Monday, January 20, 2014

Tom Ka Gai Soup...a family dinner out that inspired...





For our final meal as a family before the holidays officially ended, we chose to go to our favorite Thai restaurant here in Houston, Thai Cottage.  We discussed our New Year's Resolutions and what we hoped for in the new year.  My resolutions have to do with the colors black and white.  I have set for the year to try and see people and consider their actions more within the color "grey", rather than black and white.  Instead of coming to a ready conclusion about things, I'm going to probe the color grey more to see if I can shift my outlook about people a little more.

But, back to our favorite Thai restaurant.  We had not been there recently because they were in the process of redoing the decor.  We were really quite attached to the mood, lighting, and decor of what they already had so we were a bit dubious about the change.



Top Left: Delicious Thai Curries Top Right: Moody moody skies
Bottom Left: our favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Cottage; Bottom Right:daily walks





Curries, Thai soups, and mango slices with sticky rice are some of our tried and true favorites and we were missing our dose of this delicious cuisine.  What is wonderful, too, are the leftovers that we can enjoy the next day.

To our relief, the new decor is beautiful.  A large artistic mural is painted on one wall of the restaurant. They kept the lighting and color palette the same but changed the texture of the flooring and upgraded the back bar area and some of the lighting fixtures.











After our night out at our favorite Thai place, I decided to add a simple Tom Ka Gai soup into our line up of weekly soup options. 


Buying the ingredients for Asian soups is the best way to understand the diverse cultures better.  I can walk my fingers over a map of Asia and watch how subtly the ingredients of dishes shift reflecting what is grown in that particular area of this huge continent.  

Being in a major city, it is always a little adventure for me to hop about searching for either galanga roots or stalks of fresh lemon grass.  Coconut milk is fun to use in cooking, smells so light and fresh, and is an ingredient everyone here enjoys.  




Sugarland, Texas Farmer's Market 


I hadn't stopped by our local farmer's market for a few weeks so I thought I would add that to my Saturday shopping lineup.  The weather is at it finest here in the south.  The skies range from moody and wild to bright and cheery blue with crisp breezes.  This is how winter is defined here in southern U.S.  Fortunately, right now the horrid humid days are months away and we can all breathe easy outdoors.

Since we have such a large Asian population here in Houston, there are several stalls at the local farmer's market specializing in Asian produce that is grown locally.




Ingredients:  peppers, lemon grass, cilantro, ginger, fish sauce, and fresh limes



As I chatted with some of my favorite farmers, I spotted a few new vendors this week.  I noticed these lovely porcelain necklaces in classic Chinese blue and white designs.  What a wonderful addition to the market.  A certain special someone in our family has a February birthday so I'll plan on bringing her by here to see if she likes any of these pretty necklace pieces.

Limes, coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger, and cilantro were among the items on my shopping list and the fragrances of each item tingled my nose as I breathed in the fresh scents. 

Ingredients tucked away, I wandered around the market, taking in the wonderful sounds of the music, the smokiness billowing from the grills outside, and the cute dogs getting their weekly dose of fawning over at the market by the many pet lovers.


Bottom Left: Kumquats



One of my favorite fruits is kumquats.  I've been noticing them appear in town more and more lately.  I recently tried a hybrid fruit called a mandarin-quat.  They were a bit more sour than a kumquat but with an extra puckering kick of the mandarin flavor in there...it was an interesting combination, but I don't think I'll give up my kumquats any time soon, though.



Produce from Gundermann Acres Farm



This week I sampled some pepper jelly.  The Texas culture loves to put peppers and spices into just about anything they can to tweak the flavors around here.  

I only tried it to be polite but I was surprised that I really liked the sweet and spicy flavors blended together.  Added with a little cream cheese on a cracker and it makes a nice little appetizer.  

I love stopping by this booth because the man who works there makes me smile and laugh.  He has big thick hands and a ready laugh.  He tries hard to daintily dab a dollop of jam onto a fragile little cracker and his efforts make me chuckle.



Top Left:  Kristi's Kitchen Jam's and Jellies  Top Right: Gundermann Acres Farm;
Bottom L: Texas "T" Kobe Beef;  Bottom R: Imperial BBQ 



I wandered around some more, thinking of my Tom Ka Gai Soup and how much I would like to experiment with Asian flavors in my kitchen more often.  So little time and so many dishes I would like to cook!

I came across one booth selling local beef.  I was noticing the cute little metal cow sculpture holding the pot of grass when the woman working the booth told me that they sell "Kobe Beef".  "Like the beef associated with Japan?"  I queried.







"Yes, that's it.  We offer it here in Texas."  I tried to understand why this just didn't seem to fit with my knowledge of Texas food products.  We chatted a bit about how they entered the Kobe Beef business here in Texas by shipping this breed of cows here and that it has become quite a popular choice for beef with the Texas crowd.







The smoke was luring me outside of the market where they were bbq'ing huge turkey legs alongside big slabs of beef ribs.  The aroma, along with the smoke that wafted in and out of the crowd of people, made me smile and enjoy the power of food, music, and people to create an atmosphere of fun, relaxation, colorfulness, and bustling life. 



Top Left:  Texas Hill Country Olive Company  Top Right:  Lavande Lavendar Farm Sachets


I did not come home with a bottle of Terra Verde Balsamic Vinaigrette, but I think I will remedy that on my next visit to the market.  I sampled a fig balsamic vinegar that was delicious, pungent, and sweet at the same time.  I don't really like to mix fruits with vinegars but this one had me hooked.

