Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)

When you think of Thai food, do you think of pad thai? Of rice noodles with a slightly ketchup-y sauce topped with too many bean sprouts? Or mild curries, full of almost mushy vegetables? Or do you think of fresh noodles with a tart and savory flavor, created by a mixture of tamarind and oyster sauce? Or curry paste pounded by hand, spicy and complex?

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Our instructor Juno showing us ingredients at the market.

Since I have been in Thailand, I have mostly enjoyed the latter kind of Thai food. Food that is packed with flavor, that has depth to it, layers of ingredients that have been combined with care, with knowledge. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to take a cooking class, to learn these recipes and techniques. And, in the end, they aren’t as time consuming or confusing as you might think. The ingredients may be hard to find back home, but I can make do.

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Yes, they made us wear the hats as we toured the farm.

The day before Thanksgiving, I booked a cooking class for us and our visitors. There were eight of us total, and I thought it would be a good way to all spend a day together, doing something that we really enjoyed. Plus, it would almost be like Thanksgiving what with the hours in the kitchen and the overeating. We went with a company called AsiaScenic, and (after a little confusion) they picked us all up in a van and drove us to a market on the way to their farm north of the city.

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Our cooking group chopping and prepping!

Our instructor Juno showed us around the market, introducing spices, showing us pastes and sauces, and explaining the difference between some of the produce we know at home and the produce they have here. We continued on to the farm, which was an incredibly peaceful setting for a day of cooking. There were two other cooking classes in session in the big open air classroom, but because we were eight people, our class was just us. We sat, sipping on lemongrass juice, while Juno talked us through our dish options and we made our selections: laab gai, tom kha gai, pad see ew, khao soi, panang curry, and more. And everything we made was REALLY good. While most of the dishes didn’t take that long (except for the pounding of the curry pastes), they all tasted fresh and flavorful and real, just like the food you’d get at the market down the street.

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
My new favorite ingredient: chili jam.

But perhaps my favorite thing I learned about at this class was chili paste or jam, and the dish it featured heavily in: Tom Yum Koong. I had made Tom Yum Koong before, actually in a cooking class in Chiang Mai with my family. But the one I made at AsiaScenic was more memorable to me. Maybe it’s because I now like spicy food. Or maybe because I feel I’ll be able to hold onto this recipe and this memory for longer. This soup is spicy, sour, and a little fishy. This soup is one I want to make right now for all my friends who are layering on sweaters and scarves on the other side of the globe. It sends warmth to your fingertips, leaves a tingling around your lips. This soup, I will remember.

Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A hot bowl of Tom Yum Koong.

Note: This recipe serves only one – such is the life of a cooking class where everyone makes their own dishes! But it is easily multiplied.

Another note: Chili jam or paste is a paste made of oil, dried shrimp, dried chili, onion, garlic, tamarind, sugar, salt, and shrimp paste. My guess is that it (or something awfully similar) can be found at your local Asian grocery.

One more: While there are lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chilis in the soup, you’ll want to avoid actually eating any of those ingredients. They are large pieces, and should be easily avoidable when you’re slurping this up.

Tom Yum Koong (Hot and Sour Prawn Soup):
1 serving

1.5 cups water
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed and chopped into large chunks
1 large slice of galangal
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn into quarters
2 birds eye chilis, stemmed and smashed
1 tomato (like the size of a Roma), cut into bite sized pieces
2 crimini mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 of a white onion, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1-3 tsp chili jam
3-4 prawns
chopped cilantro and green onion for garnish

In a pot over high heat, boil the water. Add the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chilis. Let boil for 2-3 minutes before adding the tomato, mushrooms, and onion. Boil for 30 seconds.

Turn heat to low and add the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and chili jam. Mix everything in, and add more of the seasoning to taste. Add the prawns and cook until the prawns are just pink all the way through.

Put in a bowl and top with cilantro and green onion to serve.

Chiang Mai Restaurant Review: The Service 1921

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Finding a restaurant in a foreign city can be hard. There are blogs, Trip Advisor, and Google, yes. But how do you know if any of those reviewers or writers have the same taste as you? Maybe they think something is overpriced, but it’s because when they go out it’s to Chipotle (not that there’s anything wrong with Chipotle, trust me). An “expensive meal” here could be anything over $3 a person, since that is what many of our meals cost! Or maybe they thought the service was terrible but really it’s because they’re just rude to servers? Plus, often the only thing that actually motivates people to write reviews is because they had an extraordinarily good or bad experience. Factor into all of this the fact that we are in Chiang Mai. This means I can’t text my friends or post a question to my fellow bloggers asking them about where to eat for a special occasion.

