Tag Archives: Thai

Thai Pumpkin and Salmon Red Curry

18 Feb

thai pumpkin and salmon red curry

Pumpkin and salmon might seem like a strange combination, but all doubts will leave your mind once you taste this curry. I first had this curry at Thai X-ing, an amazing DC restaurant, where it was one of a variety of courses on their set menu. While everything there was delicious, this dish in particular stood out and still comes to mind (I spend a lot of time thinking about food). The tender and sweet pumpkin melts into the spicy, creamy, curry sauce, thickening it, and the salmon adds another dimension of richness. This version captured my memory of the dish well and was far easier than I thought it would be to throw together. The most time-consuming part was chopping up the pumpkin (I think what I got was actually a kabocha squash, and it had a particular thick, knobbly skin) and prepping the salmon (it seems to be the trend around here to leave the bones in the fish when selling it). I’ve been eating this curry for just about every meal since I made it, served over quinoa (though rice will be just as good and more authentic), and I’m already planning for when I can make it again.

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Thai Chicken Satay

13 Feb

thai chicken satay

The combination of flavors in the marinade here seemed strange to me at first (coconut, turmeric, sugar, and coriander?), but I decided to roll with it because I really trust the recipe source (the great She Simmers which not only has fantastic authentic Thai recipes but also appeals to the linguistics nerd in me with the lovely accompanying information on Thai pronunciation and etymology). I’m glad I did because this chicken satay was very easy to make, and the result was delicious on its own and completely addictive when served with peanut sauce and ajat. This would be great food for a party, especially if you get the grill going to cook the chicken on skewers (the traditional way). But since I couldn’t find skewers and don’t have a grill (and wasn’t feeding a crowd, besides), I pan-fried the chicken and found that worked just fine. Using high heat and cooking in batches was crucial to getting a nice char. I suspect you could also bake these, if you wanted, with a couple minutes of broiling at the end. And for those who don’t like chicken, this marinade can also be used on shrimp (shorten the marinating time to 5 – 10 minutes) or tofu (you might want to extend the marinating time).

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Ajat (Thai Quick Pickle)

11 Feb

ajat (thai quick pickle)

Combine my love of Thai food and my love of pickles, and you have ajat. A traditional Thai condiment that’s really easy and quick to make and pairs perfectly with a variety of Thai dishes – although it’s most notably served alongside satay to balance the richness and greasiness of the grilled meat (or fried tofu) and peanut sauce. The part of this quick pickle that seems ingenious is the preparation of the syrupy pickling liquid separately ahead of time – it’s only poured over the fresh sliced vegetables (cucumber, mild peppers, and shallots) right before serving, so the prep at serving time is minimal, and the veggies stay nice, bright, and crisp. The cilantro garnish is optional, but I thought the herb’s flavor was a great addition, especially towards the end of the meal as the delicate leaves macerated slightly in the syrup. The recipe as given makes quite a lot of ajat, but if you need less, I recommend making the full recipe of pickling liquid to use on multiple occasions, cutting up as many vegetables as you want at a time and pouring over only as much liquid as needed to barely cover them.

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Thai Peanut Sauce

8 Feb

thai peanut sauce

I’ve long been enamored of Thai food, and that’s probably no surprise since it’s right up my alley in many ways – strong, bold flavors with no fear of spice, often filled with fresh vegetables and herbs, and, of course, delicious salty-sweet combinations. This sauce is a perfect example. It’s packed with flavor from a generous helping of Thai red curry paste, and the savory richness of peanut butter is well-balanced by sugar. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s also ridiculously simple to make and addictively tasty. The sauce can be thinned out with extra vinegar for a salad dressing, or used as is for dipping raw veggies. But, of course, it’s most amazing in its traditional use, alongside Thai satay (I’ll be posting a recipe for Thai chicken satay next week). The recipe makes quite a lot – enough for you to try it in a variety of applications, so long as you can resist eating up spoonfuls plain.

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Thai Stir-Fried Cabbage

30 Jan

thai stir-fried cabbage

I’m back in Buenos Aires now, getting settled into a new place. The apartment is twice as big as the last two we’ve stayed in – still a studio apartment, but now there’s a couch! And the kitchen is much nicer, with a lovely gas stove and oven, a full-sized refrigerator, and ample counter space. It’s hard, though, to ramp back up with cooking, but I’ve learned to start off with simple dishes. Luckily, we’re near a great market with lots of fruit and vegetables vendors. And of course, I’m still carting spices around with me and (embarrassingly) some sauces, too… Asian sauces in particular (soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce) can be hard to find and expensive, so it made sense to take them to/from Montevideo (I think).

Anyway, on my first trip to the market, I just grabbed a couple of basic vegetables, including one of my favorites – cabbage. Not a lot of people are enthusiastic about cabbage, I know, but I love it. In salads, soups, or stir fries like this. When I came across this Thai recipe, I knew it couldn’t go wrong, but I wasn’t prepared for how flavorful such a simple dish could be. It could easily be a side dish to a Thai curry or a little midday snack, but served over rice (or quinoa, as I did) with chopped fresh vegetables (like the cucumber and tomatoes shown here) and, of course, nam pla prik on hand to add to taste, it makes for a surprisingly satisfying meal.

