Category Archives: Thai

Thailand BE 2531-11-08 Ajahn Poonarat


This is going to be hard to start. It is hard to know when the beginning really is.

I walked into high school in 11th grade.  A scoial studies teacher, Chuck Domstein handed me my schedulre. I said, I have to change my math class. He said, “we can’t change your math class. I said, “No! I have to change it.” He said, “We can’t change it.” … I can’t take math with this teacher. He said, “Look, I told you we can’t change it just cause you don’t like the teacher.” I said, “She’s my mother”. He said, come lets see if we can change it. ”

It was complicated, I wanted to take Electronics, I needed to take choir, there was not much flex. So I tried to get into Drafting. It was full. Metals shop, full. Welding, full. Every foreign language either did not fit the schedule or it was full. Finally I ended up signing up for something. I really think that I was not sure what it was, it was called “Ceramics”.

Once a week I was taking piano lessons. I did not like the music. The teacher was trying to turn me into a concert pianist. It was not happening. I was practicing Ragtime, or at least playing it daily.  The lessons did not go well, but they were kitty corner from the Detroit Public Library and I started checking out books on ceramics. I started with 2 or three a week and finally started checking out the limit of 5 on one subject. By the time I was done with 12th grade I knew a lot about clay. Over the summer I worked at a Jewish summer camp with an endowed ceramics shop. We had a salt kiln. I became involved with atmospheric surfaces. I built a wood burning raku kiln in my back yard and a wheel in the basement.

I started college with the intention of going into architecture. I was going to The University of Michigan School of Engineering.  I felt like I kept getting kicked for trying to hard to learn and not taking the easy way out of assignments. After a little over a month it was clear that I was not going to hold out for four years. I was confused. A very smart friend gave me a matrix to use to straighten out priorities in  complex and difficult decisions. Since this decision was driven by future employment/vocation this was the first column. I suggest that you do this.

In the first column write down all the jobs you ever wanted; every one. This might include garbage truck driver, sledge hammer operator, ceramic artist, computer programmer, hair dresser. Anything and everything. It has to really include everything you ever wanted to “be”.

The second column a list of positive attributes like: makes a lot of money, gets to pull those cool garbage truck levers, my parents would like it, get summers off, work outside, varied work, not challenging, very challenging.

The third column are the  negative attributes. Note that some positive attributes might also be negative, not challenging, too challenging, parents will hate it/love it. Makes little money, no advancement, smells bad.

Then you have to rank the positives and negatives. This is the hard part. You have to use your motivation, your ranking.  If you think lots of money is important to your parents but not you, then rank it low unless how your parents feel is very important to you and add it as another positive, “parents will like the high rate of pay”.

Then do the negatives. Then associate the numbers with the jobs. Please don’t try to add up numbers or anything like that. Things are way too complex and nuanced for this to work. It will however clarify motivations. It helped me clarify motivations surrounding earnings and risks. I probably would have come up with other choices by age 30, but that was 12 years later, I could not have found those motivations at age 18.

At the University of Michigan in the Art Department  I took a variety of courses. They all seem tied to my future now although outside of ceramics I wondered about why I was taking them. There already seemed to be a hierarchy,, but I was immersed in clay. Kurt Weiser was my first college ceramics teacher. I was a work study under Chip Clawson. I also took a class with John Stevenson. Georgette Zirbes was my advisor.

Kurt suggested that I check out the Kansas City Art Institute. Finishing my first Art History final exam, I had my backpack with me. The Art History Course was An Overview of Asian Art History taught by Professor Walter Spinks. For almost the entire course he used slides that he shot himself. The last test included in the final was on a traveling exhbition called “Recent Archialogical Finds of China”. I left the final and hitchhiked to Kansas City to see the Art Institute . They were still in session.

About this class, the first test could have been a killer. It was designed to get you thinking. You had to identify half a bizzilion ( I remember 12 carousels I think holding 1000 slides total) images of the head of the Buddha by style. It was impossible to do without actually finding stylistic similarities.  By the end you recognized the style by the eyes, the ears, the hair, the shoulders, the chin, the libs, by every detail. This had a big impact on me, but the most important part of the course were the descriptions of the cultures that produced the art.  The course was my first exposure in any significant way to Ch’an, Zen, Taoism, Hinduism(s) Jainism, and Islam. I was taken by the political impetus for the stylistic changes in Chinese painting between Northern and Southern Sung dynasties. I became a fan of Mu Chi, Fan Kuan, and Li Cheng, but there were so many others.

The class was taught in a huge room with hundreds of seats. Along with a group of others I sat in the front row.

On the way into Kansas City I told my ride where I was going and he decided to drop me off. As I had never been there before this was great. He dropped me off next door at The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Over the limestone front entrance was a banner, “Recent Archaeological Finds of China”.  I ended up giving a young woman  my age a guided tour. The Art Institute Ceramics shop that year had 50 ceramics majors. Most were transfer students. Each brought with them experience, skills and knowledge. It was vibrant, exciting, energetic and expensive. I did not think that my parents would monetarily support my going there. I finished by trip and worked another summer teaching kids ceramics at camp.