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

The point is, when it came time to pick a restaurant to go to for my birthday last week, I didn’t go into it thinking “This is going to be amazing!” Instead, I went in thinking, “Well, this could be good or it could be terrible and I have no idea and I hope it’s not awful and expensive.” Super fun birthday thoughts, right? My birthday started luxuriously – Jonah made me breakfast (scrambled eggs and fruit), then we hopped on the moped and drove to one of the fancier spas in Chiang Mai, where Jonah had booked us both a two hour Thai massage. In the evening, we hopped in a taxi to Anantara Resort, a fancy spot on the river, and home to a restaurant called The Service 1921. I had read numerous reviews and websites and decided that this restaurant sounded fun. Why? Read the description below:

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

“Our resort’s splendid colonial house opened in 1921 as the British Consulate of Chiang Mai. Welcoming a constant stream of visitors, the parties for the British King or Queen’s birthdays were social highlights of the year. The Service 1921 reimagines this colonial era in an eccentric and fictitious reinvention of the British government’s secret intelligence service.”

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

In the pictures I’d seen, The Service 1921 looked dark and sparsely lit, the food looked like refined versions of much of the food we’d been eating around the city, and the cocktails looked spectacular. When we arrived at the resort, our jaws dropped. The grounds were stunning, perhaps even more so because it was lit up in the dark, and in the distance you could see city lights reflected on the river. We were taken back to the restaurant by a resort staff member, and then were greeted by a woman in 1920s garb. She took us upstairs to our table and handed us menus in envelopes stamped with “Top Secret” and “Confidential.” She then gave us instructions about our mission for the evening: to order and eat delicious food! Was it a little cheesy? Perhaps. But it was also totally fun and set a very playful mood for the evening. Our server Farn arrived in knickers, suspenders, and a black leather newsboy cap and took our cocktail orders (many of which were named in a James Bond theme). We ordered a small feast of dishes from varying cuisines: Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

After delivering our cocktails, Farn opened up a stack of ceramic bowls to reveal snacks: boiled peanuts, and two flavors of puffed rice (one was fairly spicy, almost kimchi flavored, and the other was green and laden with lemongrass, Tom Yam flavored). After munching on those, the food started arriving. My favorite appetizers were a grilled eggplant and crab dish, as well as the ground pork wrapped in betel leaves. Moving on to the entrees, the mapo doufu was spiced and silken, while the sea bream with Thai herbs grilled in a banana leaf was a perfect balance of coconut, kaffir lime leaves, and spices. Everything was packed with beautifully Asian flavors, each unique in some ways and matching in others, while still being tied together with common ingredients like fish sauce and chiles.

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

After the savory part of the meal was over I felt my stomach might burst, but we ordered dessert anyway – a chocolate lava cake. What can I say, I wanted chocolate on my birthday! It was accompanied by a perfect scoop of thai iced tea ice cream, which I’d say was the star of the sweets. And not to be left without a wish on my birthday, the restaurant also brought a chocolate layered cake topped with fruit and a candle. Looking back, I can’t remember what I could possibly have wished for. It was a pretty perfect evening.

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Chiangsgiving: Thailand #3

Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
The candle lighting ceremony kicked off this year’s Yi Peng Festival.

Well, it’s Thanksgiving day as I’m writing this, or as we’re calling it here in Chiang Mai, Chiangsgiving. It’s one of the cooler days we’ve had since we’ve been here, with a high of only 87° today. Jonah and I are actually at the office tying up a couple of loose ends before the holiday weekend while my family and friend Dylan are up at Wat Phra Doi Suthep. We’re meeting them at a nearby market for lunch, then maybe hitting up a couple more wats before our own funny Thanksgiving dinner tonight at what has become our favorite restaurant in town (and actually Kylie, Walt, Jonah and I are doing a cooking class there on Saturday).

Wat Phra Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
The golden chedi at Wat Phra Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Oil candles at Wat Phra Doi Suthep.

I’m sorry I took a little break there. You see, after the election, I tried writing a couple of different posts to put here, but none of them could adequately put into words how I was feeling. And honestly, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. So I’m not. Let’s all be ok with that and move on.

Tasting lemongrass juice | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Jonah caught drinking lemongrass juice, which tastes strangely like Fruit Loops.
My new favorite condiment | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A new favorite condiment at the hole in the wall restaurant around the corner: fish sauce, vinegar, birds eye chilis, and garlic.

