Archive for the 'Thai' Category

Khao Soi

I really, really love Thai food. If I absolutely had to pick a single favorite dish, this might be it. It’s kind of hard to find outside Northern Thailand (except I’ve heard there’s a place in Oakland that has it – I MUST investigate!)

I wrote about it when we were in Chiang Mai two years ago, but I’ve only made it myself once. That time, it wasn’t awesome. This time I actually made it twice, at the same time: one pot with chicken for Mike and one pot with tofu for me.

It almost didn’t happen though. Our closest Asian grocery store (which is actually our closest grocery store, period) was OUT OF RED CURRY PASTE. So, being the ridiculous housewife that I am for the next couple months, I decided to make my own. It’s kind of a pain, because it means pounding stuff together in a giant mortar and pestle for what feels like an eternity, but it’s good because you can control exactly what goes into it and make sure there’s no shrimp paste (that stuff is NASTY). I used this Epicurious recipe.

The garnishes are absolutely essential for this. Without a squeeze of lime, thinly sliced shallots, and pickled mustard greens (any Asian grocery store should have these in a little vacuum-sealed pack or jar), this soup is just not the same. It really needs fried noodles, too, but after making my kitchen a disaster while I was making that curry paste, frying noodles just wasn’t going to happen.

If you’re going to make this vegetarian, drain, press, and fry your tofu beforehand. It will come together pretty quickly after that, so get everything ready to go. If you’re making it with chicken, I think it’s easiest to use drumsticks, but you can use whatever you want. It will take a little longer than the tofu version because the legs have to cook through.

Recipe:
(adapted from Chez Pim)

soup
6 chicken legs OR 1 lb tofu, drained, press, and stir-fried until golden
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp red curry Paste
1 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. turmeric
3 cups full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
a pinch of sugar
fish sauce (or vegetarian fish sauce) to taste
8 ounces dried egg noodles

garnishes
about 1/4 cup thinly sliced pickled mustard greens
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into thin slices
fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat, then add the curry paste and fry until very fragrant, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the turmeric and curry powder.

Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add sugar and fish sauce to taste Add the chicken or tofu and broth, turn heat down to a simmer, and cook, covered, until chicken is done (or for a few minutes if using tofu). Taste and adjust seasonings.

While the soup is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions.

Drain the noodles and put some in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle soup over the noodles, then serve along with the garnishes

Tofu with Bamboo Shoots

I know, I promised potato pancakes, but I have a small problem. I have a brand new Speedlite that I’m head over heels in love with, BUT I’m still having a hard time figuring out white balance with it, so all my potato pancake pictures are either bright blue or bright yellow except this one:

which still isn’t great. (Do you have any tips for me? I’d LOVE to hear them!!) I think I was so excited about carbs that got all crispy and fried and topped with kimchi that I didn’t really focus on taking pictures. Yes, I will be making them again!

I have something almost as good today, though. I found FRESH bamboo shoots at our local Asian grocery store. In case you’re wondering, they look like this, and they are SOOOO much better than the canned variety. Please don’t just take my word for it. If you can find them, I promise they’ll completely change your idea of bamboo shoots. The canned ones are just gross, but these have a delicate crunch and are so much fresher (obviously…)

The ingredients in this are pretty basic… It’s flavored with oyster sauce (I used a vegetarian version made with mushrooms) and garlic, and the Thai basil stirred in at the end adds a beautiful sweet and tangy flavor.

The best thing is it all comes together in under 10 minutes once your ingredients are prepped!

Recipe:
(adapted from Thai Cooking from the Siam Cuisine Restaurant)

serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb block extra firm tofu, pressed and diced
2 serrano chiles, quartered lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 fresh bamboo shoot, cut into 1/4″ thick slices
pinch white pepper
2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 green onion, cut into 2″ lengths
20 Thai basil leaves

Heat a wide skillet over medium high and add the oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the tofu cubes in a single layer and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden. Remove and set aside.

