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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thai Me Down

Sorry for the bad pun. Have I mentioned how much I love Thai food lately? I suspect the Thai food I love isn't "real" Thai food, but New-York-style, Americanized Thai food that is totally inauthentic. I'm sure some true aficionado is will gladly tell me that. Still, I love what I commonly think of as Thai food.

Last week I discovered my new favorite Thai ingredient, srirachi. Last week I made Spaghetti Squash and Pork Stir Fry from the latest issue of Eating Well magazine. One of the ingredients was sriracha chili sauce. I had never bought it before, but I did find a bottle of it at Wild Oats. I'm sure it's been used in many dishes without my being able to identify it, but I had never tasted it by itself. I took my first taste and fell in love. It's perfectly spicy and pungent. It's everything a hot sauce should be. I was inspired to use it more.

This week I decided to make some Thai-inspried meals for myself. It's a big risk. My attempts to replicate Thai food at home, much like my attempts to replicate Chinese food, have never been all that successful, but I was determined. I wanted my sriracha dishes.

I started by cooking up a chicken. I simply boiled a whole chicken using a method outlined in The Frugal Gourmet. Once it was cooked, I shredded it up.

The first dish was one of my own invention. I mixed the breast meat with the sriracha, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, scallions, and sesame oil. I wrapped it up in lettuce leaves. It may not have been strictly Thai, but it was really tasty. I'm afraid this was one of my seat-of-the-pants dishes where I just added things to the bowl without really measuring and just experimented with what tasted good. Anyone reading this who wants to replicate it at home will just have to trust his or her instincts and adjust the recipe according to taste. It was a successful experiment. I am excited that I still haven't used up all of my srirachi so I can make this again. Maybe next time I'll think to measure and actually write the recipe down.

The next dish was my own attempt to replicate my favorite soup in the whole world, Tom Kha Gai. I love coconut soup. I love it, love it, love it. Believe it or not, I had never tried to make it before. I have always been afraid of not doing it well. I guess there is something about sriracha that makes me bold.

I was fortunate enough to have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so that was my base. I added a can of lite coconut milk, the juice of four limes, a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce (we're back to that seat-of-the-pants thing again), a thai chile, several stalks of lemon grass, some sliced buttom mushrooms (I'm not fond of straw mushrooms) and the thigh meat from the chicken. I threw in a handful of cilantro at the end. The resulting soup was decent, but had it's flaws. The first flaw was the overuse of the limes. The soup was a bit too tart. The second flaw was the lemongrass. I bought a stalk at the grocery store, but it must have fallen out of the bag on teh way home, because it was gone when I went to make dinner that evening. All I had was a very old jar of dried lemongrass. I must have had to thow in the entire jar to get any flavor from them at all. The third was the lack of kaffir lime leaves. What is it about kaffir lime leaves? I know they exist somewhere because Thai restaurants use them, but there is no store I know of that carries them. I can't find them anywhere. I don't know how big of a difference it would have made if I had had them, but I would have liked to have known.

As Thai experiments go though, this was one of my more successful ones. I'm glad I tried it. One day I'll venture a coconut curry.

1 comment:

Sue said...

I LIKE the title. That IS a shame that you lost your lemongrass. I never heard of srirachi. it sounds awesome.

I fell in love with a sauce once and now I can't eat Indian food (and many non-Indian rice dishes) without it. I LOVE Tamarind Sauce. I love its sweetness and spicyness and color and slight thickness, if it hasn't been watered down too much.