to share his recipe for Thai Iced Coffee, the perfect Spring 2012 drink!

Thai Iced Coffee 
From Robert Danhi's "Easy Thai Cooking"
Serves 4-6

1 1/4 cups Thai Coffee mixture "Oliang Powder"
4 cups water
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
6-8 cups crushed ice
4-6 straws
  1. Measure the coffee into the filter of the electric coffee maker. Fill the machine with water and run according to manufacture’s instructions. You may also use a French press to make this coffee base.
  2. Stir the condensed milk into the brewed coffee. Chill in the refrigerator.
  3. Fill the glasses with crushed ice, then top with the chilled coffee, it’s best if served with straws.

Stove top method: Stir the coffee grounds into the boiling water. Brew for 5 minutes. Strain through a
coffee filter, very fine wire mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

Hot Thai coffee method: Fill each cup with 3 to 4 tablespoons of condensed milk; top with 1 cup (250 ml) of hot coffee.

Notes: If you can't find Thai coffee, use any coffee bean you like but make sure it's a dark roast. Also, to keep your iced coffee chilled but not diluted, make coffee ice cubes! Brew extra coffee, chill, and freeze into ice cubes. And last but not least, make your own condensed milk! Thanks to Tuttle for sending me a copy of this book, and you should go out and get a copy for yourself as well!

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