Thai Cooking with Chef Nooror
A funny thing happened where I was assumed to be a food blogger and was then able to attend the media day for Chef Nooror Somany-Steppe’s upcoming Thai cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Those of you who know my love for cooking and super sleuth like attention to proper ingredients and techniques will find the humor in this story because you’ll be able to picture me secretly geeking out the whole time I was in the great big fabulous training kitchen. Particularly if you’re my Mom, who’s been scolded on more than one occasion for trying to improvise ingredients for holiday cooking. And you’ll really understand my excitement when I learned we got to take our aprons home. I’m really not normal. I suppose I could have come clean with the fact that I’m not really a food blogger, but then again, I do occasionally blog about food. Like now. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to think I was some sort of undercover spy. Very Bond-like.
Side note: this was the first day “real” eating could happen after a 13 day Master Cleanse, so you can imagine how excited my stomach was too. Especially when we were learning how to make Tom Kha Kai (coconut milk soup with chicken), Massaman Lamb (Massaman curry wth lamb), Pla Koong Avocado (prawns salad with avocado) and Chor Muang (steamed flower-shaped dumplings).
So Chef Nooror and her daughter Chef Sandra had just gotten in from Bangkok about 48 hours prior. A darling team those two. Chef Nooror gets down to business while her daughter supplements the atmosphere with great stories and anecdotes about her Mom, their family, and their business. One of my faves was Sandra talking about her Mom’s wishes to walk along Venice Beach in torn jeans, to which Chef Nooror replied, “I love to wear the broken jeans!” There was a theme of differences between America and Thailand, mostly as it related to food. While I can’t share Chef Nooror’s recipes, I can share those differences and some great Thai cooking tips:
1) In Thailand, if a man wants to find a wife he would judge her character by the way she pounds her curry. A stronger pounder is apparently bossy, a softer pounder more gentle.
2) Coriander root is a common ingredient in Thai food that is not so common in the US. Use cilantro stems instead if you have to.
3) If you’re going to make a dish with raw lemongrass, marinate it in fresh lime juice to bring out color and enhance flavor.
4) White palm sugar is thought to be of better quality than brown palm sugar.
5) American coconut milk and cream is too rich and creamy. Water it down a bit for the right consistency.
6) The root of lemongrass, or thicker end, has a better taste and quality so start on that end when your slicing it. You can also remove the outer layer and slice the rest.
7) If you want to make Thai food from scratch you’re gonna need a big heavy mortar and pestle ’cause there’s a lot of pounding and grinding to do until things get “aromatic.”
8) Be careful with fish sauce because it likes to dominate. Use sparingly and increase to taste from there.
9) Smashing ingredients before putting them in a pot of broth helps spread the flavor love. And it’s more fun than slicing…sort of cavemanish.
10) Thai garlic is stronger and better quality than traditional garlic.
11) When sauteing protein with oil, place the protein in the pan and then drizzle with oil to avoid things getting too oily. I know…why didn’t I think of that?!?
12) And saving the best for last…”Everything’s bigger in America.” We were talking about shallots and the like, but the crowd couldn’t resist a few laughs on that one.
Chef Nooror is the owner of the global Blue Elephant Restaurant Group, a cookbook author and owner of the Blue Elephant cooking school. She opened her first Blue Elephant Restaurant in Belgium in 1980 and since then, has expanded to 13 locations throughout Europe and is known as an ambassador for Thai cuisine. Her class is great, so if you’ve ever wanted to improve your Thai cooking skills, or even get them started, get down to Le Cordon Bleu Pasadena. You’ll walk away with some mad new skills. I even met two great food bloggers, Johanna from Low Sodium Blog and Mona from Cook This Get Laid (and Mona turned me on to A Market in Echo Park – one of those awesome markets where you can get all those ingredients you can’t find anywhere because normal people don’t buy them).
Classes Open to the Public
- · Friday, April 26 from 2-6 p.m.: Appetizers taught by Chef Nooror
- · Saturday, April 27 from 2-6 p.m.: Steamed and Stir-Fried taught by Chef Nooror
- · Wednesday, May 1 from 2-6 p.m.: Soup, Satay and Salad taught by Chef Sandra
- · Friday, May 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Soup and Stir-Fry taught by Chef Sandra
- · Friday, May 3 from 2-6 p.m.: Soup, Curry, Stir-Fry and Salad taught by Chef Sandra
- · To register for any of these classes, click here.
And one more thing: if you think cooking next to a Sous Chef from Craft is a good idea, think again. It’s kinda like trying to dance Swan Lake next to Rudolf Nureyev. Back in the day of course.