I might not have bought the vinegar because the lady at this booth caught my eye and intrigued me.  She was so beautiful.  She carried herself in such a stately manner that I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

I have an insatiable curiosity about people.  I always have and I guess I always will.  Her silver hair was swept back in thick waves so elegantly.  The soft wrinkles in her face gave her face such wonderful character and I wondered what stories they held.  She carried herself gracefully and wore a warm plaid blanket effortlessly around her shoulders in such a simple but stylish manner.  

Did she make the vinegars?  Is it an old family traditional recipe?  Where was she from?  What stories does she have to tell?  Maybe I'll swing by again next weekend, actually remember to purchase some fig balsamic vinegar next time, and uncover more about her alluring persona.  



Top Left:  Gundermann Farms Produce;  Top Right:  Texas Hill Country Olive Company
Bottom Left:  Great Harvest Bread Company:  





(Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine) 









22 comments:

  1. This is one of my very favorite soups too. :-) And the market sounds amazing!!! I adore hot pepper jelly. I had it for the first time in Oklahoma when my friends served it to me on hamburgers. Swoon. A hamburger just doesn't seem right without it now. :-)

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    1. Of course you had hot pepper jelly in Oklahoma! That made me laugh! It would definitely be something you would run across, I suspect. Moreover, I would be intrigued to know how you arrived in Oklahoma!

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  2. My favourite thing to eat in Houston is the Vietnamese food - oh the glory of it all! I'm glad your enjoying your culinary adventures there :)

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    1. You know, we don't go out for Vietnamese as often. I don't know why...I think we just haven't found "our" place yet. Are you missing Houston?? Ice storm tomorrow. Everyone is panicked...and probably for good reason!

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  3. I am not exposed to such oriental food enough, it looks so delicious :D

    Cheers
    CCU

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    1. It is a delicious soup...flavors that are very bright, fresh, and different from any flavors I've had in soups. You should try it...super simple to make.

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  4. Oh what a lovely walk around your market! For the whole spectrum of products!! Great to see you cooking Asian: one of my favourite soups actually! Geography playing a huge part, I cook Asian/Asian fusion 5 days out of 7 :) ! No problem here with growing one's own lemongrass [overwinters], chillies, limes or coriander and galangal available e'where of course!! Somehow my childhood European flavours have paled into insignificance with the infinite variety of light and very easy-to-cook Asian dishes ~ I too love the variety in Vietnamese food, but make a lot of Szechuan, Hunanese, Hainanese and Thai dishes besides beloved Indian and Sri Lankan food . . .

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    1. I should definitely branch out into learning more Asian dishes. The discovery process of looking, finding, and understanding how all of the ingredients come together is so much fun.

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    2. Sarah ~ I am not saying this because Luke Nguyen is an Australian Vietnamese - he's becoming an icon at a relatively young age as restaurateur, foodie film maker and cookery book author. Nicest of guys and hugely intelligent and fun. He has a fairly new book out, something like 'The Greater Mekong' or similar taking in food from Southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam - culture, stories, wonderful recipes - am certain available at Amazon . . . I would recommend him to anyone interested in making SE Asian food 'simple'!! And variable!!!! And huge fun!! His food videos incomparable!!!!

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    3. Thank you Eha! This will be fun to check out. How easy Amazon makes our lives...

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  5. I love soup and this one looks especially delicious!

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  6. Sarah dear, What a wonderful walk through the market, a thoughtful discussion on 'black and white' (love it!) and delicious soup in tow. My all time fave too. Wonderful post as always.

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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    1. Thank you Devaki! And...I'm glad you had a wonderful birthday! I can't believe how many really enjoy this thai soup. Me too.

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  7. What a wonderful market tour-the next best thing to being there. My, but this soup sounds wonderful. This one is going on my "to do" list. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you...it's such a simple soup but so delicious. Instead of chicken, you could add shrimp or next time I might try little dumplings...

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  8. What a gorgeous market! and what a gorgeous soup and not difficult to make I'm happy to see. I really like the idea of "grey" perhaps if we could all look for the grey a little more that would make the world an easier place!
    Mary x

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    1. I've been really trying to focus on my own outlook instead of "why" other people are they way "they" are...I've discovered I should start with the grey and mull around there first...

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  9. Oh this market sounds wonderful! I love the beeswax candles…and the olive oil and balsamic. A place I would really enjoy browsing! Your soup looks divine…we are certainly having soup weather in my neck of the woods. Lovely post, Sarah! Have a nice weekend!

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    1. I am certainly going to return for a bottle of that fig balsamic vinegar...I was too busy having fun with my camera and didn't pick up a bottle from that sweet lady!

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  10. If you pour a bit of Olive on it and mix it then it can be more tasty. I tried similar recipe last week but your recipe is more good compared my last week recipe. I only one to suggest that please check Store Flyer before you to shopping for grocery or any other home needs. These store flyers has really great offers.

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  11. If you pour a bit of Olive on it and mix it then it can be more tasty. I tried similar recipe last week but your recipe is more good compared my last week recipe. I only one to suggest that please check Store Flyer before you to shopping for grocery or any other home needs. These store flyers has really great offers.

    ReplyDelete

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