Getting My Irish Up! Traditional Irish Soda Bread

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Oh the magic that is St Patrick’s Day! For me as a young adult it meant standing out in a miserably rainy and cold afternoon watching a parade of kilt wearers while bathed in the warmth and glow of Irish Whiskey. There is nothing like frozen toes while your cheeks blaze with an alcoholic glow. This experience, for an Irishman, is a quintessential metaphor for how life is lived. So much fun, while pretty much hitting yourself over the head with a hammer. Celebration and Struggle. Gotta love it.

The Watson Clan harkens back to Galway. I had always believed as a child that I had some Welsh and English blood in me, but it turns out that we are all a bunch of Irishmen.


In honor of my heritage I decided to bake up a batch of Irish Soda Bread- which like too many things- turns out to be more of an American invention rather than something my rosy cheeked Great Grandmother would have made.

The fact that most Irishman were of limited resources (that being pretty much what they raised or grew themselves), meant that fancy things such as raisins, or caraway seeds were not readily available in the pantry. But I say Pishaw! to all that- If you’re going to bend rules it can be for dried fruits- Green beer on the other hand is harder to swallow (pun most definitely intended).


As I was removing the loaf from the oven, my 18 year old Texas raised nephew, Justin, walked into the kitchen. Always curious and eager to learn, he asked me what it was that I had made. Never having heard of Irish Soda Bread,  it turned out to be a challenge to describe. Here’s what I came up with: [Read more…]

Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp Gumbo


GumboHappy Mardis Gras Y’all!

We are in the final days of Mardis Gras season here, and thawed out Yankee can tell you, it’s quite the time!! For years I’ve heard of the madness and mayhem of the parades and bead tosses- but there is nothing- I mean NOTHING like experiencing it. 

It’s not just the beads (though as one friend of said, “It’s amazing what a woman will do to get cheap beads.”), it’s not just the crazy floats and music in the streets, it’s the whole vibe and energy of a town gone party wild!


I experienced my first parade, the Krewe de Vieux, in New Orleans the weekend before last. This is one of the few parades that wends it’s way through the French Quarter, and it was a blast. Known for it’s irreverence and political bent, the Krewe de Vieux theme this year was “Where The Wild Things Are”. All along Esplanade, as we headed down to find our spot to watch, folks in costumes filled the streets and city busses. My favorite were groups dressed as Max from the book of that title, on bicycle! Tails whipping behind them as they careened down the avenue, and all around an air of frat house partying and good times.

Shreveport has it’s own splendid Mardis Gras, and no less of the chaos and rapture of New Orleans. I was told that Mardis Gras is a local holiday (schools close, businesses shut down), and though I didn’t doubt it, I just didn’t realize how seriously folks took it. Give a Louisianian an opportunity to dance and party in the streets, and they are all about it!

kratchners [Read more…]

Khao Soi~Chiang Mai Curry Noodle Coconut Soup

Khao Soi~ A Stack of DishesThere are a few dishes that I dream of, along with the place where I’ve eaten it.  Without a doubt, on the top my list is Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. This is a regional dish from Northern Thailand, thought to be of Burmese influence. This dish consists of a rich curry laced coconut milk broth in which chicken or pork are simmered. The broth is then poured over warm egg noodles and topped with sprouts, greens and fried noodles.

In Chiang Mai you can find small hole in the wall shops that serve this dish for around 35Bhat ($1 US). My favorite place is in the Airport Mall food area on the lower level.  Nestled amongst several other bustling luncheon food stands is our favorite spot. A somewhat grumpy guy,  with a handful of furtive worker bees chopping and stirring around him, rules over the middle of a fairly large oval food stand. It consists of a low shallow counter and rustic stools, akin to the design of a sushi bar. Out of an enormous cauldron he ladles the broth over tender egg noodles, piles on a mound of mung bean sprouts and fried noodles, and plunks the bowl before you without ceremony. Dispersed along the counters are large tea caddies with the condiments. Pickles, sliced shallots, chunks of lime, soy sauce, bottles of chili sauces, and bowls of dry chili flake combinations. No two people will dress up their bowl the same, and it’s mind boggling to think of the variations- especially since no one is shy about pouring on the hot sauce and spices.