The next year was my second at The University of Michigan. I was not an easy or model student although I worked very hard. I rarely worked on assigned projects. I was unable to work on things in ceramics where my intrinsic motivation was not really high. What I needed was a really good psychological examination. It would have turned up ADHD although I think it had a different acronym back then, and Dysgraphia (essay later) It would probably have turned up the frequent bouts of depression. They were still mostly seasonal back then starting in mid February but by then cropped up in small bits all the time.  At the end of the year I decided that if I stayed at the University of Michigan I would not gain the skills I wanted or needed in order to succeed in the field. I do not know if this was true although it seemed to be and still does. The program was fine for others.

I told my parents that I want to go to Kansas City. They said I could if I earned the difference in tuition over the summer. I found a job that would come within $30 of earning the  difference this if I spent nothing over thesummer. I went to work. The first day I came home asthmatic. My memory of this was that I was almost unable to walk home. I probably should have been hospitalized. I told my parents I was quitting. My father went ballistic.  I started looking for other work. Nothing stood a chance of making the difference. A friend road her bicycle over to tell me that I was going to be offered an “Assistant Manager” position at Burger King. In one of those flash decisions that happen when you are really tuned in, I decided and told her that I was leaving town in the morning. I hitchhiked to a friends house in Cincinati.

I did eventually get to school in Kansas City under the arrangement that my parents paid tuition and I covered everything else. I learned to cook good food inexpensively using “The No Fad, Good Food, 5$ a Week, Cookbook” . I bought very little food that was not unprepared. Exceptions were non-instant dry powdered milk, margarine, and very occasionally cottage cheese. One schoolyear I kept track of food costs. Not counting some beer it cost $3.27 per week.

Beyond the art history from the U of Michigan, thinking back a short lesson in 5th Grade with Ms. Cohen(?) seems important.  We learned about the word ethnocentrism. It took root. The idea that how we see the world is controlled by how we are brought up, that from inside a culture cultural practices seem to make sense, that from outside the culture they often seem wacky. Its been important.

This idea, ethnocentrism, really naturally occuring disease, was studied at the college level in the courses “World Ethnography” and “Language and Culture” taught by Professonr Anderson at the KAnsas City Art Institute. I am lucky to have had the ability to take these courses.

One of the interesting things about pottery, especially as taught in the 1980’s and perhaps before is that most of the models, stories, and information that we learned was about Asia. We learned about Japanese, Korean, and Chinese Ceramics. Its not that there were not a few strong European models, we and our teachers were mostly not interested. Consequently information was scarce and hard to find. The big exceptions  were information about The Leach School, The Bauhaus, and some Mediteranian ceramics and Majolica.

I became enamoured with wood fired raw  unglazed surfaces. I did not know the Japanese word Wabi Sabi, but others would categorize my interest as paralleling this concept. We fired a low fire wood kiln using a very coarse brick clay. We decorated mostly with slips, and the glazes were volitle and sensitive to temperature and atmosphere. After a year of this you either were in love with these surfaces or hate them.

One January before the start of the semester I went to Kay’s Rockhill Bar. It was a small neighborhood bar. There were always a few locals. There was a pool table, and Kay, a friendly owner/bartender. The ceramics department had 60 students and many of us hung out at Kay’s.

There was a girl with long hair, beautiful eyes, and stripe on her pants, cook’s pants. Shy, mostly, especially with girls, I did something unusual for me. I walked up to her, stuck out my hand and said, ” Hi, I’d like you to meet Louis”. She looked around thinking that there was someone else. Her name was Gail Busch. She had a nice smile.

A few days later I was out in front of his office and Ferguson, the KCAI Department Chair, a large gruff man with a huge reputation, walked up and said, “Louie, come here, sit down.” So I sat in his office across his desk from him.

“Louie, you gay?”
Louis: No Ken.
“You want a girlfriend?
“Sure”. I was thinking , ‘what, you got one in the closet, whats this about/’
Ken: Clean up your act, you knwo the drill, comb your hair, clean clothes, you know.
People sometimes think that I don;’t know how to take advice, but this is often not true. I thought, ‘nothing else is working’, so I gave it a try.

I bought new jeans at the Levi seconds store downtown. I started combing my hair. I wanted a good scientific test. So I carried a comb with me. Everytime I moved from one place to another I took my comb out. I brought a toothbrush to school. I decided to iron my clothes. Pants, shirt, underwear. My socks had creases. I polished my shoes, and my belt.
So Gail and I was working out well. We went out, drank coffee ate pecan pie late at night, and made pots all the time. I was not really allowed in her dorm room and the doors going in were locked so she would throw the key out the window. One time the cord it was on got stuck in a tree. I had to borrow a ladder from the janitor. He was highly amused. Gail made me omlettes, I made her kasha.