The adventures have continued here. Since I last wrote, we attended the Yi Peng/Loi Krathong Festival, hung out with some elephants, drove up to Mae Ngat Lake where we spent the night at a floating hotel, visited Buatong Waterfall (aka Sticky Waterfall), floated in the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, attended a cooking class, and of course did this all while continuing to eat and work and host visitors. It has been an overwhelmingly busy couple of weeks, and while I’m not necessarily excited for our visitors to leave (mostly because it seems like they just here) I am looking forward to things quieting down a little bit.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
This elephant really wanted some sugarcane.
SP Chicken, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
One of my favorite lunches: SP Chicken. Perfect rotisserie chicken and the best dipping sauces.

And just in case you think we’ve become boring in our eating, we haven’t. We continue to try all kinds of new dishes. Highlights include a wing bean salad (at our favorite restaurant, which I hope to learn to make this week), whole red snapper salt crusted and grilled, fermented pork in banana leaf, sukiyaki, the famous Chiang Mai sausage, a giant bag of passionfruit, and roti covered in sweetened condensed milk. Some of these things are adventurous, while others have become comforts, while others still have become favorites, dishes that I know I’ll miss when we leave, and that I’ll forever try to perfectly recreate back at home.

Lunch at Lert Ros, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Lunch near our office: grilled whole red snapper, papaya salad, sticky rice, and more.
Produce stang, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
My dad trying to figure out what kind of bean that giant pod in his hand is.

I’m sure I will have photos later of our Thanksgiving dinner, but today I just want to share some moments from the last few weeks. And, in a time where there is lots of hurt and negativity, I want to focus on putting positivity and gratitude out into the world. I have lots to be thankful for this year. Next year I get to marry the best human I know. This human and I are on the adventure of a lifetime, something that we are able to do because we have good, steady work. My family became a little more whole this year. I have friends back home who not only are storing my life’s belongings in their crawl spaces and basements, but that support me and love me, and who miss me while I’m gone. I have this space, this little corner of the internet, where I get to write and share and vent and let my voice be heard. I am lucky to be able to stand up and make my voice heard.

Moonrise over Mae Ngat Lake, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Watching the moon rise on a clear night at Mae Ngat Lake.

I hope that during what can be one of the most stressful times of the year, you can also take a moment to think about the things that you’re grateful for, even though right now it might seem like there’s not a lot. Find the little things, take joy in them. I wish more than anything that I could cook a big warming meal for my family, for my friends, and for anyone who might be reading this. But for now, this post will have to do. Next year, there will be pie.

Finding a Home in Chiang Mai: Thailand #2

We have been in Thailand for roughly 3 weeks, and this morning as we rode the moped through the little streets of the Old Town in Chiang Mai I was thinking that life was almost starting to feel a little bit normal. Or maybe not normal, but like a life I could get used to. We eat breakfast in our room or downstairs at our hotel, we hop on the bike and go somewhere to work, we grab lunch nearby somewhere, work some more, go home and rest a bit, find dinner, and hang out with friends.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Jonah and a bowl that used to be full of khao soi.

Now don’t let me fool you, the past few days have been far from normal. They have rather been a whirlwind of looking at apartments, finding decent internet, and lots of sweating. But yesterday we signed a rental agreement, and today we purchased a month-long membership at a co-working space, so I can see the comforts of a routine forming.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Getting our khao kha muu from the cowgirl.

I still find myself thinking of home often. What are my old roommates doing? How are Mac & Carmelle’s wedding plans coming along? What has Caitlyn been baking lately? Have all of our friends gone to the pumpkin patch and drank apple cider? I find that the things I miss most are the yearly traditions that really start happening in the fall. I’ll just appreciate them that much more next year, I guess.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Khao kha muu!

On this side of the world, instead of cider and pumpkin bread, we are eating piles of Thai food. I have now twice enjoyed khao kha muu, a dish of stewed pork leg – so tender it falls apart and the fat just melts in your mouth – with rice, served with pickled mustard greens and occasionally a perfectly soft boiled egg. The second time was from the famous “lady in the cowboy hat” which is apparently the best in Chiang Mai.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Grilling marinated meats and fresh vegetables like corn, oyster mushrooms, and onions.

Khao soi is another dish that you’ll find on almost every menu here, and while we haven’t found “the best” khao soi (there are of course differing opinions on where to get it), we have enjoyed a couple bowls of the sweet, curry soup with soft egg noodles below and crispy egg noodles on top. Jonah also expertly ordered a “dry” khao soi the other day, which wasn’t quite dry, but instead of soup was more like extra saucy noodles, and which was also really really good.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
After a sweaty, smokey dinner with friends Kylie & Walt.

