Cooking in Hot Season

We returned to the Big Mango to discover not only the aftermath of political mayhem, but also (maybe related?) the height of hot season.  To the point of the “riots” and “chaos” that was widely reported, I want to assure you that things were not nearly as anarchic as they were represented in the media.  Give a cameraman a burning bus and they’ll tell you the whole world is coming to an end.

That said, there continues to be political instability, but nothing that should prevent you from coming for a visit!

Hot season is the real issue here.  The Royal Thai Meteorological Department announced that April 27th should be the hottest day of our year, since that is when the sun is directly overhead Thailand.  However, because of a high pressure system moving in and some expected rain, they thought that the 24th would actually be the hottest day.

Sure enough, it topped out at 37 C / 99 F with about 45% humidity.  Relatively dry, actually.  What kills us is that it doesn’t cool down at all during the night (28 C / 82 F) and that it lasts so long.  This past year, Bangkok had 115 days with temperatures over 35 C.

Let me be clear: I’m not complaining.  I’m just using this to set up an entry about summer foods!

When the weather is warm the best thing is to do as little cooking as possible, at least cooking that heats the kitchen.  Salads and fruit dishes are great choices.  A few days after our return we had a nice lunch on our porch, ceiling fan whirring away and the warm breeze pushing the palm fronds back and forth.


On the menu, a large chef’s salad with cumin chicken breasts, ham, cheese, eggs and all sorts of veggies, served with a wonderful buttermilk dressing.  A side dish of old-fashioned potato salad and a plate of fresh buttermilk biscuits rounded things out, washing it down with a few glasses of a dry rose from France. 

The Thais say that nature gives us the right fruits at the right times.  During hot season, we’re dying for very sweet, very watery fruits, so that is when we get the plumpest lychees, the juiciest watermelons, and the tastiest mangoes.  I know that Zakiah misses the mangoes of her childhood India and I’m trying to eat as many as I can on her behalf.

The favorite way to eat mangoes is the dish, Sticky Rice and Mango.  This very glutinous rice is soaked overnight then steamed in a bamboo basket that looks like a large ice cream cone.  It is then seasoned with some coconut milk and served with a drizzle of salty coconut cream, a sprinkling of toasted mung bean seeds, and a freshly cut mango.


Wanting to shake things up a little, a did a play on this traditional dish by making a cardamom and coconut milk rice pudding based on a recipe from the NY Times.  You make a creme by scalding regular milk and coconut milk and letting cardamom pods and lime jest rest in it for several hours.  Then it is reheated with sugar and cooked rice (I used sushi rice for the texture) until it forms a pudding.  Add a little freshly-grated nutmeg and some vanilla and then cool.

Served with fresh mango and a squeeze of lime, it is the perfect sweet treat to end a summer’s evening!

Oh, it is nice to be back in my kitchen.