The flamboyant Peta Mathias hits the gastronomic road again when Taste Takes Off,-a revamped overseas version of Taste New Zealand. New Zealand's footloose TV foodie explores the flavours, the style and the sights of 10 destinations around the Pacific.
Peta's lived the food traditions of the world and each Taste Takes Off travels to a country seeking out the people and stories behind the flavours.
Taste Takes Off to Chiang Mai, the hub of Northern Thailand and further north to the mountains bordering Burma and China. Here we discover there is much more to Thai food than those red and green coconut curries. We tell the story of how cooking techniques were adapted from the countries that surround Thailand and of the hot chillies that have become the hallmark of Thai cuisine.
At the Kao Hom Cook School we learn about chilies and the balancing act of flavours, -spicy, mild, sweet and salty.
There's traditionally farmed sticky rice, northern sausage specialties and noodle cooking with Thailand's witty television chef, McDang.
In the mountains there's hill tribe cooking at Lisu Lodge and Peta prepares a green papaya salad.
Kao Home Cooking School
Aed Nagavajara and her sister run the beautiful and brand new Kao Hom cooking school, which is located just outside of Chiang Mai. The school kitchens are set in picturesque gardens surrounded with tamarind and other exotic fruit trees and herbs. Here Peta learns about the three main chilli varieties used in Thai dishes and how a Thai meal is a balancing act of flavours; spicy, mild, sweet and salty.
1/2 cup boiled pork, sliced
1/2 cup boiled shrimps
2 tbsp roasted shredded coconut
1 tbsp dried shrimps
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp roasted peanuts
2 tbsp coconut cream
1 tbsp nam prik phao chilli paste
1 tbsp fried sliced garlic
1 tbsp fried sliced chives
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp crushed hot pepper
In a bowl mix together the chilli paste, fish sauce, lemon juice and sugar, and then gently mix in the coarse chopped pomelo. Add pork, roasted coconut, garlic and chives and half your shrimps. Mix in coconut cream, hot pepper and garnish with remaining shrimps.
Chicken and galangal in coconut soup
chicken cut into small pieces
100 ml coconut cream
300 ml water
1 stem lemon grass (crushed and sliced)
8 slices fresh galangal thinly sliced
20g crushed chives
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp crushed hot pepper
Fresh chopped coriander
Boil lemon grass, galangal and chives for a few minutes until you can smell the aroma. Add chicken and cook for a few minutes more. Add mushroom, then coconut milk and bring to the boil then move from heat immediately. Finally, add cumin, fish sauce, lime leaves, lemon juice, hot pepper and dash of salt. Garnish with coriander
fried fish with tamarind ginger sauce
Deep fry snapper in very hot oil until golden
2 tbsp concentrated tamarind sauce
40g palm sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp cooking oil
20g shredded ginger
20g shredded spring onion in long thin pieces
In a pan heat oil to medium heat and mix fish sauce, palm sugar and tamarind juice in the pan. Stir until sauce begins to thicken. Add ginger and spring onion and immediately remove from heat. Serve with the fish
Prawn chu chi curry
2 tbsp chu chi chilli paste
200 ml coconut milk
1 tsp fish sauce
20g palm sugar
1 red chilli sliced for garnish
2 kaffir lime leaves sliced for garnish
In a pan heat oil to very hot and fry prawns until pink all over - do not overcook. Heat coconut milk and stir until oil shows on surface. Add chilli paste and stir until oil on the surface turns reddish. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and stir well. Pour curry sauce onto the prawns and garnish with chilli and lime leaf.
Baankwaithai Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp
Wherever you travel in Thailand you'll find paddy fields and rice. These days most rice farming is mechanised but at the Mae Rim Buffalo Training Camp the traditional way of life of the Northern Thai farmer is preserved for you to see. The main attractions are the buffaloes, once a common sight in Thailand they are now rare to find. For more information about the shows and programmes on offer at the training camp:
Apassara Khamyang & Mr Sittdes Chitropas
95 M002 Tumbol Saluang
Ampor Mae Rim, Chiang Mai 50330
Tel: 66 53 374 285
If you've had the opportunity to watch any amount of television overseas you'll soon discover there's cooking shows everywhere and Thailand is no exception. One of the best-known TV personalities in Thailand is a chef with the unlikely name, McDang. Chef McDang was educated in England, learnt to cook in the States and writes for a Bangkok Sunday paper. We met McDang in a village just out side of Chiang Mai and learned how to prepare the Northern specialty kao soi, or Yunanese curried noodles.
Chinese egg noodles.
1/2 kg chicken thighs and legs.
2 cups coconut cream.
3 cups coconut milk
1/2 tbsp salt
1 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet black soy, sweet.
2 tbsp cooking oil
Ground dry curry paste in oil (as needed)
Fresh lime wedges (as needed)
Ingredients for Curry Paste:
dry chili peppers
3/4 cup roasted shallots.
1/4 cup julienne roasted fresh ginger.
3 tbsp sliced roasted fresh turmeric.
1/4 cup coriander seeds.
1 tbsp salt.
Pound all ingredients in a pestle and mortar into a paste.
Wash the chicken legs and thighs thoroughly and place in a pot with coconut milk and salt. Bring the chicken to the boil and simmer until the chicken is tender. In another pan, bring the coconut cream to a boil and reduce the heat. Cook until the cream separates and add the curry paste. Spread it out and cook until fragrant then add to the pot of boiled chicken. Bring this curry back to a boil and season with salt and sweet black soy. Taste the curry sauce to get the taste that you wish and take off heat. Put cooked noodles in a bowl, pour the Kao Soi sauce over the noodles, crumble crispy fried on top of the chicken and serve this bowl of Kao Soi with Chili paste, lime juice and pickled shallots and pickled cabbage.
