If you follow Pailin Chongchitnant on Insta, have come across her delicious recipes on YouTube, or recently picked up her cookbook, Hot Thai Kitchen, then you know she knows a thing or two about cooking Thai cuisine. But to actually sit down and have a conversation with the Thai-born native, who currently lives in Vancouver, is truly something special.
As I sat across from her on a petite bamboo bench in the centre of the Thai Trade Centre’s garden, I couldn’t help but notice the warmth that radiated from her tone as she spoke about her love for this authentic food. Chongchitnant started her career as a restaurant chef but quickly realized that the restaurant setting wasn’t exactly making her heart feel full. So, she switched gears and found that her passion is actually teaching others how to cook (thanks to her YouTube channel, Pailin’s Kitchen). Through this medium, she discovered that there were a lot of people who wanted to cook Thai food but had no idea where to begin. “There weren’t a lot of resources out there in English and video form that people could watch and follow along, so I kind of answered a need that was out there,” she says.
For someone like myself, who has tried very little Thai food (never mind cooked any myself), I was excited to learn a few of her best at-home Thai cooking tips.
Thai food tip #1: Soups and curries are a great place to start
“Start with a soup or a curry because they are easily controlled. You can taste and adjust as you go, and the ingredients are usually easy to find — especially in Toronto. There are very few things that can go wrong, so I’d start with that to familiarize yourself with the ingredients, technique and flavour. Then, it will be easier to move onto a stir fry, which requires a little more skills.” Check out this no-fail Thai Caesar cocktail recipe.
Thai food tip #2: Know your dry products and seasonings
“Look for products that are from Thailand,” she says. “Choose ingredients with the fewest additives, like coconut milk or curry paste. There doesn’t need to be a lot of anything in it, other than the actual ingredients themselves.”
Thai food tip #3: Don’t get carried away with protein
“We don’t eat too much meat… if you noticed. Thai food doesn’t have huge chunks of meat; there’s always a small amount of meat or fish, fresh herbs and vegetables.”
And her favourite summer Thai dish?
Ever heard of a wing bean? Well, for starters, it’s a vegetable that resembles the shape of a regular green bean — just a little thicker, with four vertical winged leaves down the sides. “This is a vegetable that’s available in Toronto but people don’t really know about it,” she says. Fittingly, one of Chongchitnant’s most-loved summer dishes from her website is the Wing Bean Salad. I even had the opportunity to try it myself, and it may just be mine, too. The refreshing crunch from the wing beans, combined with the subtle heat of a Thai chili paste left me wanting more.
So now, if (and when) I decide to put my newbie Thai cooking skills to the test, I’ll definitely be set.
Doing a Thai cooking lesson today hosted by the Thai Consulate in Toronto and Thai Kitchen Canada. Catered lunch is all my recipes, but I didn’t cook it! Made by @patchmonthaidesserts and everything turned out exactly as I would’ve made it. This is wing bean salad, everybody’s favourite at this event. Recipe is on HotThaiKitchen.com
For another insanely delicious summer recipe, don’t miss this nut-free Pad Thai.