I ended up with alot of experience  talking with people from other cultures. It probably started with my grandmother whose English was iffy. My best friends mother spoke with a strong Cuban accent. Growing up in a 90% Jewish neighborhood there were loads of people from Eastern Europe. In high school I worked in a Chinese Restaurant. The cooks and the owners English was fragmentary and the pronounciation was poor. In KAnsas City I took classes from MAdame Chu. Students would ask me for explanations after class. I could understand every word.

Summers I worked at a Jewish camp for children. One summer after thousand of refusniks had been allowed to emmigrate and many came to Detroit. Lots of children ended up at camp. I had one as a camper. He was a year older than the other campers. He was smart. He had good schooling in the sciences. His English language skills were poor. He was just learning. The other campers treated him poorly at least in part because they could not communicate well with him. I asked the camp social worker what I should do and he said, “put him in charge of something every day”. This did not work well so I put him in charge of teaching me Russian,,, just a little. We worked on it most days during the afternoon swim.  I learned how to say, “How is your belly button, Your mother wears army boots. It is only 5 Kilometers to Kiev” and to count, not much else.

Learning some Russian normallized my helping him with English. Having the lessons go bidirectionally made it more like help from a peer and less stressful. I learned Thai, just a little as I helped him. It also gave me another experience communicating with someone whose English was not so good.


When we got to graduate school we met Poonarat Pichaiyapaiboon. He is Thai. Poonarat, was short, friendly, had an interesting sense of humor, and clearly was from another culture. He was fascinating and we became friends. His English was not hard to understand if you could make out what words he was saying. Like most Thais of his generation who learned to speak English he failed to pronounce final consonants and most consonant clusters. FInal ‘l’s often were pronounced “n”. “Liked” became “lie”.  Hotel was pronounced hoe-ten . Lips was pronounce lip but with a very short, dropped “p”. Once you got a handle on that he was easy to understand.

However, this was Middle America. Most people had little experience with listening to such bad pronunciation. He said that had I not be friendly with him, shown him some respect that he would have left the program and returned home.
One day he decided to cook for us. This was well in advance of the great profusion of Thai restaurants. He made us a dish based on Beef liver. You have to understand that liver in Thailand is a special food as it is in many places and times when animal protein is scarce. It is high in vitamins B6 and B12. It has a lot of cholesterol. When I was a child, liver was the one food I despised. I could eat anything else I was given, even if I did not like it. Liver I had to force down. It was vile. The last time my parents made me eat liver I asked to be excused from the table. I was told that I could not eat anything else until I ate my liver. I was determined to starve to death.  I woke up in the morning put on my clothes and walked to school without breakfast. When I came home for lunch there was lunch at the table for me. I guess liver was not so good for you that starving to death was a reasonable punishment for not eating it.
Anyhow, the first step was to put some oil in a pan and fry a ton of peppers. The air because so hot that we sat on the floor by the door while Nui cooked.  It was rather intense. I was able to eat a little.

Soetsu Yanagi, Shoji Hamada, and Bernard Leach went on a tour of the United States, giving lectures, and demonstrations in December of 1952. I went to graduate school and found a copy of Yanagi’s lecture in a trash can.  Yanagi coined the word “Folk-Craft”. Like William Morris, only later and  half way around the planet, Yanagi saw the demise of hand skills, and the plain work and products produced by local craftsman as detrimental to society and aimed to help preserve them.  He talked of plain Korean wooden bowls, Ongi, and other “rustic” ware designed for use.

Rather than join academia, Leach set up a pottery and taught apprentices.  The apprentices became famous potters, really most of them. One was Michael Cardew. Cardew also had apprentices, but first he went to Ghana on a British Government grat to set up a stoneware pottery. There he had contact with the robust earthenware pots used in the villages, further strengthening the Yanagi/Leach tie to folk pottery. Cardew had Mark Hewitt as an apprentice. We will circle back around to Mark later.

Cardew’s pots and his pottery aesthetic was something I put in a pigeon hole that I call Majesty of form.  His pots often have the fullness and grace of Sung Dynasty Chinese pots. The tend to be large, robustly functional, and show strength and vitality. Of the Leach School potters he is my favorite. I got to meet him in Wichita at a conference of educators. He said that you cannot learn to make good pots in a university.

At school in Kansas City, we were given the opportunity to buy books about Japanese pottery published by Kodansha. We ordered the books and they were picked up and shipped by Akio Takamori who was in Tokyo at the time. Akio has influenced us all. He was a great man, and a great friend to so many. But it may be these book orders where he had his biggest influence. We were wildly infatuated with Japanese pots, but could get only limited information. These books could not be read by us. But they contained large pictures, high quality. When they came we devoured them. I have had them 40 years now and they still are the books with the pictures I want to look at. I think that these books changed a generation of potters, at least the ones from the Kansas City Art Institute.  I think I bought 5 books, I was broke. Gail, now my wife bought another 5. I wish that I could have bought the two sets. I think that there were 70 books. So it goes.

