You will not find a Thermomix, sous vide cooker nor flash foam maker here. No powders, espumas, crumb nor slow-cooked food in a plastic bag. You will not find sanitary stainless steel, HACCP recordings or a purple passport claiming you can cook on a rolling sea.
In fact, you are likely to be dodging cockroaches and balking at being singed by the breath of the wok as you sit and watch in amazement at how simple Bing Lee makes cooking on the street look.
In essence, this is Thai hawker food, which, as recently learned from the great David Thompson, is a skill practiced on the streets almost solely by women in Thailand. The simple setup takes nothing away from the end result. Sweet-sour and salty elements bring into play a quintessential Thai street dish: salt-and-pepper fried river fish with green papaya salad.
I’ve watched old “Bingers” for a long time, and the most important thing to note is that she tastes, adjusts and corrects her food before banging it into a bag for 180 THB (4 to 5 euros).
Here’s an upscale version of Thai street cooking, inspired by Bing Lee.
SALT-AND-PEPPER FRIED SEA BASS WITH GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
Make a mix of 90 percent flour, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice
Remove the backbone from the bass and leave the fish whole
500 grams green papaya (or green mango), shredded on a mandolin with the julienne blade
150 grams roasted crushed peanuts
50 grams-plus roasted crushed rice
1 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup Vietnamese mint
1/2 cup Thai Holy basil
1/ 2 cup fresh coconut shavings
Thai red shallots, fried
Thai fried garlic
The salad dressing
2 cups sweet chili sauce, Thai brand
1 cup fresh lime juice
10 fresh kaffir lime leaves, minced
2 cloves garlic, mashed with salt
1/4 cup fresh tomato pulp
4 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/2 cup coriander stems, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pickled ginger, finely cut
1 teaspoon salt
Mix salad and dressing and allow at least 4 hours to marry. The palate must register a balance of sweet, salty and the acid component.
Dredge the fish in the flour mixture and fry till golden brown and crispy. Approximately 5 minutes.
Drain and place the fish on a square of recently cut banana leaf.
Push dressed papaya salad into the cavity and top generously with roasted peanuts, fried red shallots and garlic.
Tim MacDonald (timothymacdonald.weebly.com) has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.