I thoroughly enjoy cooking but I’m not a great cook.
My cooking objective is not great food (don’t have the specialized educations and training for it) but delicious to my taste food while conserving time and saving money.
Over the years, my repertoire has grown to include many dishes evolved to suit my tastes and where I live. All can be made from inexpensive readily available ingredients — at least readily available in the U.S., and, in the U.S., I cycle through these according to my mood and palate. Many are based on dishes my mother made. In the U.S., I subsist on about 3 dozen dishes that cycle constantly on and off the menu according to personal whim and fancy.
Cooking in Thailand is another adventure and another great activity that I look forward to. Many standard ingredients are not available or prohibitively costly and many ingredients are simply not available. High quality beef and gourmet cheese easily cost double in Thailand and there are a tons of fresh spices and herbs that aren’t part of the American pantry.
I’ve just started the process of adapting my recipe book to Thailand and I’ll share as I go along.
In Thailand, Pork and chicken are the cheap meats. Large commercial beef farms where cattle are fed in big feed lots, pumped with hormones, and bred to produce big juicy steaks don’t exist in Thailand and that first class beef has to be imported from places like Australia and New Zealand – at least that what some MOTU’s (Self Proclaimed Masters of the Universe) have told me. Most likely they are right.
I do know that hamburger and beef are waaaaay more expensive and pork is waaaaaaaaaay cheaper in Thailand. Hence, I’m working on some developing some good pork dishes during my time in Thailand.
These are pork loins bought at the Big C (formerly Carrefor) on Rama 4. The Rama 4 Big C plus is one of the best in Bangkok and stocks items not found in other branches.
These pork loins cost 125 baht per kg. ($1.83 USD per lb). The Big C has a big open bin of these and you pick your own.
The pork is about 1/3rd the cost of equivalent cuts at grocery stores in Los Angeles.
I add some fresh rosemary (25 baht or 80 cents). Here I’ve placed it on top of the pork but for cooking it should be placed underneath.
Here is some fresh oregano (25 baht or 80 cents). Again this should be placed on the bottom of the dish.
Here is pork on top of the bed of herbs. I’ve added some fresh garlic that will get roasted once the dish is in the oven. I should have put more but it was too labor intensive peeling the skins. Next time, I’ll splurge and buy the peeled garlic.
On top I’ve added some mushrooms and black pepper. Last time I used shitake mushrooms but they overpowered the other ingredients. This time I used a milder type.
The most important ingredient is oil. In the U.S., I use sesame oil because of the nutty taste but Sesame oil was not available at the Big C. Corn, peanut, and palm oil are cheap and available but I decided to use olive oil.
I’ve filled the dish up with oil so that the meat, the rosemary, and the oregano are all sitting in oil. When the pork is place in the oven the fats will slowly be released. Since its’ sitting in oil these will drip into the oil and become infused with the herbs ans spices creating , a heavenly complex aromatic sauce. The oil serves the dual purpose of preventing the meat from drying out as it roasts .
This approach is very versatile because you can mix up and experiment with the herbs and spices to suit your taste. Like it hot, add some chilis. Like it savory, add some curry powder. etc.
On top, I place some small potatoes.
Here’s a finished portion where I oil/fat/herb sauce has been ladled from the bottom of the dish and used as a gravy for the meat and potatoes.