Gail and I got married and moved to Rhode Island to set up a pottery. We did not have the skills, and my brain would not let me do this. I could, and really cannot stay focused like that. It has never worked. I was fooling myself.  I ended up deciding to go to graduate school. We went on a tour of schools and applied together to five. I am not sure what they all were but they included Alfred, Illinois State, and Montana State. We both got into Illinois State and Montana State. Alfred turned us down. I go to their receptions at the annual conference to rub in the mistake. They serve good food.

My life at Illinois State in Normal, was not good. Lots of things were wrong. I was one of them. When things got tough I did not make them better. However the real blame seems to lie on my instructors, both of whom are now dead. I am mostly over it, but they were not nice to me. I started hanging out with the Glass students. They were nice. The glass instructor, Joel Meyers, was great to me. It was an escape for me. I started making some good work there. Poonarat took a glass class with me. We had a lot of fun. Thinking about it I can hear his laugh, see his smile and his voice.  He says that I was important to his staying in Normal, thinking about this makes me realize that he may have been just as important to me, only I ended up leaving.

Sometime Poonarat brought a sheet of slides. If you are young these are transparent images of photographic film. They were a inexpensive way to get images that you could project on a wall. The images were of a village in Thailand, Dankwian. There was an image of a kiln, another of firewood, and images of dark clay pots, fired to vitrification with no glaze. These were Mingei, not fake folk-craft made by the college educated or designed by people with marketing degrees. There were pots of the people, made for storing water, basins for washing, mortars and wood pestles. The surfaces were amazing with spots of melted woodash from the fuel, scars from where they stuck together. I was amazed.

By Thanksgiving our first semester in graduate school it was obvious that the choice of schools was a mistake and we got on a bus and went to Montana. Greyhound was going on strike. The bus company told us, “no matter what we will get you to your destination”. In Chicago we saw our luggage on a cart as we were leaving the station. We got them to stop so that we could get it.  In Minneapolis they said that they could no longer transport us but that they would get us to our destination. We got on the train and got to Havre, Montana. From Havre we took a small bus company to  Billings. In Billings we were left stranded. Chandler Dayton drove her pickup truck  3 hours and picked us up. She took us to Bozeman straight into the Montains to camp, have steaks cooked on an open fire, drink beer, and whiskey, and smores. No one in Montana said “yes” to anything. It was always “You bet” or “You betcha”. It became our mantra.

Somehow we returned to  Illinois. It might have been Greyhound, I do not remember it.  But once we returned anytime one of the instructors asked us to do anything we answered, “you betcha”.  We were leaving but decided to finish the year out. This was a terrible mistake in many ways but I did make some great work. I invented slipcast glass. I started my series of kilns. I coated welded wire fencing with slip. I made some pots that I prize.

When I finally left Illinois I was almost not sleeping. I would sleep maybe four hours and wake up and worry. Sometimes I would get back to sleep. I was a mess. While I did not cry much, I was a man and we are supposed to take it. I should have, I think tears carry some of some stress out of your body. Oh well.  We left with friends who helped drive.

I do not know that I will ever feel the same joy ( its different when a child is born, not the same) that I felt when I crossed the border into Iowa. It was the lifting of weight, a thousand brick. We stopped and saw Clary Illian, a Leach apprentice, fantastic person, a maker of quiet beautiful pots and a great friend that I see only rarely. We spent the night in a campground and in the morning one of the tires on our 16 foot box truck was near flat. We did not have much money to spare.  Truck tires can be wicked expensive. We also did not have appropriate tools for dealing with it. We borrowed a small bicycle pump and worked for an hour pumping it up and then quickly drove into the city to get it repaired.  That done, we got back on the road.

The truck stopped running like it was out of gas and I pulled to the side of the road. John got out and said, “I think its the carbuerator. We were lucky to have him. As we were taking the top off the carbeurator  I finally started to cry. These were big tears. My nose dripped, they just about squirted from my eyeballs and Jack Kirkpatrick try to console me. “Louis, it will be ok. No worries everything will be fine, we will get it running”. Well he was right,  but we had no money to spare but I was not really upset. The tears were joyous. I was out of f-ing Illinois. I was elated! I could walk to Montana. The truck broke down again in Livingston Montana, just the other side of the pass into Bozeman. I thought, “no worries, I can push the truck into Bozeman with a pry bar.

We rolled into Bozeman with the engine running and air in our tires. I remember very little about the time until school started.

We lived in Married Student Housing. Rent was cheap, I think when we started it was 98$ per month. We had to pay our own utilities. The houses were WWII housing that had been moved to school. They had been given new windows and lots of insulation. They were about 1/2 mile from ceramics.

We met great people. Sheila and Halleck and Bobcat, our professors, Mike, Rick, and Jay, Allan, and Stephanie. I took a class on technical photography from Dick Molina who worked in the sciences. He introduced me to good chocolate. Of the grad students Chandler and Frank stood out. Josh DeWeese was an undergrad about to leave for Kansas City to go to the Art Institute.  It seems like all of his teachers went there, or almost all.

