Chile, chili, chilli Etc. Food & talk Health & nutrition Herbs In print Kitchens Markets

Wisdom in the Kitchen

Lumpy, bumpy Kaffir limes

I’ve been meaning to do this for a very long time: compile a list of culinary tips I’ve accrued through years of shadowing Asia’s cooks—from the hoity-toity kitchen classrooms of luxury resorts, to the dirt-floor huts of mothers who carry on their ancestors’ recipes.  Take a gander at that list, now in The Faster Times. But first, spin through a few photos of ingredients covered.

Fresh turmeric


Flat-leaf Chinese chives

Garlic and shallots, together forever

Much lemongrass

No curry without chile

Garlic for every meal



9 replies on “Wisdom in the Kitchen”

Very nice site and helpful to see the pictures when you don’t know what they are called in English. One question: the flat-leaf Chinese chives look more like pandan leaves to me–the leaves with fragrance that often use in Asian delicacies.

Oh the sight of fresh, young galangal makes me salivate! I taste it in laabs and hot and sour fish soups. A personal favorite of mine is coconut and galangal chicken soup. It’s made not much unlike the tom yum shrimp. But with chicken and coconut instead and lots and lots of thinly sliced galangal. How evocative food memories can be.

Wietje, you’re right – they do look a bit like pandan leaves, don’t they? But nope, this was a close-up shot of tightly packed chives in Bangkok’s primary vegetable market for restaurateurs.

Souavarat, I just made coconut/galangal soup last night! I didn’t have time to get to the store for chicken, so I just made it with lots of mushrooms. Here in the US, I keep galangal in the freezer, then defrost portions as I need them. It smelled so gooooood when I started slicing that galangal!

I’m taking this occasion to thank you. I am not familiar at all with South East Asian cooking, and I did not have any chance to follow cooking classes nor have many friends from that part of the world. Your posts and pictures, and this article above all, have taught me so much about the feeling of it, much more than a mere ‘recipe’ can do.

These are great tips! I always love learning new cooking wisdom, especially about Asian cooking since I know only the basics. The cleaning tips were great, reusing water you use to rinse. This makes me miss all the wonderful lemongrass and galangal…


Caffettiera, thank YOU so much. Responses like yours are precisely why I write this blog.

Ellis, thank you, and I’m so glad you find these tips useful. Funny, they’ve been rattling around in my head for ages. It feels good to put them all in one spot for reference. It’s notable that many of these cooks have had no formal training, and they’re proud to say they’ve taught themselves through experience and observation. Very different from the restaurant/cooking school scene in the West.

Hi Helen. Just curious, which of these do you find unappealing? I’m always interested to know how different people and different cultures see and define “appetizing.”

After a second look, I think I should have said that Jerry has a way of making simple items look terrific.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *