Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai
and Peanut Sauce

Cuisine of The Pacific Rim:
Hot, Lively and Simply Thai

More Thai Recipes

simply thai  

Pacific rim cuisine, or pan-Asian food, is more popular than ever-especially Thai food! The proliferation of Thai restaurants across the United States and Canada is astounding. By the same token, peanut sauces, rice noodles and lemon grass can now be found at local supermarkets nationwide-no longer limited to the shelves of Asian markets or specialty stores. One of the pioneers in the "Pacific rim food movement" is Wandee Young, a Thai immigrant, who in 1980 opened the first Thai restaurant in Canada. Along with Byron Ayanoglu they have put together more than 100 delicious recipes using exciting and flavorful ingredients that make up the bold and vibrant cuisine of Simply Thai Cooking.

Thai cuisine is an amalgam of flavors that addresses all four of the palate's principal taste elements-sweet (sugar, fruits, sweet peppers), hot (chilies), sour (vinegar, lime juice, tamarind) and salty (soy sauce, fish sauce)-usually simultaneously. Says co-author Ayanoglu, "It is the only cuisine that I'm aware of that manages to do this successfully, and it is this very characteristic, this assault on the entirety of one's tasting faculties, that we find so irresistible. There is literally no rest from enjoyment when indulging in [Thai] cuisine..."

The dishes of a Thai meal excite the olfactory sense as well with aromas and scents-basil, coriander, lime leaf, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, cumin, turmeric and coconut-combining and recombining in subtle variations, creating stimulating and lusty flavors.

Simply Thai includes recipes for soups, noodles, curries, steamed dishes, fried dishes, salads, and the basic sauces-all of which depict a typical Thai meal. Familiar favorites range from slow-charred Chicken Satay with a rich peanut sauce and deliciously crunchy Spring Rolls to Pad Thai, the quintessential Thai noodle favorite.

Tom Kha Kai (Coconut-Chicken Soup) is a fiery yet soothing soup, while salads like Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) and Yum Talay (Seafood Salad) are perfect for a light lunch. Exotic main courses such as Goong Kratiam (Garlic Shrimps), Kang Ped Nuer (Thai Beef Curry) and Kai Phad Khing (Ginger Chicken) will delight, and for dessert, there are such Thai favorites as Khao Niow Mamuang (Sticky Rice Pudding with Mango) or Klu Ay Too (Thai Banana Fritters).

All recipes are clear and easy-to-follow, and meals can be prepared in under 30 minutes. The richly-colored dishes are captured in 16 sumptuous full-page color photographs. Young and Ayanoglu also include "Helpful Hints" for preparing Thai cuisine and list items to have on hand for a well-stocked Thai pantry. High in nutrition and low in fat, the dishes of Simply Thai are guaranteed to please all palates with their exhilarating and memorable flavors.

Wandee Young is the chef and proprietor of two highly acclaimed Young Thailand restaurants located in downtown Toronto. Born in the small village of Phuket, located in southwest Thailand, she was raised in Bangkok, where her farming parents relocated to open a restaurant. Byron Ayanoglu resides in Toronto and in Suffolk, England. He has worked as Mick Jagger's personal chef and is Robert De Niro's favorite movie set caterer. He is a former food critic and the author of Byron's Home Cooking.


Tom Yum Goong
(Lemon Grass-Shrimp Soup)

thai recipe

Quick and easy, this soup depends on its aromatics for its ethereal allure. The barely poached (definitely undercooked) shrimps, however are what make it a treat.

A little note about this and other soups: lemon grass, galangal root and lime leaves, the trio of flavors that give many Thai soups their distinctive taste are unchewable, but form dictates that they be left in the soup. It is then up to the soup slurpers to avoid eating them. Furthermore, though lemon grass is easy to find, galangal root and lime leaves are not so easy. They can be substituted with gingerroot and lime juice respectively as indicated in the recipes.


  • 4 cups water (1L)
  • 1 stick lemon grass (1)
  • 4 lime leaves (or 2 tbsp/25 mL lime juice) (4)
  • 1 inch galangal root (or ginger root) (2.5 cm)
  • 2 fresh hot chilies (2)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (45 mL)
  • 1 tsp sugar (5 mL)
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili paste (7 mL)
  • 2 oz button mushrooms, quartered (60 g)
  • 16 large shrimps, shelled and deveined (10 oz/300 g) (16)
  • 3 tbsp lime juice (45 mL)
  • Fresh coriander leaves


Heat 4 cups/1L water in a soup pot to boiling.

Smash the lemon grass with the flat of a chef's knife once, and then cut into 1-inch/2.5-cm pieces; tear the lime leaves into thirds; and slice the galangal into thin rounds. Reserve all three of these ingredients together.

Crush the fresh chilies and cut in half. Reserve separately.

When the water has boiled, add the reserved lemon grass/galangal/lime leaves. Boil for 1 minute. Add fish sauce, sugar and chili paste. Boil for another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and boil for 2 minutes. Add shrimps and lime juice (3 tbsp/45 mL plus the other 2 tbsp/25 mL if you haven't used the lime leaves) and lower heat to medium-high. Cook for 2 minutes, just until the shrimps have turned white and springy. Transfer to a soup tureen, decorate with fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately.


Pad Thai (Thai Noodles)

Pad Thai is a splendid lesson in how the simple, and bland, rice stick (a.k.a. rice vermicelli) can evolve in the culinary hands of a tasteful culture. The result is so harmonious, so perfect in every way, that it would be hard to imagine it without even one of its vast symphony of flavors and ingredients. Though daunting at first (so many ingredients), it is actually relatively easy to concoct. The only caveat is that one cannot stint on the oil content, although it appears excessive. Too little oil, the noodles will stick and you'll have a mess in your wok. I've gotten away with 5 tbsp/70 mL instead of the full 1/2 cup/125 mL but I had to work awfully fast to avoid the sticking. This one is a treat; give it its full due and it'll pay back in memorable pleasure.

Serves 4 as a noodle course or 2 as a main course


  • 8 oz Thai rice noodles (250 g)
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste (50 mL)
  • 1/4 cup warm water ( 50 mL)
  • 4 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast (125 g)
  • 4 oz fried tofu (125 g)
  • 6 tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts (75 mL)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (45 mL)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (25 mL)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (25 mL)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (125 mL)
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 8 large shrimps, shelled and deveined (50 oz/150 g) (8)
  • 2 eggs (2)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (250 mL)
  • 2 stems green onion, cut into 1-inch/2.5-cm pieces (2)
  • 1/2 tsp roasted chilies (2 mL)
  • Strips of red pepper
  • Fresh coriander leaves
  • Wedges of lime


Soak noodles in plenty of cold water for at least 1 hour.

Combine tamarind paste with a 1/4 cup/50 mL warm water in a small bowl and let soak for at least 15 minutes.

Slice the chicken into 1/4-inch/5-mm strips. If you find it difficult to cut thinly through fresh meat, leave it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden slightly and then slice. Reserve.

Slice the fried tofu into 3/4-inch/1.5-cm cubes. Reserve.

Blend or process peanuts into coarse meal. Reserve.

Return to your reserved tamarind paste in its water. Mash it and transfer the mud-like mixture to a strainer set into a bowl. Mash and push with a spoon, forcing liquid to strain into the bowl. Scrape off the juice that clings to the underside of the strainer. You will have about 5 tbsp/70 mL of tamarind juice. Add to it the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Beat to thoroughly mix and reserve. Discard the solids left in the strainer.

Heat oil in a wok (or large frying pan) until it is just about to smoke. Add garlic and stir, letting it cook for about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add tofu and shrimps and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Break eggs into wok and let them fry without breaking them up for 1-2 minutes.

While eggs cook, quickly drain the noodles and then add to wok, giving them a quick fold, stir-frying for 1 minute from the bottom up. Add reserved tamarind juice, etc. (from step #6) and continue stir-frying, mixing everything together for 1-2 minutes. Your noodles will have subsided to half their original volume and softened up to al dente.

Add about 2/3 of the reserved ground peanuts and stir. Add about 2/3 of the bean sprouts and all the green onion pieces. Stir-fry for 30 seconds and take off heat.

Transfer noodles to a serving dish and sprinkle with roasted chilies. Top with the rest of the ground peanuts, the rest of the sprouts, some strips of red pepper and fresh coriander leaves. Stick a couple of lime wedges on the side and serve immediately.


Peanut Sauce

Indispensable with satay, this sauce also works as a nice dip for a number of other Asian appetizers (like cold spring rolls) and all kinds of grilled meats. Thinned out with some water, it makes a beautiful salad dressing for sprout salads, like the Indonesian gado-gado. The peanuts that this recipe calls for are widely available. The red curry paste is imported from Thailand

Serves 4 or more


  • 5 oz roasted unsalted peanuts (150 g)
  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (1 L)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste (25 mL)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (25 mL)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (45 mL)
  • 3 tsp fish sauce (15 mL)


Blend or process the peanuts into a fine meal. Reserve.

Heat half the coconut milk in a saucepan at high heat and add the red curry paste. Stir to dissolve and continue cooking at high heat for 10-12 minutes, until the oil from the coconut has risen to the surface.

Lower heat to medium-high and add processed peanuts. Stir and add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to bubbling boil. Lower heat to medium and add sugar, lemon juice and fish sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened somewhat and the oil has returned to the surface.

Take off the fire and let rest for a half hour. Stir to blend oil that has risen to the surface. It should be the consistency of thick cream. If thicker than that, add a couple of tablespoons of water or coconut milk and blend.

The sauce can be served lukewarm or reheated to piping hot. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated (where it will solidify) and then reheated on a slow fire, thinned down with some water or coconut milk. It can also be frozen, and reheated another day, the same way.


Recipes from:

Simply Thai Cooking
by Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu
(Robert Rose, Inc.
March 1996
$17.95/trade paperback)
Photography by Mark Shapiro
16 color photographs
ISBN 1-896503-18-7
Reprinted with permission.

Thai Recipes


This page originally published as a FoodDay article (circa 1997).

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