In Living Color

thailede

Um, so summer got here way too quickly, wouldn’t you agree? I had a big reality check when I decided to weigh myself the other day: I had maintained the 25 pounds I had gained last fall. Last fall. I never lost the weight during the winter. (Who does?) Shit happens.

But now that temperatures are reaching the mid-80s and low-90s, I simply cannot hide underneath a flannel or sweatshirt anymore. I’ve begin to notice that certain items in my summer wardrobe aren’t fitting the way they used to. You know, when skirts and shorts are tight (and not in a hot way).  So I have decided (yet again!) to go on a serious health cleanse. Meaning, I’m cutting out the sweets and other bad things from my diet.

I was doing a little research and stumbled upon The Color Diet: The simple rule to follow is getting a lot of color in your diet. And no–chocolate chip cookies and bacon aren’t valid colors. Neither are doughnuts.

The cuisine I crave most is Thai. It’s my fave. While there are so many wonderful Thai restaurants here in Portland–sometimes I’m too lazy to venture out, and just wanna make something in the comfort of my own home. (Sounds counter-productive to some, but it’s actually easier for me this way.)

This dish is my take on Gai Pad Krapow (Chicken with Thai Basil) with the addition of some fresh veggies. And you can add whichever veggies you have in your fridge. I opted for some red bell peppers, jalapeños, and carrots. Doesn’t hurt they add a splash of color, eh? (Hence, the Color Diet.) This dish goes perfectly with these Spicy Thai Noodles and Jasmine Rice.

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Gai Pad Krapow
(Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry)
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
3 Tablespoons olive oil
24 fresh Thai chile peppers -or- 2 jalapenos, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons Fish sauce
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup fresh Thai basil, picked

METHOD
Heat a skillet or wok with the oil over medium-high. Add in the garlic and chiles, stir-fry for a minute.

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Add in the chicken, toss to coat. Cook for about 3 minutes then add the chicken stock and the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer a pinkish hue and the vegetables are slightly tender.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce and Sriracha. Turn off the heat and fold in the Thai basil. Serve with Jasmine rice and Spicy Thai Noodles.

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Hot Noods

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I eat more ice cream in the winter than in the summer. I enjoy a good bowl of ramen or pho on a hot summer day. I bake more in the summer than in the winter.

Weird.

I don’t know what it is (maybe my body is calibrated to the opposite side of the hemisphere?), but I tend to eat atypical foods seasonally. Am I the only one here on this?

So it’s summer and it’s HOT. And this is coming from a girl who was born in LA. I LOVE the cold. While I lived in New York, most of my friends complained about the snow storms and low temps, I relished in it. So when the temps jump to above 80 degrees, I’m not too stoked.

Yet I crave hot things. And that’s not limited to the spicy-hot variety. I make this Thai-style noodle dish a lot in the summer. Instead of the standard peanut sauce, I swap it for almond butter, which is just as good. This time around I opted for a vegetarian version, but I’ve made this dish with shrimp, chicken, pork and tofu. All of which tasted excellent. Love pairing these noodles with this Thai Basil Chicken dish.

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Spicy Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Sauce
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces Pad Thai noodles
4 Tablespoons almond butter
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock, plus 1 cup if needed
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons Thai Chile Garlic Sauce
3 Tablespoons Sriracha
1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

METHOD
Cook the noodles according to the manufacturers’ directions.

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As the noodles are cooking, whisk together all of the ingredients in a shallow skillet or pan. Cook over medium heat until the almond butter is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add in another 1/2 cup of chicken stock to thin out. Adjust spice accordingly. Turn off the heat.

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In a large bowl, place the drained noodles and mix in the almond butter sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

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(Bowie really liked the shrimp version I made of this recipe a few months back.)

Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh

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I first discovered Bánh mì sandwiches in Little Saigon–an area in the city of Westminster, California, where a large population of Vietnamese Americans live. The Asian Garden Mall, “Phước Lộc Thọ”, had several Vietnamese-owned restaurants, clothing, jewelry, electronic, and beauty shops. My family would go there often when I was a kid because my mom enjoyed shopping there, and the mall was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived.

Bánh mì translates to “bread.” The French-style baguette was introduced to the cuisine during the French colonization in Indochina in the late-1850s early-1860s. The sandwich is traditionally made with pork liver pâté (also from the French), cold cuts, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and mayonnaise.

For this recipe, I decided to go with a throwback recipe from Bon Appetit from 5 years ago. I loved the recipe then and I love it even more now. With a few tweaks and the addition of crispy shallots and a homemade French baguette recipe, this is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches. This sandwich is so good it makes my heart beat like Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh.

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Pork Meatball Bánh Mì Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
For the spicy mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

For the Pickled Carrot
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

For the Pork Meatballs
1 large shallot, minced and sautéed in oil till translucent
1 pound ground pork
1/8 cup basil, picked and finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, picked and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
oil for frying

For the Sandwiches
4 each French baguettes (recipe here)
1 each jalapeño chile, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, picked
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
oil for frying

METHOD
To make the Spicy Mayo, stir all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

To make the Pickled Carrots, mix together the first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, mixing occasionally.

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To make the Pork Meatballs, stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form the mixture into scant tablespoonful balls, rolling the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. You should have 12 meatballs. Arrange them onto a baking sheet. This can also be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté until browned and cooked through, turning the meatballs to evenly sear all sides lowering heat if they begin to brown too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to another rimmed sheet tray. Place into the oven. Repeat searing and baking with the remaining meatballs.

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In a small sauce pot, add 1/4 cup of oil. Place the sliced shallot rings into the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and wait for the oil to heat. (Allowing the shallot rings to fry in cold oil makes it easier to control the heat and to avoid burning them.) Once the oil begins to heat up, toss the shallot rings until a light golden brown. Transfer rings to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Cut each baguette horizontally in half. Spread spicy mayo over each bread halve.

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Place 3 each meatballs onto the bottom halve side per sandwich.

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Arrange the jalapeños one one side, then adding the (drained) and pickled carrot, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Gently place the top on baguette tops. Repeat with all sandwiches.

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Tom Tom Club

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Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping.

My mom introduced me to Thai cuisine at a young age. She and I frequented a local family-owned Thai restaurant almost monthly. We’d always order the Tom Yum Soup and Pad See-Ew dishes. Those were our favorites. We’d crave them all the time, discussing the delightful sourness of the soup and the tender bites of Chinese broccoli in the noodle dish. We became such regulars that the owners of the restaurant had already placed our orders by the time we sat down and got our drinks (I always had Thai Iced Tea with my meal).

My first obsession was Tom Yum soup, then came my meeting with Tom Kha Gai. In Thai, the dish literally translates to Spicy Galangal Chicken Soup (Tom = Spicy Soup, Kha = Galangal, Gai = Chicken). Thai cuisine reminds me so much of my mom, so I crave this food when I’m missing my family most. I’ve tried Tom Kha Gai soup in almost every Thai restaurant I’ve visited, but this recipe (with my own personal tweaks) is the closest to the authentic Thai flavors I grew up tasting.

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Tom Kha Gai
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
1 each galangal, peeled and cut into 3 2-inch pieces*
3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
10 each kaffir lime leaves*
6 each Thai bird chiles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Hot chile sauce (such as Sriracha), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cook’s note: Galangal is a rhizome related to ginger, although it has a tougher skin that’s lighter in color. It also has a distinct peppery flavor much different than ginger’s.
 Kaffir limes are native to the Southeast Asian countries and have astringent qualities. Their leaves carry a lovely and distinct aroma. Galangal and kaffir leaves may be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Check out your nearest Asian markets for these speciality items.

METHOD
In a large saucepan, bring the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chiles and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are well pronounced, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard the galangal, but keep half the amount of chiles and half of the lemongrass.

Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mushrooms, skimming occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, about 20–25 minutes.
Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
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