I went to Thailand in 1975, one of 30 greenhorn Peace Corps volunteers assigned to teach high school English. During our first three months in Thailand, we underwent an intensive training program devoted primarily to language classes and practice teaching. Learning to love Thai food was not on our schedule, but sooner or later most of us did, since the food is extraordinary and the pleasures of cooking and eating are the heart of Thai life.
Had I set out to learn about Thai cuisine and its regional distinctions, I couldn't have had better luck in terms of the places I stayed in. We spent the first six weeks in the central Thai city of Nakorn Sawan, the next six in the northern Thai provincial capital of Chiang Rai. I was then assigned to teach seventh-grade English in Thatoom, a small town in Surin province, located in the northeastern region known as Pahk Isaan. After two years of country life, I extended my stay for a third year, moving to Bangkok where I shared an apartment with other volunteers and taught English conversation and freshman composition at a university.
I returned to the kingdom in March of 1989 to research regional Thai cooking. It was my dream assignment: eating, talking, visiting, writing, cooking, poking around in kitchens and exploring markets, taking trains and back roads whenever I could.
During my three months of research, I began to see clearly what sets the regions apart and what weaves them together into a whole that is distinctly Thai.
The kitchens of central Thailand and Bangkok are the culinary source for the majority of Thai restaurants outside Thailand. Not only is the food of the Thai heartland the best-known and broadest in appeal, a majority of the Thai immigrants who open and patronize restaurants abroad come from the prosperous central plains.
This vibrant, evolving cuisine reflects the wealth of the region, blessed as it is with a climate, terrain and infrastructure suited to developing a strong economy. Agriculture and industry thrive there, and the combination of general prosperity and access to new ideas has fueled culinary fires as well. Central Thailand is the source of palace-style cuisine, developed over generations by trained chefs with limitless access to the freshest and finest local ingredients, exotic imported foods and ideas, and plenty of time and helping hands to aid in preparing and presenting exquisite dishes to delight as well as sustain their patrons.
Western cooks draw a firm line between sweet and savory foods, but throughout Asia, sweetness dances right along with salty, sour and chile-hot flavors. In central Thai kitchens, sweetness often moves from the chorus to center stage. Other hallmarks include a lavish use of coconut milk, meats and seafood; variety in texture and cooking method, as well as ingredients of dishes within a given meal, and attention to refined, colorful presentations. The two classic Thai soups, tome kha gai (chicken-coconut soup with galanga root) and tome yum goong (fiery shrimp and lemon grass soup), are central Thai signature dishes.
Classic palace-style dishes in the central Thai repertoire include mee krob, a glorious crispy tangle of thread-thin dried rice noodles, deep-fried until they puff up, tossed in a tangy, sweet-sour-salty sauce and garnished with pickled garlic, lacy egg nets, scallion brushes and red chile flowers; and khanome jeen nahm prik, a mild, sweet shrimp curry served with rice noodle nests, a platter of crudites expertly carved into fanciful shapes, fragrant herbs and purple-tinged banana flowers.
But the quintessential palace-style dish is kao chae (basically cooked rice served in ice water), an antidote to the ferocious temperatures at the height of Thailand's hot season. It originated in the royal palace kitchens more than a century ago, when ice was precious, an exotic import along the lines of today's truffles and caviar. In kao chae , the ice water is scented with rose petals and jasmine, and the dish is accompanied by an elaborate array of condiments providing the traditional contrasting flavors Thais adore: banana peppers and shallots stuffed with seasoned minced pork and wrapped in lacy egg nets; crisp-fried quenelles of grilled salted fish, shrimp paste and toasted coconut; shredded salty-sweet beef jerky and preserved daikon scrambled with egg.
Central Thai cooking has its equally beloved homey side, easily seen in comparing mee krob with its kissing cousin, pad Thai. The latter is linguine-sized rice noodles, stir-fried to a soft, chewy tangle with tantalizing notes of garlic, tamarind, fish sauce and sugar, crunchy with ground peanuts and fresh bean sprouts and finished with a jolt of dried ground chile and a squeeze of lime. Neither is daily home cooking-- mee krob is a banquet dish served after weddings, Buddhist ceremonies, funerals and housewarmings. Pad Thai is left to the expert hands of noodle shop chefs and night market vendors.