Last night I went out to dinner with my friend Kylie to a place near our hotel (and also near our new apartment that we’ll move into this weekend), and we had some marinated grilled chicken, catfish salad, and a spicy pomelo salad that was much like the papaya salad you find at some Thai restaurants at home but with pomelo instead of papaya. It was served with a healthy scoop of peanuts to help with the spice, and some kind of lemongrass…salsa? Anyway, it was the highlight of the meal – limey, crunchy, nutty, spicy, funky (thanks to the dried shrimp). All around great.

Eating in Chiang Mai, Thailand | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Spicy pomelo salad, with grilled chicken, sticky rice, and Kylie in the background.

We have indulged in a couple of non-Thai meals, and the other night Jonah guided us to a Japanese restaurant he had passed on his moped. Similar to Korean BBQ places I’ve been to at home, you order a bunch of raw meat and vegetables and cook it on a grill at your table. Except here, instead of the grill being safely secured in the center of your table, the grill is made of heavy stone (or cast iron, perhaps) and is hauled to your table full of hot coals by one of the sweet gals working there. It was perhaps the sweatiest smokiest meal we’ve enjoyed, but also one of the most fun.

We’re continuing to settle into life here. The next orders of business are finding a yoga studio we like and, of course, a place (or three) for good cheap Thai massages. And in just a few short weeks, the visitors start arriving.

Weekend Finds 10:22:16

It has been a long time since I have rounded up some weekend finds for you. And since I have been longingly staring at recipes on blogs I love, pages I follow on Facebook, and my Instagram feed, I can tell you that I have some things I really want to cook. We’ve been gone for about three weeks now and, after my friends and family, the thing I am missing most is cooking. The good news is, I can text and Skype with my friends and family. I cannot chat with my pots and pans, the smell of onions sautéing in butter, my favorite wooden spoon, or freshly baked pumpkin bread. So instead, I am planning on living vicariously through all of you as you cook your way through fall, my favorite season. Here’s what I would make if I were you.

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Cream and Chanterelles from PDXFoodLove

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Cream and Chanterelles from PDXFoodLove
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Cream and Chanterelles from PDXFoodLove

Three of my favorite things in one dish: crispy chicken skin, cream sauce, and mushrooms. This recipe from fellow Portland blogger Rebekah looks so freaking tasty, and I think it would be perfect for dinner with friends on a chilly fall evening.

Salted Tahini, Pepita, and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies from Chocolate + Marrow

Salted Tahini, Pepita, and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies from Chocolate + Marrow
Salted Tahini, Pepita, and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies from Chocolate + Marrow

Brooke’s writing continues to blow me away, as do her recipes and photos. The accompanying blog post breaks my heart, but these cookies sound like they’d lift my spirits. They look like the perfect treat for the season, nutty through and through with the tahini, pepitas, and peanut butter.

Roasted Vegetables with Miso & Harissa

Roasted Vegetables with Miso & Harissa
Roasted Vegetables with Miso & Harissa

Yes yes, I’ve obviously posted this before. But it is my absolute go-to in the fall. The miso gets perfectly caramelized and the harissa lends the perfect amount of heat. Want to make it into a hearty salad? Make a teeny bit extra of the miso-harissa-olive oil mixture and, once the vegetables are roasting, squeeze a lemon into the remaining mixture. Whisk together, and then add chopped kale leaves and massage them with the dressing. Toss with the roasted vegetables once they’ve cooled for a bit.

Bacon Apple Cheddar Pie from Hummingbird High

Bacon Apple Cheddar Pie from Hummingbird High
Bacon Apple Cheddar Pie from Hummingbird High

Around this time of year, I always start to think about two things: what pies I’ll make for Thanksgiving, and birthday treats for my family. You see, our birthdays all fall in these four months. My older sister’s birthday is tomorrow (happy birthday Emily!) and I think she would really appreciate this funky, unique pie from Michelle over at Hummingbird High. I love the pies that come with fall, but I have found that sometimes you need a twist on the classics, and this sounds like just that.

Spilled Milk Podcast

Spilled Milk with Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton
Spilled Milk with Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton

Not a recipe, no, but a podcast about food. Having hosts Molly and Matthew in my ears has been one of my comforts since leaving home. It helps that they are guaranteed to make me laugh. Be warned, the show is rated R.