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Nam Pla Prik

28 Jan

nam pla prik

I’ve heard nam pla prik (also sometimes called prik nam pla) referred to as the “salt and pepper” of Thai food. Only instead of salt, it’s fermented fish, and instead of black peppercorns, it’s extra spicy Thai bird’s eye chiles. For garlic-lovers like myself, some slices of raw garlic are added to the mix. And a little sugar helps balance the fish sauce (although it can be safely left out, too). Something so simple really shouldn’t be as addictive as the resulting sauce is. The key is, of course, the main ingredient – fish sauce (the “nam pla” in nam pla prik). I know, I know, it sounds weird and smells weirder, but I’ve come to love this pungent sauce made from fermented, salted fish that’s crucially important to Thai cuisine (and other Southeast Asian cuisines as well). Like salt, it brings out the flavor of whatever it’s added to, but it also adds complex umami (savory) notes. The bird’s eye chiles (which can be replaced with jalapenos for a milder version) give the sauce a kick – and (like all hot peppers) have great health benefits, including the ability to speed up your metabolism and high levels of vitamin C. Along with being a natural pairing to Thai dishes, nam pla prik is amazing over rice (or quinoa), eggs, or even just fresh vegetables.

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Thai Steak Salad

7 Nov

thai steak salad

Recently, I was craving Thai food. Not being so lucky here as I was in DC (where two of the best Thai restaurants in the city were within mere blocks of me), I made the 3-mile trek to what is supposedly one of the best Thai restaurant in Buenos Aires. I was unfortunately disappointed with the food I was served – laab gai with more onions than chicken and a red curry that simply tasted sweet rather than complex and spicy. Still yearning for some good Thai food, I turned to my own kitchen and cooked up this Thai steak salad. Surprisingly simple to make, the real key to this salad is the dressing, packed with flavor from fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chiles, and sugar. The salad itself is extra colorful and flavorful from a mixture of different vegetables, including raw cabbage, one of my salad favorites (I used red cabbage, but any variety should work just fine). Fresh herbs, sliced scallions, and peanuts add even more variety of texture and flavor. And strips of medium-rare steak on top, of course, pull the whole thing together.

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Crispy Tilapia with Spicy Thai Basil Sauce

25 Jul

crispy tilapia with spicy thai basil sauce

Usually when I go out to eat, I love sharing. It makes the meal delightfully communal and also means that I get to try a variety of different dishes. But every once in a while, I encounter a dish so spectacularly tasty that I need to have it all to myself. The crispy tilapia with spicy basil sauce at my neighborhood Thai restaurant, Beau Thai, is one such dish. When it first showed up on their rotating specials, my boyfriend and I thought we’d give it a try. We were amazed by the perfectly cooked fish, crunchy fried crust, and fragrant and flavorful sauce. Luckily, it has since been moved onto their regular menu. These days, we’ll stop by for dinner, take a look at their menu (as though we might order something else), and then each get an order of this. So finally I decided I had to try my hand at recreating the dish. I did a simple panko-crusted and fried preparation for the fish itself and modeled the sauce off of my Thai basil stir fry. The end result was like hitting jackpot – now I can get my fill of this dish at home! And maybe I’ll finally try some new dishes the next time I’m at Beau Thai.

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Thai Basil Lime Agua Fresca

29 Jun

thai basil lime agua fresca

I’ve been posting about Thai basil all week, and here’s a final recipe honoring one of my favorite herbs. Perfect for the seemingly constant heatwaves that have been hitting DC lately. An amazingly refreshing agua fresca. A little sweet and a little tart and packed with flavor from the Thai basil (this is one recipe where other varieties of basil can be readily substituted, too, if that’s what you have in abundance), this is exactly the drink I want to sit and sip on during a hot summer day. It’s also ridiculously simple to make and a vibrant glowing green color, so it’s a great option to serve to guests.

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Thai Basil Stir Fry

25 Jun

thai basil stir fry

Can I tell you what I am most excited about in my garden this year? Thai basil. A sweet basil cultivar used not only in Thai cooking, but also in Vietnamese, Laotian, and Taiwanese cuisine, this variety has dark purple stems and a distinctive anise flavor. Here’s the very first dish I cooked using fresh Thai basil from my garden. A simple vegetable stir fry with zucchini, carrot, and mushrooms, finished off with a fistful of Thai basil leaves and a simple Thai sauce. Garlic, shallots, and bird’s eye chiles (which are quite spicy, by the way, so cut back if you don’t have a very high spice tolerance) help to round out the flavors in this addictive stir fry. This could easily be adapted to whatever vegetables you like, but don’t even think about leaving out or substituting the Thai basil. It can usually be found in large bunches at Asian markets (which is also your best bet for fish sauce and bird’s eye chiles). Once you try this stir fry, don’t be surprised if you find yourself seeking out Thai basil whenever possible and wishing for your very own plant.

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