Also delightful in country and city versions is nahm plah wahn, a pungent dipping sauce of palm sugar, tamarind and fish sauce spiked with ground dried red chiles and a confetti of crisply fried garlic and shallot slices. Country people pair it with super-sour slices of green mango fresh off the tree, while out on the town it accompanies huge roasted prawns in the style of the summer palace at Ayutthaya.
Within central Thai cuisine is a clear thread leading directly back to China, which along with India has an immeasurable role in Thailand's cultural heritage. Bangkok was a small Chinese trading center before it became the Thai capital, and like most major cities throughout the kingdom it retains many clear Chinese aspects to this day. Edible evidence of this legacy abounds, starting with a constellation of noodle favorites such as kwaytiow paht si-yu (rice noodles with dark soy sauce and greens) and kwaytiow laht nah (rice noodles in salty-sour Cantonese-style gravy).
Kao mun gai is a Hainan Island specialty of rice cooked in chicken broth and served with poached chicken, cucumbers, clear broth and a fabulous dipping sauce of fresh ginger, salty brown bean paste, dark soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Other Chinese dishes include three street-stall standards: kai po-lo , hard-boiled eggs stewed with fresh ham in a rich, coffee-colored broth of five-spice powder and dark soy sauce; hoy tote , a crisp mussel omelet served with bean sprouts, cilantro and fiery chile sauce; and kanome hua pakad , soft daikon pancakes stir-fried with scallions, bean sprouts and egg.
Kao tome is the Thai version of Chinese rice porridge or jook , made with cooked rice simmered in pork or chicken broth, topped with sliced scallions, crisp fried garlic and cilantro leaves.
My six weeks of training in Chiang Rai, Thailand's northernmost province with cool green forests and softly rolling mountains, introduced me to northern Thai life.
The most obvious distinction of northern Thai cooking is a preference for long-grain sticky rice, an emblem of the region's strong ties with neighboring Laos. Soaked for several hours and then steamed until soft and chewy, sticky rice is finger food. Taking a fist-sized portion onto your plate, you pinch off bite-sized nuggets and roll them into smooth wads, to be eaten neat or dipped in sauces and stir-fries, with a Chinese-style soup spoon handy for soups and curries.
Other northern trademarks are mild chile heat and a love of sharp, sour flavors. The prevalence of pork over coconut milk and fish is easy to explain: The cool, mountainous north contains few coconut palms and fewer streams and rivers than other parts of Thailand, and pork is a Chinese favorite. Pigs are also the most common livestock for the hill tribe peoples of the region, whose mountainside villages have limited grazing space and fodder.
Lao-style dishes on northern menus include miang kum , a charming array of condiments including fresh ginger, lime, peanuts, toasted coconut and dried shrimp, to be bundled into lettuce packets and topped with sweet-salty sauce, and gaeng kae , a clear chicken soup with bamboo, green beans, pumpkin vines, a handful of young leaves and wild herbs, and fresh dill (known in Thai as pahk chee lao or Laotian cilantro).
There are two Lao-style versions of nahm prik, a genre of intensely flavored dipping sauces served with crudites and eaten with rice. Nahm prik noom is made with banana peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic, shallots and chiles, all roasted over coals and then pounded to a coarse puree with salted fish, fish sauce and lime, while nahm prik nahm boo adds salty freshwater crab paste to the mix.
Another northern nahm prik -- nahm prik ohng --is popular throughout Thailand. It's made of minced pork cooked with tomatoes, onions, chiles, fish sauce and tua nao, a salty fermented soy bean cake particular to northern cooking. Always served with crisply fried pork skins, raw green beans, cabbage, cucumbers and sticky rice, it's first cousin to khanome jeen nahm ngiow, a dish of the Thai-Yai or Shan people, who migrated from southern China into northern Thailand and Burma centuries ago. This rustic minced pork sauce includes pork spare ribs, tomatoes and a simple red curry paste, and it is served with rice noodle nests, pickled cabbage and whole dried red chiles.
