The practice of using leftovers for subsequent meals is one that will never go out of style. In the past it was a creative way to deal with extra food that could not be kept for long, since there were no refrigerators. Then too, in those days cooking each meal involved more time and work, beginning with lighting a charcoal stove. Considerable planning also went into the preparation of a meal, and the selection of dishes depended on the individual capabilities of the person who did the cooking for each household.
leftover catfish are very versatile.
A book called Recipes for Daily Meals, written by Jitsaman Komonthiti and published 52 years ago, includes 110 sets of recipes. These, the author writes in the introduction, are intended for housewives who have to prepare three meals each day. Recipes for savoury and sweet dishes are included. The author suggests that to avoid situations where the cook does not know which dishes to serve over the course of a day, planning should begin right when ingredients are bought in the market and should cover all three meals. There should be no repeats and the dishes for each meal should harmonise in flavour and character. This approach, the writer says, will make things easier for the housewife while also helping her to economise.
Since the book offers 110 sets of recipes in line with this plan, and each set covers meals for one day, it provides meal plans for the housewife for three months and six days.
Suggestions for one day, for example, will start with a breakfast of kaeng jued luk chin man kaew. This is a bland soup made with meatballs that combine minced pork, shrimp, jicama, flour and seasonings. Lunch will be kui tio lawt, noodle sheets with a filling that includes minced pork and shrimp. Supper will include nam prik makhuea thate (a chilli dip sauce made with tomatoes), phala kung or yam kung (both spicy-sour salad-like dishes made with shrimp), and kaeng jued phak ruam sai man kaew (a bland soup made with mixed vegetables and jicama) with chicken, pork and shrimp. This is one selection from a cookbook published 50 years ago.
Making a new meal from ingredients left over from a previous one is just as necessary today, because food prices have become extremely high. Once they have been purchased, they have to be used to their full value. But economising is not the only reason for cooking with leftovers. Devising ways to adapt them to make a delicious new dish for the next meal can be fun. These days it is easy and convenient, too, thanks to electrical appliances such as refrigerators, rice cookers, microwave ovens and others that cooks of an earlier age lacked, and that can save a lot of time.
yesterday’s fried mackerel makes a delicious ‘nam prik kapi’.
For example, most meals will include a kaeng jued, or bland soup, or on a day off there might be a noodle dish. The key component here is the broth, and preparing this can be a chore, considering the long time that it has to be simmered. One way to make it easier is to boil pork ribs cut into pieces instead of the bigger pork bones. The result will be extremely tender pork ribs that can be prepared as khao tom see khroang moo (rice soup with pork ribs), kaeng jued see khroang moo (pork rib soup), or kui tio see khroang moo (pork rib noodles).
Once the broth has been made it can be divided into meal-sized portions, poured into plastic bags and stored in the freezer. The fat, which floats to the top, will solidify into a sheet that can easily be removed when the broth is taken from the freezer. This leaves only the clear broth, which will not have a greasy taste.
On another day, a meal of grilled catfish might sound like a good idea. Big markets such as that at Klong Toey will usually have a stall selling tempting-looking grilled catfish at a low price. The fish can be eaten with a dipping sauce made from nam pla and ground dried chillies. If there is some left over it can be cooked up later as kaeng pa pla duc yang (a spicy grilled catfish curry made without coconut cream).
Another possibility is to take the leftover catfish meat and pound it to a fine consistency, tease it up with a fork, and fry it until it turns crispy and golden in colour. Then take a sour mango (these only cost about five baht each), chop it up, and sprinkle it over the catfish with sliced shallots and a yam sauce (a sauce that combines saltiness, sweetness and spiciness) to make yam pla duc fu, a dish that is both inexpensive and delicious.
After a meal that includes nam prik kapi kap pla thu thawt (a chilli dip sauce made with kapi, garlic, chillies, lime and palm sugar served with fried mackerel and fresh or lightly boiled vegetables), any of the leftover fish can be removed from the bones and fried with rice, together with some of the chilli sauce.
The result will be a tasty fried rice dish that will be even better if a little of the fine shredded dried pork called moo yong is sprinkled over it.
If any fresh basil is left after a meal, pick off the leaves before they spoil and combine them with sliced chillies (prik chee fa variety) and chopped onion, put them in the centre of an omelette as it is frying, and then fold it over to make an appetising kai jio phak.
None of these dishes is made from scratch. All are easy ways to convert leftovers into foods that can be just as delicious as the earlier ones that provided the ingredients.
Instead of discarding food the family is unable to finish, it can be fun to use your imagination to present it in a delectable new guise while saving money as a bonus.
About the author
- Writer: Suthon Sukphisit