For a while now, the Karen cookbook has been an ongoing project taken on by long-term volunteers. The idea is to gather recipes of the dishes we get served on a daily basis on the program and put them in a book along with instructions on how to make each dish. The book will also include pages about the history of Karen cooking as well as recipes gathered while cooking in the forest with the mahouts on elephant hikes.
Every other Wednesday we split up into groups of 3-5 volunteers and go to a homestay for a lesson in Karen cooking. Most of the recipes in we have so far come from these classes, but more involved volunteers may cook with their homestay on a regular basis. Cooking with the families mostly consists of chopping the ingredients and stirring them in the wok, but it is a great opportunity to interact with the villagers. Both to learn a bit more about their culture and to practise speaking their language.
When printed, the cookbook is meant to be a souvenir for volunteers, new and old, and the proceeds from the sales will go into the SongKran fund. The money raised in this fund will go toward building a clinic for the elephants in the village as well as toward educating the mahouts in medical care for their elephants.
I took over the project a week into my stay here in HuayPakoot, after the previous two who worked on the book left early. They had gotten a great deal done and so far I have not been able to add more than a few new recipes. During my remaining two months I hope to gather information on the history of Karen cooking. I also hope to cook more with my homestay to add more recipes and complete the book.
When I arrived here in HuayPakoot it was pumpkin season, and while we get less pumpkin now the dish below is still a very common one. Other common dishes include stirred cabbage with egg, stirred green beans with egg and fried rice with egg. For non-vegetarians the dishes often include pork, but can also include chicken, fish or a number of wild animals from the forest such as barking deer.
Here is an example of one of our recipes
QUE LUKEBO DU CHODI
Translates into‘stirred pumpkin and egg’
– 2 eggs
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce
– 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
– 2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)
Start with chopping the pumpkin into small rectangular pieces.
Boil the pumpkin until soft (approximately 40 minutes).
Preheat the wok and pour in the oil. If using garlic, add the crushed cloves to the wok with the oil. Put in the eggs, add the boiled pumpkin and stir.
Put in the soy sauce and the oyster sauce.
Stir for an additional 7 minutes.