I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to every grandmother, those that are still with us and those that have passed. For their tireless dedication to this ancient craft of cooking, they have given us a fascinating insight into how a dish had been shaped by history as time passes. Everyday dishes that reveals a sensibility of simplicity, ingredients used are locally sourced with minimal processing, cooking techniques are basic and straightforward with little unnecessary embellishment. They are a source of endless wisdom, with warmth and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen. Practicing Thai cuisine at its most humble, but at the same time at the very pinnacle, producing the most remarkably delicious food. As time passes and trends come and go, their recipes will always live on in our distant memories. True masters at their art, executing dishes with all their experience, technical ability, passion, tradition, creativity and most of all, with love. As their recipes are passed down from generation to generation, the craft of cooking and eating delicious food continues to live on into the future.
'From generation to generation' The most ancient form of passing down a recipe is by describing how to cook it while in conversation. This method has been used for centuries to pass knowledge down from generation to generation. Recipes were rarely written down, everything was done by memory and intuition. A very organic and natural process takes place, as nothing is set in stone, exact measurements or timings are left out. Basic observations are used instead, such as fry the garlic until golden and fragrant. There is inherent beauty and charm that exists in each cook’s interpretation, resulting in a finished dish.As for me, my grandmother holds a wealth of knowledge about food and I often find myself furiously scribbling down recipes, notes and tips and not always able to get everything on paper in time. Nowadays simply making sound recordings of each conversation is easier and certainly much more accurate. Sometimes telling a story about her past leads to a recipe, such as these...
BOILED PORK BELLY
“When we make an offering to the deities we always use boiled pork belly. After the offering is complete we sliced it and dip it into a small bowl of fish sauce accompanied by boiled duck eggs, it’s very delicious! This dish dates way back to my mother’s time. For the dipping sauce, use fish sauce, fresh red chilies, lime juice, and sliced garlic. Leave the skins on the garlic and slice right though it, so you can see a little bit of the skin, it looks more beautiful this way. If there’s not enough white meat ( pork fat ) it’s becomes too tough, so you need to have that layer of fat like this. Try it, see what it’s like. It’s very easy too, just buy the pork and boil it, that’s all. This was one of my sister’s favourite dishes, she’s still eating it until today. The offering always consists of boiled pork belly, three boiled eggs, and a steamed sea bass or a large dried squid this is call ‘sar sae’. It’s a dish that’s doesn't take too much time to make, we used to eat it right after making the offering. In the past, in Samutsakorn there were no chickens, that’s why we use duck eggs.”
CHILI AND SALT DIP
I once asked my grandmother what her grandmother used to cook, and this was her reply...
“In the past, when all the men went out to fight battles, the women would make this chili and salt dip for them to eat while they were away from home. The mixture can be kept for up to a year. Grind up salt and chilies in a pestle and mortar, roast some grated coconut along with sesame seeds and combine it all together, this is called ‘prik gub gluer’ You can mix it with rice for a simple meal.”
"Samutsakorn is renowned for its mackerel, in the past, one boat can catch several tones of mackerel, they were very plentiful. To make this classical dish, take the innards out via the gills, so not to damage the fish, remove any scales and fold the head back. Ancient people were very clever, they would arrange pieces of fresh sugarcane at the bottom of the pot, this would stop the fish from burning at the base of the pot, the sugarcane would also impart wonderful sweetness. Neatly arrange the fish on top, so that they would cook evenly. Make a paste from black peppercorns, garlic and coriander root and season the fish with palm sugar and fish sauce. Cover the fish with water and slowly simmer over a low heat until the fish becomes tender. If some people prefer, they can add a squeeze of lime, chopped fresh red chilies and finely sliced shallots before eating, by doing this the dish transforms itself into a kind a salad."