The two most popular northern specialties have clear Burmese connections: Gaeng hahng ley is a moderately hot curry of lean pork and fresh bacon with rich sweet notes of brown sugar, tamarind and fresh ginger taming its chile fire. Kao soi is a terrific one-dish meal of egg noodles in a red curry of coconut milk and chicken or beef, topped with a crisp-fried egg noodle flourish and sharpened to taste with extra chile oil, coarsely chopped shallots, pickled cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Kao soi shops in Chiang Mai prosper if they serve up a worthwhile version, as locals and tourists adore it and will wait patiently in line for the real thing.
Northeastern Thai food could be called the Mexican food of Thailand--a regional cuisine that long ago burst into the gastronomic mainstream on its own delicious merits and is cooked throughout Thailand and beyond. Years back, Northeastern cooks took on the challenge of doing a lot with a little, working in a region that, unlike others in Thailand, is hampered by poor soil, ungenerous weather and frequent economic downturns. Creativity and spirit seem to have won the day--the rustic food of Isaan, as the northeast is widely known, is robust with firecracker flavors that sing on the tongue.
Northeastern Thailand's people speak a dialect part Thai and part Lao, and their cooking echoes that connection. Like northern Thais, they prefer sticky rice and pair it with simple clear soups, salads and dips made with salt-preserved mackerel and freshwater fish. Herbs and vegetables are grown in kitchen gardens and gathered in the wild, and ducks and chickens supply fresh eggs. Prodigious amounts of chile, garlic, shallots, lime and plah rah, the salty, strong-scented fermented fish sauce--instead of (or in addition to) nahm plah --help bring northeastern cuisine to life.
Classic Isaan dishes include gai yahng (garlicky grilled chicken with sweet hot garlic sauce); neua yahng nahm toke (grilled beef) and neua kem (salty sun-dried beef), both served with deliciously volcanic dipping sauces, and som tum, a fiery slaw of shredded green papaya pounded in a large mortar with garlic, chiles, shrimp paste, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, cherry tomatoes and green beans. Larb is a hearty salad-like dish of minced pork or beef, wildly seasoned with chiles, fresh mint, lime juice and the crunch of roasted rice powder, and accompanied by raw green beans, a cabbage wedge and cucumber slices to tame its fire. Made to order just before serving, larb is served raw, rare or cooked, and the most traditional, rustic versions include thinly sliced skin and organ meat, seasoned with plah rah.
Soops are an array of vegetable dishes similar to larb in preparation and seasoning, the most popular being soop naw mai, made with shredded bamboo. The nahm prik sauces of Isaan include Lao-style dips called jaew, five-alarm affairs with tomato, plah rah and lots of chile.
Sai grok is a mild, rich sausage of pork, garlic and cooked sticky rice, fried crisp and served with accompaniments--scallion spears, lettuce, cilantro, peanuts, whole chiles, and paper-thin slices of fresh raw ginger--chosen to create several sensations on the palate.
The three northeastern provinces of Buriram, Surin and Srisaket--part of the Khmer empire centuries ago--make up a slightly different subregion. Country people there still reflect a cultural connection with the Khmer, speaking a Cambodian dialect, preferring plain rice to Lao-style sticky rice and exercising restraint in the chile pepper department.
Ubon Ratchathani, Nongkhai and other provincial capitals along the Mekong River have small Vietnamese communities, with restaurants and market vendors offering iang yuan (salad rolls wrapped in soft rice noodle sheets), boh biah tote (crisp spring rolls filled with bean thread noodles and minced pork) and khanome beuang yuan (crisp golden pancake stuffed with shrimp, toasted coconut and bean sprouts).