Khao Soi~ A Stack of Dishes

I prefer mine with a shot of soy sauce, a generous squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of shallots and a dangerously daring teaspoon of chili flakes. The dish is rich in flavor, and delightful in texture. Rich creamy broth is spiked with tender bits of meat, amongst slippery noodles, accented with some crunch of mung bean sprouts and fried noodles, then finally punctuated with a ying yang of vinegary pickles and spice.

Whenever Pam and I go to Thai restaurants in the states we will look for this dish. It’s quite a bit of an undertaking to create so it’s not often seen on menus. Often when it does appear, the resulting dish is quite unsatisfying. I would say it’s akin to comparing a NYC good Jewish bagel with some mass produced notion in Ohio. Yeah… it IS Khao Soi, but it just doesn’t seem to have the depth and soul. Not to diss Thai chefs in the US, but maybe it’s the water or something? It’s just not the same.

Khao Soi~ A Stack of DishesOf course, trying to replicate this dish, especially in a small city in Louisiana, is not easy at all. It took me almost 2 hours over the stove to nudge and cajole the ingredients I had on hand into a fair replica. More was the pressure as I was serving it for a small dinner party that evening. The recipe I came up with has all the nuances I associate in this curry bowl. By no means is this to be compared to a classic version, but all things considered, it is divine.

We have a fantastic Asian Market here so I was able to pick up fresh egg noodles, which I will say was well worth the effort. You may use dried spaghetti, but the difference in texture and taste is incomparable. Sadly I could not find mung bean sprouts, and my dietary concerns deterred me from making a batch of fried noodles. By no means would this meal be considered low calorie, but worth every slurpy spoonful.

Khao Soi~ Chiang Mai Curry Coconut Noodle Soup
This is a rich curry coconut soup that packs a spicy punch.
512 calories
50 g
66 g
28 g
20 g
19 g
327 g
945 g
4 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 512
Calories from Fat 236
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 28g
Saturated Fat 19g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 66mg
Sodium 945mg
Total Carbohydrates 50g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 4g
Protein 20g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 4 tablespoons red chili flakes
  2. 2 medium shallots, rough chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons minced ginger root
  5. 1/2 cup cilantro stems, rough chopped
  6. 2 tablespoons hot curry powder
  7. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  8. 2 14z cans unsweetened coconut milk
  9. 4 cups chicken broth
  10. 2 large chicken breasts, on the bone, skinless
  11. 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  12. 1 tablespoons hot chili oil
  13. 1 tablespoon palm sugar ( or brown sugar)
  14. Salt to taste
  15. 1 lb fresh chinese egg noodles
for serving
  1. lime wedges
  2. thinly sliced shallots
  3. fresh cilantro
  4. chili sauce
  5. mung beans (if you can find them)
  6. fried egg noodles- you may take some from the recipe and fry them up
  1. In a blender jar add the chili flakes and cover with hot boiling water. Let it stand for a few minutes to soften. The longer the better. Pour off the water and reserve. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, and curry powder and blend into a smooth paste. Adding some of the chili water if needed.
  2. In a large soup pot, warm the oil and add the chili paste and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly taking care not to burn the paste. Add the coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the chicken. Simmer until the chicken is just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool, then shred the meat and return to the pot, discarding the bones. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes, then add fish sauce, chili oil and palm sugar and taste for balance, adding more salt if needed.
  3. Cook the egg noodles in boiling water and keep warm.
  4. To serve add a mound of noodles at the bottom of a bowl and pour broth with chicken over the top. Offer the condiments on the side.
A Stack of Dishes