Category Archives: Thai

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In my efforts to eat healthy some days are more successful than others.  This meal was probably the healthiest one I made all week, and definitely one of the tastiest as well.  It was a huge hit with the kids too.

If you don’t like it spicy, you will want to reduce or eliminate the Thai or serrano peppers.  Made according to the recipe, these definitely have a bit of a kick!

One note on ground chicken:  I typically don’t like to buy it.  For some reason it seems to always have a bit of a mysterious gritty texture that I don’t enjoy.  Unless you are close friends with the guy at the meat counter, there is no way to know exactly what is ground up in there.  Instead I buy chicken thighs and grind them up myself in my food processor.  A few pulses is all it takes.  It results in a coarser, juicier texture which I like, and no weird grit!  Plus you have the advantage of choosing exactly what parts of the chicken you want to eat.  I usually opt for thighs since I find them a bit more flavorful. That being said, if you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to mess with it, by all means buy ground chicken instead.

Not a fan of lettuce wraps?  Admittedly they are a little messy but I love them.  However, once you’ve made this mixture there is no reason you couldn’t put it in a wrap, tortilla, rice paper, pepper half or pita pocket.  Or just dig in with a fork.  Whatever conveyance you choose, these are just plain yummy!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Delicious!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Delicious!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
(adapted from Cooking Light)

4 tsp. canola oil, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup (or more) thinly sliced red bell pepper
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chicken thighs (or ground chicken)
2 Thai or serrano chiles, minced (less if you don’t like it spicy)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1 tbsp. lime juice
Lime wedges
Large lettuce leaves (I like to use butter lettuce for this since the leaves are sort of bowl-shaped)

Cut chicken into chunks and add to a food processor.

Making ground chicken.  I prefer this to buying ground chicken.  It only takes a few extra minutes!

Making ground chicken. I prefer this to buying ground chicken. It only takes a few extra minutes!

Pulse until coarsely ground.

A few pulses and voila!  Ground chicken.

A few pulses and voila! Ground chicken.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add shallots and sauté 2 minutes.  Add bell pepper; sauté one minute.  Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Remove shallot mixture from pan and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add chicken.  Cook and stir 5 minutes or until browned, crumbling with your stirring utensil as it cooks.  Drain well if there is extra juice in the pan.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add chiles; cook one minute.  Add shallot mixture back in.  Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and black pepper.  Cook one minute or so until everything is heated through and combined well.  Remove pan from heat.  Stir in basil leaves and lime juice.

There is nothing stopping you from just eating this with a fork if you're no fan of lettuce wraps.  Dig in!  Otherwise, load up the wrap of your choice with this yummy concoction!

There is nothing stopping you from just eating this with a fork if you’re no fan of lettuce wraps. Otherwise, load up the wrap of your choice with this yummy concoction!

Serve in lettuce leaves with lime wedges or just dig in with a fork!

 

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Thai Chicken Soup

Usually when I think of Thai food my mind fills with thoughts of Pad Thai, red curry and incredible peanut sauce.  But one of my very favorite Thai dishes – and probably the one I make the most – is Tom Kha Gai, a flavorful Thai chicken soup with a coconut milk base.   It’s easy to make, satisfying and delicious.  Traditionally it doesn’t have the green veggies, and you can leave them out if you want, but I like the extra veggies and usually throw in a handful of whatever I happen to have.  I love this soup!

One of my friends served this to his son and was surprised when he wasn’t a huge fan.  As it turned out, he had eaten the big chunks of ginger and lemongrass and not enjoyed them much.  They are used just for flavoring the soup as it cooks, but aren’t meant to be eaten (though they are edible).  Now you could go through and fish this stuff out before serving it but I usually don’t.  Instead, I serve this with small bowls to discard the ginger and lemongrass as you come across them.  Second time around, the kid skipped those pieces and loved it!

Tom Kha Gai, one of my favorite chicken soups of all time!

Thai Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

1 pound chicken thighs (or breasts), cut into bite size pieces
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth
3 inch piece of ginger, cut into slices (no need to peel)
2-3 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2-3 inch pieces, smashed with flat of knife
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup green beans or peapods
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. thai chili paste
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Sriracha sauce (optional if you want an extra kick)
Cooked rice

In a dutch oven or soup pot, saute chicken in a tbsp of oil until no longer pink.  Add coconut milk, broth, ginger and lemongrass. Bring to a boil.  Add veggies, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chili paste.  Reduce heat and simmer til veggies are tender and chicken is cooked all the way through.  Ladle over rice, garnish with basil and cilantro.  Spike with sriracha if you want it a little spicier.  Serves 6.  Serve with some small empty bowls for discarding the pieces of ginger and lemongrass.

