prik khi nu
For Thai food, it’s fair to say, “No chilies, no curries!” And among the many kinds of peppers, hot and not so hot, we have in Thailand, the smallest and most fiery is Prik Khi Nu, a term Thais use for someone who is small but powerful, like a kick boxer. It seems that many non Thai are not only sensitive to the heat of this tiny pepper, but even its name, because its usually translated as “Birds Eye Chili” or “Bird Chili”, when the literal translation should be (excuse me) “Mouse Shit Chili”!
I use both fresh and dried chilies in many dishes. For example, dry Prik Khi Nu in red curry, fresh ones in green curry (the fresh ones are spicier). In addition, a number of Thai dipping sauces are made from dried chili, ground into powder or cut up fresh chilies added to fish sauce or with vinegar and used as a condiment.
In addition to Prik Khi Nu, I also use finger peppers or yellow peppers. Another technique Thai chefs use is to char-grill fresh chilies. Peeled, after they have cooled down, these chilies add wonderful aroma to a dish.
A native of southern Thailand, Nongkran Daks’ introduction to cooking began at age seven. She would get up at 4:00 am daily to pound curry paste. Later, as a college student in Bangkok, Nongkran waited tables at a restaurant with the unlikely name “Dairy Queen”, while she earned a degree in agricultural economics. Subsequently, as the spouse of a diplomat, she used her husband and children as willing guinea pigs for hundreds of dishes acquired during the Daks family travels.
Before launching the Thai Basil, Nongkran taught cooking and catered in Honolulu, Washington, D.C, China, Laos, Taiwan and Thailand. She also ran a snack bar in Bangkok featuring Asian and Western dishes and a mean cheesecake.
Multi-cultural and multi-lingual, Nongkran is a member of the culinary society, Les Dames d’Escoffier. Her cookbook, “The Secrets of Thai Cooking,” was self-published in 1994. Subsequently, Nongkran and Alexandria Greeley co-authored a Vietnamese and two Thai cookbooks published by Periplus.
At the Thai Basil, Nongkran seeks maximum authenticity. She also offers cooking classes, to both adults and young people, catering and frequently lectures and conducts demonstrations on Thai cuisine.
Nongkran’s cuisine has received favorable reviews and media coverage in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, the Zagat and AOL and Gayot guides and several local newspapers. In 2007, Thai Basil earned the Thai Select award under the Government of Thailand’s restaurant certification program.
In 2009 Nongkran was featured in a Pad Thai noodle competition with Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay on his Food Network program Throwdown!. More recently, Nongkran filmed a cooking segment in Bangkok with Samantha Brown, part of an hour long show about Thailand which first aired on the Travel Channel in August 2010.