Thai Food, how did I forget about you?

A new Thai restaurant (Bahn Thai) opened up about 6 months ago in Manhattan and I love it. It is much better than Aroy Thai and they have meat salads. For some people Thai food is all about the curries, and don’t get me wrong, I love curries, but for me where Thai food really shines is the meat salads. They have this perfect balance of hot and cold, crunchy and soft, fatty and clean, herbs and fat and salty sweet spicy sour…They have so much going on and it is brilliant, not to mention the default spice level at Bahn Thai (for their salads) is lip-numbing spicy nirvana (for me. some people aren’t into that). The steak one is great, the pork one is delicious, but my favorite is the chicken Larb.

So, this new restaurant made me remember how much I love cooking Thai food, and 3 days this week I have done just that.

Steam some jasmine rice before all this

Cucumber Salad
half an English Cucumber (thinly sliced)
loose handful of cilantro (chopped) – do this to taste, I like a lot of cilantro
1-2 scallions (finely sliced, on a diagonal if you want it to look nice)
2 tsp sugar
4 tsp rice vinegar
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
diced bird eye chili (optional)

mix and let it sit for a bit, eat within 4 hours, if you don’t want the cucumbers to get soft and pickled

Coconut Chicken-Mushroom Soup
 (Tom Kha Kai, but this isn’t authentic, just tasty)
1/2 lb -1 lb chicken (use what ever cut you like, I used bone-in breasts and made stock from it after poaching the meat and shredding it. if you use raw chicken, then cut with the grain into bite-size, thin strips, that way it will have more surface area to absorb soup)
3-4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade, but Swanson’s Organic is very delicious, and I added about 1 TBSP Chicken Better Than Bouillon to my soup)
1 cup coconut milk (Chaokoh brand is best, and you can add more coconut milk if you want it to be richer)
1 Tbsp diced ginger
1/2 yellow onion (half of which is diced; the other half is sliced to make thin cresents, not rings)
6″ piece of lemongrass (finely sliced) OR lemongrass puree (they have it at Dillons now and it’s convientient)
1-2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 lime (zest it before slicing and juicing)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
4 oz mushrooms 1/4″ slices (I used white button, the “silky tofu” of the mushroom world)
bamboo shoots wouldn’t be a bad addition either (probably 1/8 of a cup or so)
loose handful of cilantro (chopped)
1-2 scallions (finely sliced, on a diagonal if you want it to look nice)
some sriracha or sliced serrano or bird’s eye chilli (if you like spice)

Prep everything. Mix the lime juice and fish sauce. Add a tsp of oil to a soup pot and fry the ginger, diced onion, lemongrass, and curry paste, until fragrant, but don’t brown anything. Add the stock, coconut milk, sugar, and lime zest; and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 20 mins covered (you are making a delicious tincture). Strain the soup and press the solids to extract all their goodness. Bring it back to a simmer and add the chicken. Cook the chicken until no longer pink. Add onions and cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms (and bamboo shoots, if using) and cook for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and fish sauce and take off heat. Adjust seasonings, it should be a nice balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour. To finish: ladle into bowls and top with cilantro and scallion and spice condiments.

Tamarind-Ginger Shrimp
(adapted from Simply Thai Cooking)
1lb shrimp (wild-caught, farm shrimp are bad), deveined and shells off
1/4 cup tamarind pulp (comes in a big block at Asian markets, it’s dark brown with big seeds in in)
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tsp oil
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
5 Tbsp water
2 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
loose handful of cilantro (chopped)
1-2 scallions (finely sliced, on a diagonal if you want it to look nice)

Take the 1/4 cup tamarind pulp (I recommend cutting a chunk out with a knife, I’ve bent spoons on that stuff) and place in a small bowl, pour the boiling water over it and let sit for 10-15 mins. Prep the rest of your stuff in the meantime, because this dish goes fast. Mash the pulp and the water until it’s all the same consistency. Then comes the labor intensive part. Get a strainer and put the pulp in it over a clean bowl and alternate mashing the pulp through the strainer and scraping the bottom to get the paste off. You should have about 5 Tbsp of paste when done. It’s worth it, don’t chicken out and buy Tamarind extract, it’s like bottled lime juice for a Key Lime Pie, ugh. The block of tamarind pulp keeps in the fridge for forever if wrapped up in plastic anyway (also key in making Pad Thai, and some Indian dishes). Now you are finally ready to cook. Heat oil to shimmering in a skillet. add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (don’t burn). Add 5 Tbsp water, sugar, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Add shrimp. Cook 2-3 minutes until shrimp are pink, but still springy (most people waaaaaay over cook their shrimp). Take off heat and plate it up with more cilantro and scallions. I put mine onto a mound of jasmine rice in a little bowl.


One thought on “Thai Food, how did I forget about you?

  1. I love cucumber salad. I think the lip-numbing spicy nirvana I experienced from eating the flavorful food in Thailand is the main reason why my Thai travel was mind-blowing! I’m ecstatic to see Bangkok again!:)

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