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Thai Steak Salad

I love Thai food with its complex flavors and fresh ingredients.  A little sweet, a little tangy, a bit of salty, and a zip of heat.  But sometimes I only think about curries and noodles and forget about Thai salads.  This salad is as tasty as it is pretty and comes together in a snap.

Thai Steak Salad

Thai Steak Salad
(from Cooking Light)

1 flank steak (or substitute sirloin or flatiron steak if not available)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 1/4 cups fresh bean sprouts
3/4 cup julienne-cut carrots
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

Heat large grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle steak with salt & pepper.  Add steak to pan and cook 6 minutes on each side or to desired doneness.  Remove steak from pan and let stand 5 minutes.  Cut across grain into thin slices.

Combine lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and Sriracha in a small bowl.  Stir well with whisk.  In a large bowl combine cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and herbs.  Add two tablespoons sauce to beef and toss.  Add remaining sauce to the cabbage mixture and toss well.  Toss steak and cabbage and eat!  Serves 4.

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Spicy Thai Noodles with Spring Veggies

If I owned a grocery store, I would stock latex gloves next to the fresh chile peppers.  Why?  Because I ALWAYS forget to buy them when I’m grocery shopping, and I always wish I had them when my fingers are stinging and I’ve forgotten I shouldn’t rub my eyes after chopping peppers.  Someday I will learn my lesson and buy a case to have on hand at all times.

But until then, stinging fingers and eyes are just part of the sacrifice I’m willing to make for delicious spicy food.  This is a zippy, fresh tasting recipe that makes the most of spring vegetables available right now.  I love how the cold rice noodles are balanced by the hot, spicy stir-fried veggies.  If you are not a fan of spicy food, you can use less (or leave out) the fresh chiles.

Spicy Thai Noodles with Spring Veggies.
(And teenage boy fingers snatching noodles!)

Spicy Thai Noodles with Spring Veggies
(adapted from Cooking Light) 

7 oz. (1/2 package) flat rice noodles
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. walnut oil (or peanut oil)
1 1/2 tbsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 serrano or Thai chiles, finely chopped (use less if you don’t like it spicy)
2 cups snow peas
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (or more) unsalted, dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

To cook noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil.  Remove from heat and submerge noodles.  Let sit in the hot water for about 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place in a large serving bowl.  Add radishes, green onions, basil, cilantro, mint, lime juice and fish sauce.  Toss.

In a large skillet, heat walnut or peanut oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic, ginger and chiles.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring.  Increase heat to medium, add veggies and salt to pan.  Continue to cook and stir about 3-4 minutes, until veggies are crisp-tender.  Add to noodle mixture, toss well to combine.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

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Fire Pot Soup

Tofu is one of those things I have been trying to enjoy more.  It’s a great source of plant-based protein, and since we are eating a lot less meat these days, it just seems like a good idea to expand our horizons.  I started out really hating it.  But, being a little stubborn about things like this, I’ve continued trying.  After cooking and eating it many different ways, believe it or not, I have come up with a few ways I actually like it.  In my opinion, the key to enjoying tofu is to not think of it as a substitute for meat.  It’s not.  There is no way I have ever eaten it where it reminded me even a little bit of meat.  Trying to pull this off is futile, and in many cases, really disgusting, not to mention disappointing.  Accept tofu for what it is, a food unto itself, and enjoy the unique qualities it has to offer.

One of those unique qualities is that rather than having much of a taste of its own, it tends to take on the flavors of whatever you cook with it.  This is one of the qualities that makes it terrific in soup.  It adds a little texture (I like the extra firm tofu that actually holds its shape), and soaks up all the flavors in the pot.

For this soup, you don’t have to use tofu if you’re dead set against it.  Make it with just shrimp, or just tofu, or neither, or both.  It would also be excellent with chicken.  And though the name might lead you to expect something excessively spicy, I found it to be rather mild.  You can make it more or less spicy by adding or subtracting chile peppers (or chopping them up instead of just stabbing them), and/or adding or subtracting curry paste, which does have a kick.  This is the recipe I used, and I would rate it a medium on the spicy scale – enough to make my nose run, but not to make my eyes water.