1 kg Chinese pickled cabbage. Sliced into strips or cubed.
1/2 kg Shallots, peeled and diced
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
Mix the sugar, salt, and vinegar together to make the base of the salsa. When all ingredients are dissolved, add the shallots and diced Chinese pickled cabbage. This salsa is served with the Kao Soi as taste adjuster.
Northern Thailand is famous for it's variety of sausages, especially sai oua which is one of the most popular food items requested by Thais visiting from other regions. Sai oua is made by mixing a typical Thai curry paste with ground pork then stuffing it into a pork intestine and frying it to produce a spicy red sausage. Another popular spicy sausage is naem maw, which is uncooked. Instead, ground pork, pork rind and sticky rice are mixed with salt garlic and chilli and left to ferment for exactly three days. The fermenting effects of the garlic and chilli 'cook' the mixture into a sour tasting sausage. We visited a local operation with our friend McDang.
Chad Charn Eakchaipatankakul
Vanusnan Company Ltd
398 Chiang Mai Lampany Road
Chiang Mai 50000
Tel: 66 1 881 6464
This is one of the largest markets in Chiang Mai, centrally located close to the Ping River. Warorot Market specialises in colourful sweets and desserts but you can buy almost anything here, from fresh fruits, vegetables and spices to jewellery, clothes and of course, hill-tribe products. The market is open daily from 8.00am until midnight and is frequented more by local Thais than by tourists. Explore the maze of indoor and outdoor stalls, enjoy the chaos and colour, and be ready to bargain. It is, after all, part of the fun.
Corner of Changmoi and Witchayanon Roads
North of Night Bazaar, on west side of Ping River
Chiang Mai 50100
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
As the national animal of Thailand, the elephant has a very special place in Thai lore. Unfortunately, there are very few elephants left in the wild anymore and their very existence is thought to be in considerable danger. Today, elephants are mainly used as tourist attractions in camps and shows up and down the country. There are several such elephant camps and shows in Chiang Mai Province, we visited the Mae Sa Elephant Camp near Chiang Dow. Each morning from 9.30am until 11.00am trained elephants demonstrate their formidable and highly valued forestry skills. A jungle tour on elephant back, lasting more than two hours through adjacent forests, is offered after the show.
The Mae Sa Elephant Camp
535 Maerim-Samerng Road
Chiang Mai TH, 50180
Tel: 66 53 297060
In the mountainous area towards the Burmese and Chinese borders are many tribal villages populated by people who crossed the border for a better life in Thailand. Once such group are the Lisu. They originated in Eastern Tibet and the first settlers arrived in the early 1900's. The Lisu are known for their friendliness and their brightly coloured costumes. Alongside their village is a quite unusual lodge that is run as a co-operative venture between the villagers and Lodge hosts Ratchet and Nit Wapeetha.
Lisu Lodge is an award winning ecolodge and was designed to blend in with the houses of village. There are six guest rooms surrounding a large living area, which serves as a restaurant. Here you can try Lisu specialties such as Yum Pak Dong; a strongly flavoured pickled cabbage with chilli, spring onions and celery or Laab Moo Lisu a minced pork dish with pigs blood chillies and Thai olive bark, an antidote for stomach upsets.
Nit & Ratchet Wapeetha
93/2 Moo 4
Tambon Baag Chang
Amphur Mae Teng
Tel: 66 06 182 6300
Not content with managing the Lisu Lodge our hosts Nit and Ratchet also run another ecolodge called Lanna Farm. Lanna Farm is a beautiful teak house surrounded by rice fields and orchards. The rooms are beautifully furnished in the local style and activities around the farm emphasize the rural lifestyle celebrated in the villages. Ox-cart rides, water buffalo and a small museum of local culture are all on the site. Bicycles are available to explore the surrounding countryside and hamlets and at the end of an active day you can enjoy a traditional Thai massage and a cooking lesson.
Nit & Ratchet Wapeetha
27 Moo 2
Tel/Fax: 66 53 889 090
www.lisulodge.com (Follow the links to Lanna Farm)
At Lanna Farm Peta prepares a green papaya salad made entirely by a mortar and pestle.
2 small fresh green chillies
3 cloves garlic
1 small eggplant (about 1/2 cup) chopped
2 long beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 tbsp shrimp paste
2 tbsp tamarind paste or 2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar
1/2 a salted crab (optional)
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
2 tbsp dried shrimps
Mortar and pestle
Peel the papaya. To do this take a large knife and chop the papaya lengthwise and with rapid movements cut into the flesh of the papaya. Turn papaya upside down and slice off the cuts made by the knife. The flesh will fall into beautiful fine shards. Alternatively you can finely julienne the papaya. Next you smash together the other ingredients - not to a paste but loosely. Into the mortar place chillies and garlic and pound with pestle. Add eggplant, long beans and tomato and pound. Add shrimp paste and tamarind and pound. Add fish sauce, cane sugar and salted crab and pound. Add peanuts and dried shrimps and pound. Lastly add the shredded papaya and mix in.
Serve on a large platter. Thais like to eat this salad with sticky rice and barbequed chicken.
Travel specialists Adventure World assisted the Taste team with their Vietnam arrangements. Adventure World is a niche travel company with an in depth knowledge of less traditional tourist destinations. For more information about their products and tours contact Adventure World at
Authority of Thailand
Tel: 64 9 489 1363
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