Add the serranos, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, and white pepper to the pan and stir fry for about a minute, until the vegetables are slightly tender.

Add the sugar, oyster sauce, and tofu and stir fry an additional 3 minutes. Add the green onion and Thai basil and stir fry just until the leaves wilt. Serve with rice.

Thai Green Curry with Kabocha and Tempeh

I don’t know when, but at some point during the last decade, the game “high point, low point” became a habit. It’s easy: you just name a time or an event and come up with the high point and the low point. It applies to decades, high school, marathons, or just your average Monday.

I think the high point of today was the fact that it was getting light long before I had to get in the car and go to work!

Mike and I went for a MUCH needed run this morning at about 5. After not running all weekend it felt amazing to be back out there, and we really pushed the pace towards the end. Mike is convinced that I can run a lot faster than I think I can…we’ll see. I followed up my run with a rainbow chard green monster with cacao nibs on top. I love these things!

And now for the low point of the day. One of my students has been struggling for awhile…not turning things in, seeming generally apathetic when it comes to school work. Socially he seems to be doing fine, but there are definitely some pretty strong signs that he’s at risk for dropping out. Today, he was caught at school with a knife. I don’t know all the details, but I do know he’ll be suspended for awhile and I worry about him even more now. It’s a bummer…

After that less than cheery news I came home and had a grapefruit for snack. The dark early evenings are totally depressing, but at least now we have some good citrus to look forward to.

For dinner I made this morning glory from SheSimmers to serve on the side and it was perfect. It took visits to a few different Asian grocery stores to find morning glory (also called ong choy) but I was so happy to find it (and this great recipe). It totally took me back to Thailand!

So anyway, about the curry…
I love Thai curries of any variety and this is no exception. Hacking up a kabocha squash was the hardest part, but it’s definitely worth it! I think it’s easiest to just cut it in quarters, scoop out the seeds, then cut off the peel with a sharp knife and cut the squash into chunks.

I combined the squash with a diced sweet potato in a steamer, steamed until tender, then mixed up some curry paste and coconut milk and added a bunch of other vegetables and some diced tempeh. I love how flexible curries are because you can basically just throw in whatever you have on hand!

Recipe:
(inspired by The Ordinary Vegetarian)

1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes (about 5 cups)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 can light coconut milk
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
2 Japanese eggplants, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces tempeh, diced
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used Golden Mountain sauce)
juice of 1 lime (about 1 tbsp)

Put a steamer basket in a large pot with about an inch of water in the bottom. Put the squash and sweet potato cubes in the basket, cover the pan, and turn the burner to medium high, and steam until the vegetables are just tender (10-20 minutes)

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high and add the curry paste. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly, then stir in the coconut milk.

Stir to dissolve the curry paste, then add the tempeh and all vegetables (except the squash and sweet potatoes). Stir in the soy sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender.

Just before serving, stir in the squash and sweet potatoes and cook until heated through. Stir in the lime juice, then serve garnished with some fresh cilantro.

Thai Broccoli and Noodles

I’ve been thinking about Thailand a lot lately. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we were running around Bangkok getting drenched in celebration of Songkran. Of all the things I miss the most, food is definitely near the top of the list. I miss the fruit man who sold bags of freshly cut watermelon, pineapple, and papaya near my bus stop. I miss the lady with the coffee cart near my work who sold me cafe boran every day (and ohhh how I miss cafe boran!) I really miss the food carts in our old neighborhood, selling papaya salad, fried rice, and noodle soup.

There was a woman who ran a food cart just in front of our building who Mike and I nicknamed “Shot Caller.” This woman ran the street and bossed everyone around, all from her lounge chair (with freshly manicured toes – a different color every day). She was very concerned about my job, Mike’s job, where he was when I came to get food by myself, whether we liked Bangkok, and how long we would be staying. She spoke pretty decent English, but usually about halfway through our conversations she would revert to Thai and get incredibly frustrated when I couldn’t say more than “I want chicken” or “very spicy.”

