Pak Bung Loy Fa

Pak Bung Loy Fa (Stir Fried Greens aka ?Flying Greens? ? Thai)

Posted by WingsFan91 at 11/15/2001 3:35 pm

Following a number of postings asking for tips on how to prevent stir frying oil from smoking, I offer this as a counterpoise.


Pak Bung is a common green leafy vegetable in Thailand that has the unlovely western name of "swamp cabbage" (botanically it is ipomoea aquatica). You can however substitute other vegetables (see variants below).

This dish is cooked over *very* high heat in Thailand, and usually catches fire at some point in the proceedings – indeed it is meant to. The Thai chef then casually removes the wok from the fire, and tosses the contents in the air, in a manner similar to a western chef tossing a
crepe. This extinguishes the flames, and the wok is returned to the fire, to repeat the process. The story goes that in Phitsannaluk (a small town in Thailand) two brothers opened streetside restaurants on opposite sides of a street and found the cooking of this traditional food attracted crowds if they threw the dish extra high. They developed this until they started tossing the dish from one side of the street to the other. When the greens had completed two passes over the street they were cooked and served to the customers.

The flaming of the dish is important, and it combines stir frying with flame broiling. This dish can be cooked as a pure vegetarian dish, or as here with some meat to make it a complete "plate meal" – that is to say that unlike normal Thai dishes that are served in a serving bowl with a bowl of rice for the diner to help themselves, this one is served over the rice on a dinner plate.

And now, since this USENET spool is read in America and American civil law claims a universal application, and I don’t want to be sued, a legal disclaimer.

This recipe is presented as an example of Thai cuisine and culture. Users who attempt to follow this recipe do so at their own risk, and the author accepts no responsibility for loss, damage or injury to the users real estate, cooking equipment, person or other property.

Now back to the story…

This dish is usually cooked on a charcoal brazier with a forced draft (bellows) in the open air, because of the high flames associated with it.

Because of the high heat required, this dish should be prepared in a round bottom wok. Since using a small wok increases the risk of spills, I suggest a 16" wok as the minimum size – if you can beg, borrow or steal a 20" or 24" restaurant wok that is better. The high heat suggests that you use a barbeque. Arrange to support the wok on a wok stand or ring. The ring should be at least half the diameter of the wok (i.e. 8" for a 16" wok), and you should ensure that the wok doesn’t tip or slide when you stir fry in it. You also need a second wok stand away from the fire, and a lid to fit the wok.

The high heat will seriously discolor stainless steel, possibly distort aluminum, and possibly damage the surface of a non-stick wok – in any case the high heat precludes the use of plastic or wooden spatulas. Use a basic iron or steel wok.

Unless you live in a baronial mansion with 20 foot high ceilings made of granite blocks, do as the Thais do, and cook this outdoors.

We are not talking about western style flamb? in which alcohol is ignited at relatively low temperature and quickly burns itself out: this recipe calls for boiling oil at about 450-500 Celsius to be ignited. It burns solidly, and very hot. It can do a lot of damage if you have an accident.

Unless you are an expert professional juggler or have an emergency medical team and the town fire brigade on hand, don’t try to juggle burning oil and food in the Thai style!

Safety: There is a possibility of spitting or splashing oil. You could also accidentally spill oil when moving the burning wok. Consequently I strongly advise that you wear eye protection: my wife wears safety goggles, I suggest you do too. Cover your hair. Do *not* use a nylon hair net – nylon melts and the result will be painful. My wife wears a leather baseball cap, and I suggest you do the same. Do not wear nylon – either a shirt or stockings, as nylon melts and the resulting burns are very painful, and hard to treat, often requiring plastic surgery. I suggest you wear a denim work shirt, a pair of jeans, and cover them with a cotton lab coat or long chefs apron or butchers apron. Wear safety shoes (something like Dr. Martens). Finally like most Thai chefs my wife’s hands are covered with little scars caused by splashing oil or particles of hot food. To avoid this (and the possibility of dropping the wok in pain) wear flame and heat resistant gloves.

As a last resort have a fire blanket and a first aid kit ready…

OK we’ve got the warnings and caveats out of the way…

12 ounces pak bung
1/2 pound steak, cut into thin strips, then into bite size pieces
5 or 6 cloves garlic roughly chopped
5 or 6 chopped chiles (prik ki nu – birdseye or dynamite chiles)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons crushed yellow bean sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons stock

First arrange the cooker, place the lid of the wok on the side of the second wok stand away from the fire.

Prepare the meat, and clean and dry the vegetables. Mix everything, except the oil and stock in a small bowl ready. Don protective clothing.

Put the wok over very high heat: if using gas the flames should overlap the edges of the wok and rise 3-4 inches above it, a charcoal burner should be very hot (white hot). Add the stock and bring it to the boil. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil and stir fry until the mixture is almost dry.

Add the oil and bring it to smoking point, stir frying vigorously, then ignite the oil (if it doesn’t ignite on its own, I suggest you use a small butane blow torch).

Without hurrying transfer the wok to the second wok stand and cover with the lid. This will extinguish the flames.

Return the wok to the barbeque and reheat to smoking point, ignite and extinguish as above.

The dish is now ready to serve. It can be served with rice, or as a component in a Thai or oriental style buffet.

If you can’t get pak bung, you can use cabbage, spring greens, or kale.

Alternatively you can use broccoli florets or cauliflower florets or a mixture of the two. In this case cut the florets small, and slice the stalks diagonally into fairly thin slices.

Special thanks to – Muoi Khuntilanont.