I do not remember being signed up for classes in the first summer, but I probably was. Gail took a graduate English class. There were some hiccups in the fall. The graduate dean sent Gail a letter saying that her undergraduate English classes were not acreddited by an organization that the University could accept and that she would have to take leveling courses.  It seemed like a joke. I could hardly write a paper. Gail went and pointed out that not only had she taken and passed a graduate English course at the Montana State, she had earned the highest grade and all the rest of the students were English Graduate students.  Further we pointed out that most of his art faculty went to that Undergraduate School and he accepted their transcripts when they were hired.

Unfortunately graduate school in Normal Illinois traumatized me. I had a hard time getting along with my teachers in Bozeman. They did not really help things, but I should have been able to tolerate more.  It was very hard for me the last few semesters. Still, I made work I am still proud of. I picked up skills I did  not have when I got there. I also made tons of work fired to cone 8 in residual salt that had surfaces that are much like Dankwian or Bizen surfaces. I learned to throw fast. I started become irritated about “Art” History, and its narrow myopic view of what art is. I should probably thank it for its myopia because it really became the subject of my work for decades.

From Montana State University we moved the 100 miles to Helena Montana, The Queen of the Rockies. Helena, is right under the continental divide. It is dryer than Bozeman and the scenery is less dramatic. You could easily say Bozeman is more beautiful. You might be wrong, but you would not know without being there a while.

I dropped out of undergraduate school for a year and half. During that time I lived in San Francisco with a friend. At the beginning I had a hard time finding a job so I played ukelele on the warf for change. One day I noticed this little hunched over old woman with a can walking towards me. I was playing “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone”, and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”. Both songs have the same circle of fifths cord progression so they blend easily one into another. She hobbled up under my chin, looked up and said, “you sure are older than you look.”

One of the things that I have learned to do is to play the ukelele sing and balance a broom on my chin. I can do all three at once. I have not worked at it much but I have substituted an accordian for the Uke. Its a bit more difficult.  On the street I prefered music to the show. Others with more show than music did better.  But I cannot say my music was exceedingly high quality. It was just better than my main competition. He was earning a real living, but I heard he had been  arrested for non-payment of taxes.

One June I hitchhiked to Montana to visit The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena from San Francisco. Kurt Weiser was my first college ceramics teacher was the Director. He hired Chip Clawson to run the clay business. I ended up on a bus from Denver to Helena. I called Kurt from the bus station in town. He was busy, so he told me to walk to the Bray. It was 5 miles. He said to “be careful of the wolves”.  Well Kurt is known to be a leg puller so I did not think much more about it.

As I approached the Bray, it was dusk, the howls of the “wolves” was really intense. A neighbor of the Bray raised sled dogs that were part wolf. I was scared, but not enough to turn around. Maybe that qualifies as stupid or foolish, I am not sure. The Archie Bray Foundation had a smaller footprint than it does now.


We had had our garage sale. Our things remaining were on 4 pallets. Both Datsuns were outside on pallets so that they could be picked up and moved around by the Archie Bray Foundation forklift. Our other belongings were in the old covered scove kiln storage building.

The video camera had come, we bought film and packed. It is hard to know if we brought too much stuff. Lots of things were hard or expensive to get. Pants that fit me were all imports or carried import prices. Shoes were unavailable in size 14.  We brought some books. They ended up being helpful. We got so short on reading material that anything in English was a prized possession. I remember that we called our families. Things were rather frenetic. We were excited.

Tom Yum Kung ต้มยำกุ้ง

This is the Thai national dish. When you say something is Tom Yum Kung, you are saying that it is authentically Thai.  Its like saying that something is “as American as apple pie”. The Asian Monetary Crisis of 1997 which seemed to start in Thailand is often referred to as “Tom Yum Kung”.

This is the start of a post on a recipe for Tom Yum Kung. My sources are memory, Jennifer Brennan’s (Hot Pink) Original Thai Cookbook and Hot Thai Kitchens youtube video and Thai Food Master
My memories are scattered but as always include Umdang Ceramics and a certain little whole in the wall place in Korat that kept upping the peppers every time we went there.

This page says to add 4 shallots This page also says to fry prawn brains in oil until golden. They add them late in the process to the soup and it adds an orange color. I will probably get headless shrimp so no prawn brains.
I have had shallots in Tom Yum but have never included them in my recipe. I am gonna try some this time.
I really like the oil that has had shrimp shells fried in it so  I am going to use that part of the Hot Pink cook book.