One of the employees at her food cart made a similar dish to this, and when I made it the other night, it immediately took me back. To be more authentic, you should use fresh rice noodles, but I hardly ever have those on hand, so I used dried here. Vegetarian oyster sauce should be pretty easy to find at an Asian grocery store, as should black bean sauce.

Recipe:
(adapted from Thai Cooking from the Siam Cuisine Restaurant)

1/2 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
7 ounces dried rice noodles, soaked in warm water until soft
2 tsp soy sauce

1 large head broccoli, separated in to florets and stem peeled and thinly sliced
10 ounces extra firm tofu, thinly sliced
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 tsp black bean sauce
1 clove finely minced garlic
2/3 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce

Steam the broccoli florets and stems until crisp-tender.
Mix the corn starch with 1 tbsp water and set aside.
Cook the tofu in a nonstick skillet until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

To prepare the noodles: heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium high. Add the garlic and stir until golden, then add the noodles and soy sauce. Stir fry for several minutes, until noodles are hot and soft. Transfer to a serving platter.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the garlic and bean sauce and fry until very fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the broth or water, oyster sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and corn starch mixture, and bring to a boil to thicken. Stir in the broccoli and tofu, mix well, then immediately pour over the rice noodles.

Thai Quinoa Salad

I’ve been on such a barley kick lately that quinoa kind of fell off the radar for a little while. While perusing the bulk bins at our local natural foods store, I saw the bin of quinoa and realized it had been too long since it made an appearance in our kitchen.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, though, so I started browsing through my cookbook collection and this quinoa salad with classic Thai flavors caught my eye. It reminds me a lot of tabouli, but with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and cilantro instead of lemon and parsley. Obviously, it’s not a classic Thai recipe, but I love the flavor and healthy ingredients.

I added tempeh to the original recipe so it could stand alone as a main dish salad. I sliced it into really thin pieces, pan fried them until golden brown, then crumbled it up (a technique borrowed from this recipe on Herbivoracious). If you’re hesitant about trying tempeh, this is a great way to do it because you hardly notice it’s there!

Recipe:
(adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider)

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 stalk of lemongrass (bottom 3″ only), finely chopped
1 kaffir lime leaf, finely chopped
3 small red Thai chiles, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 ounces tempeh, sliced very thinly
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 shallot, chopped and rinsed with cold water
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Toast the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat for about five minutes.
Transfer to a large saucepan and add the water, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, chiles, and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Spread in a shallow dish to cool completely.

While the quinoa is cooling, heat the oil in a wide nonstick skillet. When hot, add the tempeh slices in a single layer and fry until golden brown, then flip and cook the other side. (This may need to be done in batches) Transfer to a plate to cool, then crumble between your fingers

Transfer the cooled quinoa to a medium bowl and add the mint, cilantro, crumbled tempeh and shallot. Toss with the lime juice, coconut milk, and sprinkle with chopped peanuts to serve.

Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

I’m a fraud. I tell people I’m vegetarian but I still eat fish sauce, and I probably always will. I just can’t imagine the rest of my life without eating things like this salad, and they would NOT be the same without that pungent liquid that so many people can’t stand.

I wasn’t always so into fish sauce. The first time we went to Thailand, the smell was so overpowering I swore I’d never eat anything that contained it. But then I realized that the flavor it adds just can’t be matched. Yes, it stinks and it is pretty in-your-face fishy, but in small doses it’s downright close to perfection.

Besides, I gave up meat because I hate all the hormones and drugs and inhumane factory farming practices that seem to be rampant in this country. I realize fish products aren’t entirely without controversy, but I’m okay with being 99% vegetarian. If I ever find vegetarian fish sauce (I know it’s out there) I’ll probably try it, but in the mean time, I’m just going to stick to my slightly fraudulent proclamation of vegetarianism. (And no, I won’t call myself pescatarian because I don’t eat fish. Just fish sauce.)