Fire Pot Soup

Fire Pot Soup
(adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
8 oz. extra firm tofu, cute into small cubes
3 tbsp. thai red curry paste
Canola oil
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn (thai basil is preferred, but regular basil works fine too)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
Lemongrass – 1-2 small stalks, smash with flat of knife
Juice from 1/2 lime
2-3 red or green Thai chiles (or you can use serrano peppers), pierced a couple of times with a knife
Cooked rice

Heat a drizzle of oil in dutch oven or soup pot.  Add shrimp and saute less than a minute, just until it’s turning pink and curling.  Remove shrimp and set aside along with the cubed tofu. Heat another drizzle of oil over medium high heat.  Add curry paste and stir and mash together with oil until combined.  Whisk in coconut milk and broth.  Add fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, basil, lime juice, lemongrass and chiles.  Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Coarsely chop the cooked shrimp and add both that and the tofu to the pot.  Heat through and serve over rice.  Be sure to remove the chiles and lemongrass before eating!

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Crunchy Thai Salad

I should probably eat more salad.  When I do I enjoy it.  I like vegetables, I enjoy the crunch.  But, sometimes…well, it’s salad.  It doesn’t feel like a main course, it feels like an appetizer.  We’ve all had those meals where we ate a salad to be good, and then we’re left thinking, where the heck is the rest of my dinner?

This salad felt like a main course.  Not only are the portions nice and generous, but the crunch of the peanuts and wonton strips are very satisfying.  This is also a great salad for using up leftover stir-fry veggies if you have any, which I did.  If you want something more hearty, feel free to add chicken or shrimp or fried tofu, but honestly, I didn’t miss it with all of the other good stuff in this.

But forget about the vegetables.  The best part of this salad is the peanut-ginger dressing.  Good enough to eat with a spoon by itself, it made the salad irresistible.  I have a little left and I can’t wait to find something to dip in it for lunch.  Or…where’s my spoon?

Crunchy Thai Salad

Crunchy Thai Salad

1 small head romaine
1 small head napa cabbage
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cups edamame, shelled
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 cup wonton strips

Toss lettuce, napa cabbage, carrots, edamame, cilantro and green onions in a large bowl.  Just before serving, top each serving with 1/4 cup peanuts and 1/4 cup wonton strips (at least) and drizzle (or drench) with peanut-ginger dressing (recipe below).  Makes 4 generous servings.

Peanut-Ginger Dressing

Peanut-Ginger Dressing

1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients except water in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Drizzle in water until it’s the consistency you want.

 

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Project Veggie: Day 17 – Thai Red Curry

When I think of Thai food, I think of Tong’s.  This little restaurant in Springfield, Missouri has wonderful food, and made me forever a Thai food fan.  But my favorite part of going to Tong’s was Tong himself.  He would come out of the kitchen to visit and tell fantastical stories about his adventures.  After he flew to Thailand for a vacation, he made fun of the airline for taking away his nail clippers but letting him keep his chopsticks, laughing as he told us it was much easier to kill a man with chopsticks than with nail clippers!  He had many photos on his wall of himself with celebrities, including one on a movie set with Bruce Lee.  Of all of us, his favorite person was Luke.  He was so tickled that at a very young age, Luke could easily polish off a man-sized plate of Pad Thai at regular spice level.

One happy day the local newspaper published an article about Tong, along with a couple of recipes.  One was for one of my favorite dishes, his red curry.  I started making it myself after that.  Such a tasty dish, and one that’s so easy to throw together.  I’ve long since lost the newspaper clipping but was shocked to find that it’s a pretty simple recipe.  I think Tong’s version may have had a couple of additional ingredients, but this simplified recipe works great and is delicious.  Any combo of vegetables (or meat) work well with this sauce.  I’ve even used a bag of frozen veggies in a pinch.

Thai Red Curry with Green Beans and Cauliflower

Thai Red Curry

2 cups fresh or frozen veggies (I used fresh green beans and cauliflower this time)
1 can coconut milk
1 heaping tbsp. thai red curry paste (use more or less to control the spice level, I would consider this amount medium)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1-2 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup water or broth
Fresh basil – chopped coarsely
Brown or white rice (I used brown with a little wild rice thrown in for texture)

Cook rice (I use a little rice cooker for this. Best $20 I ever spent).  Meanwhile, saute veggies in a teaspoon of oil in a large skillet for a couple of minutes.  Add coconut milk and thai curry paste and stir well.  Add brown sugar, fish sauce and water or broth.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until veggies are tender.  Stir in basil.  Serve with rice.

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