2T vege oil I like the way it looks if it goes red.
8 cups quality chicken stock using skin and feet if possible
1.5t salt
1″ of galangal fresh from my garden sliced in rounds.
3 stalks lemon grass 1″ length. from my garden, bruise before cutting.
Kaffir Lime leaf 4 slivered from my garden
1/4 t kaffir zest but other limes OK from my garden, maybe fresh
2 green chili, serrano, or one polano slivered (bruise first). I will  throw in a few pequins.
4 shallots
2 pounds shrimp peel de-vein and reserve the shells.
1 slivered red chili slivered (bruise first)
2 limes juiced.
1T Fish Sauce. Louis uses a tad of shrimp paste.
2 T coriander leaves chopped coarse
3 green onions chopped coarse from my garden
mushrooms, I am going shitake this time I think.
a small amount of vegetable matter but this soup traditionally has little to none. I am not sure what, but maybe a few bits of slivered root veges. Hot Thai Kitchen says maybe to add some Nam Prik Phao it adds some nice color. I may put in some powdered dry  ancho chili early with the shrimp shells.

Fry shells in oil , add stock, galangal, leaf and rind of kaffir.  green chilli shallots. simmer the stock.
Bring to a boil add veges, mushrooms first, then shrimp. Slightly undercook the shrimp. Remove from heat add lime juice fish sauce sugar coriander and green onion. Check for salt, sugar, pepper, fish sauce.  serve. Guests that are late get it cold. Do not bring this back to a boil.


น้ำบูดูและข้าวยำปักษ์ใต้ Nam Bu Du and Kao Yam (Rice Salad and Southern Fish Sauce)

I am working on making KaoYam with Nam Bu Du น้ำบูดู a dish from the south of Thailand, really from Malaysia. I am going to at least start with the recipe on this page.
She Simmers Thai Cooking KaoYam
I have been told by an old friend HS9DEK with a glorious voice and welcoming warm personality that I should use Thai Bu Du sauce. I have not spoken with him for most of a year. Catching him online was great.
A friend gave me a small amount of homemade Bu Du….

Bai Krapow

Might have to cook this:… or maybe this:…
Pork & Crunchy Basil ( Yum Mu Sam Chan Grapow Grob ) (Appon’s Thai Food Recipes)
A typical gop-gam dish to eat as a snack or with alcoholic drinks. This one is f…See More
2 minutes ago · Like · Remove Preview
Louis Katz…
Pad Prik Bai Kaprow Stir Fry with Basil Recipe by elaurance |
Find the recipe for PAD PRIK BAI KAPROW – STIR FRY WITH BASIL and other chicken recipes at


I am working on my Echolink IRLP node. This is a Ham Radio/Voice over the internet protocol (VOIP) amalgam. Echolink and IRLP are two different manifestations of this combination of ham radio and the internet. They both can be run off of a linux server. My old one was a Pentium II. I decided to move to a Rasberry Pi for several reasons. One is energy savings. The Pi a Iphone sized computer uses much less electricity. The second is for “fun” and education. I have had to extend my knowledge of Linux a bit and also knowledge of the software to make it go.

Despite the monumental and well appreciated efforts of those programming IRLP, Echolink, The Bridge, Debian, and Debian on Rasberry, the installation of all of this is not trivial. It can be, what I think of as frustrating fun. The hurdle is a pain until you’re past it. This is sort of a manifestation of hitting your foot with a hammer so that it will feel better when you stop. I still have at least one hurdle left. Then node is not accepting my DTMF commands via radio or a web interface on Echolink. Consequently I cannot call out on this software, but incoming connections are working.

The basic steps in this are:
Securing proper equipment
Formatting your SD Card for you Pi
Installing your Linux version on the card
Configuring your Linux for IRLP
Getting a modified IRLP board for the Pi or modifying it yourself
Getting or modifying cables to work with the board, the pi, your radio and a USP soundcard.
Installing the IRLP software
Configuring and testing the software. Learning that if you download then you probably need to use aumix to set your sound.
Reconfiguring the sound.
Getting CW ID to work. This means bridging pins 3 and 4 on you DB9 to the radio cable. Hey maybe this is pins 2 and three, look it up somewhere else!
Final IRLP test and then backup_for_reinstall . Save with a name indicating that this does not have echolink installed yet.
Download and install Echolink.
So far the bug I have found is that a file in bin should be in sbin. This was fixed with a symbolic link.
Here are pictures:

IRLP board-Pi board-with ribbon cable connector
The proposed enclosure is behind it. There will be room inside for a Baofeng 440 transceiver.


IRLP board with yellow tape under one side of the diode to modify it for use with the Pi


Old commercial radio modded for 440 with power supply and fan.









Up Wind

I am preparing to go to Thailand. I have lists and even a list of lists. I have packing lists, lists of paperwork to duplicate, lists of people to contact, letters to write, and files to transfer to the laptop. Oy.

But there are other preparations I have to make. They may be more important. I must slow down, remember the Thai manners, the cool heart – jai yen, slow, controlled not too excited. I have to remember to slow and greet people properly, the smile and the ability to let things roll off my back with a smile on my face. It is not just smiling that I need to do, but the smile state of mind.

The idea that desire is the root of suffering, that grasping creates disappointment, is at the heart of this change. It is a part of Buddhist philosophy but, it is so widely accepted and implemented in Thailand , that you have to succumb or find yourself swimming upstream. I no longer can swim upstream for months at a time. I have to smile, go with the flow, allow the troubles, the hurry, frowns, worries, to flow away, to touch perhaps but never stick. I have to learn to “mai pen rai” . To activate the phrase “its not a problem or worry” you have to make it a verb.