I think I ate this stuff just about every day when we were in Thailand. There’s just something so alluring about the fresh crunch of the green papaya, the hot-salty-sour-sweet dressing, and the cool smoothness of tomato that I will never get tired of. I like to make it so spicy it brings tears to my eyes, but you can definitely scale way back on the chiles. This is one of those recipes that can be tweaked so it’s just how you like it – taste as you go and adjust the fish sauce, lime, and sugar accordingly.

I make mine in a large wooden mortar and pestle that we brought back from Thailand, and I definitely think that’s the best way to do it, but I’ve given directions for people who don’t have one, because they aren’t exactly a common sight in most American kitchens (and they take up a ridiculous amount of counter space). I think palm sugar (which you can find in little round cakes in Asian grocery stores) is best – just whack away at the little cake with a cleaver til you have about 1 tbsp – but of course white sugar is an acceptable substitute.

If you have a box grater, that should work to shred the green papaya. If you want to be just like the lady that made the best papaya salad I ever had (in Bangkok), use a cleaver in your right hand while holding the papaya in your left (I don’t know how she still has all her fingers). If you can find one of these, buy it immediately; it’s my favorite way to create long, even pieces:

Recipe:
2 cloves garlic
as many Thai chiles as you like (substitue: a serrano or two)
1 tbsp palm sugar (substitute: granulated sugar)
1/2 lime
10 green beans, cut into 1″ lenghts
1 roma tomato, diced
3 cups shredded green papaya
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (essential!)
2 tbsp chopped peanuts

If you have a large wood mortar and pestle: Cut the 1/2 lime into about eight pieces. Mash the garlic, chiles, lime, and sugar together until nicely mixed. Add the green beans and tomatoes, and mash a few more times. Stir in the green papaya and fish sauce, and pound about a dozen more times, stirring in between so everything is mixed well. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve topped with chopped peanuts. (You can remove the lime peels if you want, or people can just eat around them)

If you don’t have a large wood mortar and pestle: Juice the 1/2 lime. Finely chop the chiles and garlic and mix with the sugar. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce and set aside. Toss the shredded papaya with the green beans and tomatoes, then add the lime juice mixture and toss well. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve topped with chopped peanuts.

Massaman Curry

While I was cooking, the smell of this curry brought back fond memories of the week and a half we spent in Bang Saphan Yai, Thailand. The family owned the collection of beach bungalows where we stayed made a different dinner each night we were there, and this curry was one of the best things I’d ever tasted in my life.

Massaman curry usually contains beef and potatoes, and is common in Southern Thailand. Most Thais who aren’t Muslim don’t eat beef, and I don’t anymore either, but I wanted to make a vegetarian (and healthier) version of this rich, spicy curry.

I started off by steaming chunks of sweet potato and acorn squash in a bamboo steamer, and also used tofu, broccoli, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. With light coconut milk, fresh curry paste and all those vegetables, it has great flavor without being too rich. I think next time I may use kabocha or butternut squash instead, because their texture is a little more solid.

Recipe:
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ chuncks
1 small squash (acorn, kabocha, or butternut), cut into chunks and seeds removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tbsp Yellow Curry paste (you can also use store-bought, but I think homemade is better)
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 16 ounce can light coconut milk
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp peanuts

Place the squash and potato chunks in a bamboo steamer over boiling water, and steam until tender (or cook in the microwave). Set aside. I think it’s easiest to keep the peel on the squash until it’s steamed, because it’s much easier to remove it after it has cooked.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add the curry paste and chopped tomato and stir-fry until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, carrot, and onion and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder, coconut milk, sugar, soy sauce, tofu, squash, and sweet potato, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli and carrots are tender.
While the curry is simmering, toast the peanuts in a dry skillet until golden brown. Cool, then chop.

Once the vegetables are tender, taste and adjust the seasonings, then ladle over rice and top with chopped peanuts.