My acquaintance with southern Thailand during my Peace Corps years was limited to a quick vacation trip to the island of Koh Samui off Surat Thani and a view from the train window as I traveled south to Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thus, it was a glorious bonus to return to Thailand and finally discover the south's extraordinary beauty and storehouse of culinary treasures. Here the golden thread connecting Thailand to India shines as bright as the sunny turmeric sheen characteristic of so many southern dishes.
Kao moke gai --rice and sauteed chicken sauteed with cumin, coriander, pepercorns, dried red chile and turmeric, then buried in rice sauteed with garlic, onion and spices--is beloved throughout Thailand. But it originated in the kitchens of southern Thailand's large Muslim community and is linked to the fabulous biryanis of India and Pakistan.
While Islamic dietary laws prohibit consumption of pork and alcohol, this causes only modest adaptations within the traditions of Thai cooking. Rather than being a cuisine apart, Thai Muslim cooking flourishes within southern Thai cuisine and includes a host of specialty dishes beloved throughout the country.
Other Islamic-Thai favorites include gaeng mussamun, a delicious thick curry of beef or chicken in coconut milk, redolent with sweet spices and cooked with potatoes, peanuts and cardamom pods; kwaytiow kaek, a rich yellow curry of beef over noodles, garnished with peanuts, bean sprouts and hard-boiled eggs; salaht kaek, cousin to the Indonesian salad gado-gado with its vinegary peanut dressing, and beef and chicken satay. Roti are freshly made flatbreads, often eaten with meals by Thai Muslims, but enjoyed throughout the country, hot off the street vendor's griddle and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk as a night market treat.
Southern Thais in general like their food very, very hot, even by Thailand's exaggerated standards of chile fire. Gaeng dai plah is a thick, incendiary table sauce of fermented fish, eggplant and bamboo, served with raw vegetables and lots of rice. Another southern nahm prik dish is nahm prik jone, or pirate-style chile sauce, made with chunks of shallots, chiles and fresh and dried shrimp, bound with shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.
Gaeng leuang, a bright, tamarind-laced yellow curry of freshwater fish and bamboo, is a southern Thai standard, as is goong paht sataw, a quick stir-fry of minced pork and shrimp with chile, onion and sataw beans--the notorious, fava-bean-like legume beloved or scorned for its peculiar aroma and flavor.
Khanome jeen nahm yah is a dish of rice noodle nests served with a small bowl of spicy fish curry laced with the sharp herbal noted of grachai , a distinctive cousin of ginger and galanga root, which is classically paired with fish. The mosaic of fresh herbs and raw vegetables to mix in might include green beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, chiles, hard-boiled eggs and the lemony basil known as bai maengluck.
Kao yum is a red-hot salad of freshly cooked room-temperature rice tossed to your liking with an array of sweet, sour, salty and hot condiments. There are wisps of finely shredded wild lime leaves and paper-thin slices of fresh lemon grass, chunks of pomelo and green mango, uncooked green beans, the peculiar sataw bean for the raw, cool faht-faht taste sensation that southerners adore, chiles, toasted coconut and a salty-sweet dressing to braid it all up into a deliriously Thai whole.
I'm home in Southern California as I write this, half a world away from the soothing steady racket of my Thai neighbors' cleavers dancing on their tamarind wood cutting boards, of sturdy pestles striking granite mortars, pounding garlic, shallots, chiles, herbs and spices into fragrant, flavorful mush while rice pots steam on charcoal stoves. But it doesn't take more than a few seconds for my thoughts to return to Thailand, weaving the faces, voices, aromas and flavors into a reverie of suppertime in the Thai countryside. My memories are strong and clear, but it still feels like time to go back.
In southern Thai markets, speedy vendors toss the spicy salad, kao yum, to your specifications . But on special occasions, kao yum is a spectacular presentation, with a rainbow of ingredients beautifully presented to delight the eyes prior to pleasing the palate. The ingredient list is daunting, even for Thai cooks, but you can make a simplified version using the rice, the sauce or a pungent vinaigrette, and whichever ingredients you can easily find.