I have a huge agenda. It is work. It is too much. It would be good if I could get it all done. It is almost certainly undoable.  An agenda like this can add an off flavor to everything. It can prevent months of work from being productive, too much stress on doneness not enough flex to contemplate, think, digest,,,. I have to start by doing “mai pen rai” by turning off the worries and allowing the future to come. You can only swim upstream so long.

I  have to even stop my little social concerns. Did I fail to slow down and say Sawasdii, did I remember to call them “elder”, was I polite enough. I have to do this because really the first politeness in Thailand is to mai pen rai. It is a necessity like air. When you do this, the little stuff comes easy, and the hard stuff is easier.



Down Wind

In t988-1989 I spent 10 months in Thailand with a Fulbright Senior Research Grant documenting Traditiona Thai Pottery from the point of view of an artist.
Twenty four years downwind of this event I can see some of the positive effects of this fruitful grant.

1. Potters in the western world know that Thai pottery exists. People run tours of Thai potteries. People visit and work at potteries in Thailand. Most notable of the people who have worked in Thailand at least in my eyes is Daniel Johnston. I can’t take much credit for it in any direct way but I was at least partly involved. Daniel was an apprentice of Mark Hewitt. Mark was aware of Thai pottery before I went to Thailand but I believe my video, articles and slide shows helped him to suggest to Daniel that he go to Thailand to learn to coil throw.
He suggested that Daniel contact Louise Cort, now curator of Asian Ceramics at the Freer gallery of the Smithsonian. Louise, a real expert on Thai pottery would probably have found the pottery at Phon Bok without me. But she contacted me a few weeks before I left and arrive a few weeks after asking for some leads to potteries. Phon Bok was on my list of pottery making villages, and that is where Daniel went at Louise’s suggestion. My list of suggestion to Louise turned into my 38 page booklet on Thai potteries that many people have used to find pots on their travels.

Kurt Weiser’s trip to Thailand during our stay was instrumental in his imagery. In some ways pottery was just part of the lure, but I also think the near magical or “Disneyland”® (trademark of Walt Disney) aspect of  Dankwean Village and the “Oz” quality of Muang Kung along with the temples and lush tropical scenary played a part in the development of his work. He mentions this trip frequently in talks on his work.

Also on the list is the work of Rosie Wynkoop. She also visited us in Thailand and her work makes me wonder if she is not influenced by Thai temples and perhaps Bencharong ceramics.

The effect that I am most proud of is the survival of mortar making in Ubon Ratchatani. Stoneware mortars are critical in Thai cooking. You need them for grinding spices, but they are perhaps most important in bruising papaya for som tam, green papaya salad most common in the Northeast. Visiting Ubon in 1989 I was asked what they could do to lower the temperature needed to produce vitreous pottery. Ubon did not seem to have a close supply of feldspar, glass frit in clay is hard to manage, I already had a bad experience using waste oil. It was a difficult problem.
What they really wanted was a hard surface. I suggested that they salt the kiln, throw 20 pounds of salt into the firebox near the top end of the firing, and it would volatilize and create a glaze on the pottery.
They thought I was crazy. “Salt does not burn” they told me and proceeded to ignore my idea. Perhaps it is a fault, but I usually do not argue with people unwilling to take my advice or suggestions, so I let it go. A few weeks later an engineer and I were talking back in Dankwean Village and he asked if I had any ideas about what they could do in Ubon. I told him, and he told them.
Sometime after returning to the US I began seeing mortars, clearly made with Ubon Clay and with Ubons smooth rim on the inside of the form, that had obvious salt glaze on them. Ubon has since nearly monopolized on clay mortar production. I feel like I had a positive impact on many peoples livelyhood and lives.

Green Curry Paste เครื่องแกงเขียวหวาน and Curry และแกง

Sweet Green CurryI am getting ready to make some Green Curry Paste แกงเขียวหวาน . I do not have much galanga to harvest but might harvest it all and use it up. After I return from Thailand maybe I can get some fresh from Houston. Making your own curry paste is not something you should do at the last minute. It is very time consuming. In a mortar it requires lots of work. Start it no later than noon the day you are serving. Generally I try and make it the day before. I store it tightly sealed in the fridge. It is great for a few weeks, after a few months it is no better than the store bought paste. The more ingredients that you can get fresh, the better, but it could be made from dry except for the basil and peppers.
The recipe I have been using for years is:

  • 3 pieces dry galanga or equivalent Fresh or frozen (3 inches??) ข่า
  • 1 teaspoon dry lesser ginger กระชาย (Also available frozen)
  • 2 corriander roots รากผักชี (cilantro)  Sometimes you can by fresh cilantro with roots attached
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds เมล็ดยี่หร่า (this really adds character to this)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds เมล็ดผักชี
  • 4 whole cloves กานพลู
  • 1 nutmeg pod ลูกจันทน์เทศ (everyone should buy nutmeg whole and grate it when needed)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass minced as fine as you can.  ตะไคร้
  • 12 black pepper corns พริกไทย (unless you have fresh)
  • 2 T shallots หอม
  • 2 T garlic กระเทียม
  • 1 t shrimp paste กะปิ (keeps years out of the fridge)
  • 1 t kaffir lime zest ผิวมะกรูด (freezes well, you can sub regular lime zest)
  • 8 whole green serrano chillies พริก เขียว (If you want less heat substitute a strong flavored but less hot chilli like mild poblano, but it takes a little more to get the flavor.)
  • 4 t vegetable oil น้ำมัน (this can be coconut, olive or whatever) Don’t worry about the taste, its gonna be covered.
  • I hav  in the past added basil to the paste but put it into the curry. It still needs fresh basil leaves at the end. I would leave this out. 1/2 Cup fresh basil leaves โหระพ
  • also some recipes call for fresh coriander ( why not) 1/4 cup ผักชี
  • 1t salt (OK to omit if you are going to use this fresh, if you are going to store this, include it)

The best way to get this all into a fine paste seems to be to:

  • Break up the nutmeg into small chunks, and if dry the break the galanga into pieces first.
  • Take the dry stuff and grind it in a blender, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
  • Peel the outside tougher green leaves off the lemon grass. As a group tie them in a big knot and reserve for Tom Yum stock if you are making it or discard, if you use outside leaves your paste will be hairy. Cut the lemongrass across the grain very VERY finely. Then chop. Do the same if using fresh galanga or frozen. If you do not get it fine enough your paste will be hairy.
  • If the lime zest is fresh, chop it.
  • Chop the peppers and any other fresh ingredients (lemon grass, galanga, lime zest) and grind or pound until smooth.
  • blend and/or pound until smooth. Its OK to add a little extra oil, but no water unless you are not keeping some of the paste.
  • After all the fresh ingredients are added add the dry ones and blend until homogenious

Sweet Green Curry with Chicken

  • 3 pounds chicken cut into chunks. Legs should be cut through the bone.
  • 3-4 cups coconut milk (make sure it is NOT sweetened)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (other oil may be substituted)
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 3 slices Galangal
  • 3 T green curry paste approximately
  •  a few basil leaves if using the above paste, otherwise 1/2 cup
  • 6 fresh Kaffir Lime leaves or other citrus leaves, frozen or dried are OK
  • 1-2 cups pea eggplants (one small purple eggplant cut or some Thai eggplant are OK too). I have been using Tomatillo in this because they are good, down here in Texas they are cheap, and they look right. มะเขือพวง
  • 6 Serrano peppers

Boil the chicken, 2 cups coconut milk, fish sauce and galangal until the meat is tender. Remove the meat. Add the oil. Boil down until the liquid thickens, add the curry paste (blend into some liquid) and cook while stirring 5 minutes. Pour in remaining coconut milk (and purple eggplant if you are using them) and return to boil. reduce heat and simmer 5 more minutes. Add basil (reserve a few for garni), citrus leaves, pea or Thai eggplant and chili peppers. Increase heat and bring to low boil for 5 minutes. Garnish with Basil and serve over rice.




Miang Kam

Gail’s Miang Kam เมี่ยงคำ

This is a fun appetizer. I think it should be sold in restaurants on a tray. The sauce can be made in advance and most of the other ingredients can be prepped ahead too.

  • 1/4 cup ground dried shrimp กุ้งแห้ง
  • 1/2 -1 cup sugar น้ำตาล
  • 1/4 cup roasted grated coconut meat (can be roasted in a dry cast iron skillet on a burner)มะพร้าวเผา
  • 2 T fish sauce น้ำปลา
  • 1/2 cup water น้ำ
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste กะปิ

Roast coconut meat, add sugar until dissolved add fish sauce and shrimp paste and water cook 1 or 2 min., cool.

  • 1 cup shredded coconut ( roast to bring out flavor) มะพร้าว
  • 1/4 cup shallot diced หอม
  • 1/4 cup small diced ginger ขิง
  • 1/4/cup peanuts roasted no salt ถั่วลิสง
  • 1/4 cup dried shrimp (not fresh) from asian gorcery กุ้งแห้ง
  • 1/4 cup small bits of lime with peel (1/4″x 1/4″x 1/4″) มะนาว
  • 1/4 cup small serrano chillies , seeded for the mild stomachs พริก
  • Lettuce leaves ใบ?? หรือ ใบผักกาด

Take the lettuce leaves and wilt them  by soaking in a strong warm brine. Rinse well.
Ito each leaf place a dollup of cool sauce a bit of Shallot, Ginger, 1 dried shrimp,1 peanut, 1 pit of lime a bit of coconut, 1/4 – 1 whole serrano chilli. roll up small enough to jam into your mouth in one bite.