KAO YUM 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 1 cup dried shrimp, pounded to coarse powder or finely chopped, or 1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and lightly salted 1/4 cup coarsely ground dried chiles 1 cup raw green beans, thinly sliced crosswise 1 cup sataw beans or peeled, split raw fava beans or fresh peas 1 cup peeled cucumber, sliced crosswise and quartered 1 cup fresh bean sprouts 1 cup peeled orange sections, pomelo or pink grapefruit 1 cup peeled, shredded green mango, or bite-sized chunks of unpeeled green apple, or coarsely chopped fresh pineapple 2 stalks lemon grass, very thinly sliced crosswise into delicate circles 25 Kaffir lime leaves, sliced crosswise into very thin threads, or 2 tablespoons lime zest, finely chopped Kao yum sauce 6 cups freshly cooked jasmine rice, at room temperature
Dry-fry coconut in small skillet over medium heat, until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss frequently to brown evenly and avoid burning. Set aside to cool.
Arrange shrimp, chiles, green beans, sataw beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, orange segments, mango, lemon grass and lime leaves in small piles on large platter, or in small separate bowls. Put Kao Yum Sauce in small bowl.
To serve, place 1 cup rice on serving plate. Sprinkle rice with any or all desired accompaniments. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons sauce over rice. Toss to combine ingredients into chaotic pile. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Each of 6 servings contains about: 963 calories; 1,957 mg sodium; 74 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 197 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 2.15 grams fiber.
Kao Yum Sauce 3 stalks fresh lemon grass 9 (quarter-sized) slices fresh galanga root or fresh ginger 9 Kaffir lime leaves or 2 tablespoons lime zest 1 cup fish sauce 2 2/3 cups water 1 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
Trim away any dry, ugly portions of lemon grass stalks and place on cutting board. Using dull edge of cleaver or rolling pin, bruise each stalk, administering sharp whacks up and down its length and rolling so stalk is bruised on all sides. Stalk should split and become aromatic. Cut bruised stalks into 3-inch lengths and place in medium-sized saucepan along with galanga.
Tear lime leaves in half and add to pot along with fish sauce, water and palm sugar. Bring sauce to rolling boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain gentle boil and simmer 20 minutes until sauce is dark and thickened. Sauce should be as thick as maple syrup and thinner than honey.
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain, discarding solids, and cover sauce. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve. Sauce will keep covered at room temperature 2 days.
Mrs. Wongkiow, an excellent home cook in Thailand's northernmost province of Chiang Rai, makes this dish (paht heht in Thai) with fresh straw mushrooms. In this country, fresh oyster mushrooms are my favorite, but it's delicious with shiitake, portobello and even button mushrooms from the grocery store. This dish is also delicious with 1/4 pound thinly sliced pork added just before the mushrooms.
NORTHERN THAI SAUTEED MUSHROOMS 2 tablespoons oil 2 tablespoons garlic, thinly sliced crosswise 2 tablespoons shallots, sliced lengthwise into thin strips 1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced lengthwise 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced lengthwise into bite-sized pieces 2 tablespoons fish sauce 3 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems Rice, optional
Heat oil in wok or large, deep skillet over medium heat until very hot. Drop small piece of garlic into pan. If garlic sizzles immediately, oil is ready. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant and golden, about 30 seconds. Add shallots and onions. Continue stir-frying until tender and clear.
Add mushrooms and toss to heat and coat with oil. Cook 1 minute. When mushrooms are tender, add fish sauce, water, sugar and pepper. Toss to combine. Stir-fry 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro. Transfer to serving dish. Serve hot or warm with rice and other dishes. Makes 4 servings.
Each serving contains about: 97 calories; 343 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.65 gram fiber.
Thai yums are hearty, volcanic salads of meat or seafood in a bracing, herb-laced chile-lime dressing. They're served at room temperature with drinks and, unlike most savory Thai dishes, they're not eaten with rice. This yum (yum neua yahng nahm toke in Thai) includes the crunch of roasted rice powder, a rustic, northeastern Thai trademark added for its texture and fragrance. Made with leftover grilled meat and tossed together at serving time, this dish is ideal for summer.
ISAAN-STYLE GRILLED BEEF SALAD 1 pound rib-eye or flank steak, grilled rare 1/3 cup chicken stock Several lettuce leaves 2 small cucumbers, peeled and sliced crosswise into ovals 5 cherry tomatoes, halved Bunch fresh mint 3 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots Bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped 2 tablespoons Roasted Rice Powder 1 teaspoon coarsely ground dried red chile 1 teaspoon sugar 1/4 cup fish sauce 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Thinly slice beef crosswise into 2-inch-long strips and set aside.
Bring chicken stock to gentle boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced beef and turn occasionally, moistening and warming steak in stock, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare small serving platter with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and few sprigs mint, then set aside.
Add green onions, shallots, cilantro, roasted rice powder, chile, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to saucepan. Toss well. Taste dressing, and adjust to taste with additional fish sauce, lime juice, sugar or chiles.
Transfer beef to serving platter using slotted spoon. Mount on lettuce leaves. Drizzle with additional dressing. Garnish with cucumber, tomatoes and mint. Serve at once, warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Each of 4 servings contains about: 187 calories; 806 mg sodium; 43 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.
Traditionally, rice powder is made with sticky rice, the "daily bread" of Laos and northeastern Thailand, but any type of raw rice can be used. The nutty flavor and aroma of roasted rice (kao kua in Thai) fades quickly once it's ground, so I store it whole and grind it as I need it. If you prefer, grind the roasted rice first and store the powder in a tightly sealed jar.
Roasted Rice Powder 1/4 cup raw sticky rice or other raw rice
Place rice in small skillet over high heat and dry-fry until grains are wheaty golden brown. Shake pan back and forth frequently to turn grains and brown evenly, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When rice is cool, transfer to jar, seal tightly and keep at room temperature until needed.
To use in recipes, transfer roasted rice to heavy mortar and pestle and pound to coarse powder, or grind in coffee or spice grinder. Ideal texture is midway between sand and powder, with discernible crunch. Makes about 1/4 cup.
This dish's flavoring paste, or "pesto," of garlic, cilantro root and peppercorns--without the latecomer chile--gives it away as a survivor from the old central Thai palace cuisine.
MAH HAW (Savory Minced Pork on Pineapple) 1 teaspoon oil 3 tablespoons Cilantro Pesto 1/2 pound coarsely ground pork 2 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar 3 tablespoons finely chopped dry roasted peanuts 1 small to medium pineapple 2 fresh red chee fah chiles, cut into long, thin strips, or 6 long, thin red pepper strips Bunch small cilantro leaves
Heat wok or medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat surface. When oil is hot, add Cilantro Pesto. Stir-fry paste until quite fragrant, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and crumble in ground pork. Stir-fry pork until it breaks into small lumps, renders some fat and is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.
Add fish sauce and palm sugar and continue cooking, stirring and scraping often to brown and coat meat evenly. After about 4 minutes, when meat is browned, remove pan from heat and taste sauce for salty-sweet balance. Add more fish sauce and palm sugar if needed and return to heat to reduce. Remove from heat, transfer to medium bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Peel pineapple and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Remove hard core from center of each slice and cut slices into 1-inch squares. There should be about 2 cups of squares.
To serve, mound spoonful of savory pork onto each pineapple square. Garnish each mound with chile strips and cilantro leaves. Transfer to platter and serve at room temperature as finger food. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Each of 10 servings contains about: 106 calories; 150 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.82 gram fiber.
Cilantro Pesto 1 teaspoon whole white or black peppercorns 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro roots or leaves and stems 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
Using mortar and pestle or spice grinder to crush or grind peppercorns into fine powder. In mortar, small blender or food processor, combine pepper, cilantro roots and garlic and work into fairly smooth paste. If using blender or food processor, adding some oil or water may ease grinding. Makes 1/4 cup.