March 31st, 2006

Favorite Thai Recipes

This is the second food post in a series of several I plan on making. This one is dedicated to Thai food, but upcoming posts will feature Cajun (Chicken & Andouile Gumbo, Corn Maque Choux, Barbecued Shrimp, and Roast Beef Poboys), Puerto Rican (Arroz con Gandules [pigeon peas and rice], Adobo Roast Pork, Platanos & Maduros [plaintains]), Cuban (Mojo Pork, Black Beans & Rice), Italian (Pasta Puttanesca, Insalata Caprese, Chicken Piccata), Greek (Chicken with Lemon & Olives, Polpettes [spinach, feta, & potato fritters] a real Greek Salad), Jamaican (Authentic Jerk Chicken, Island Salad, Curried Vegetable Patties), and who knows what else I'll come up with. DEFINITELY a post on Lowcountry Southern food and things that I make that are exclusive to us, because we eat a lot of really phenominal stuff here in west central Georgia. All of the recipes I post are things I make fairly regularly, so they're tried and true.

I've said in my previous recipe post that Korean food was the soul food of Asian cooking. If this is true, then Thai food is the artwork. There is something about Thai food that I just adore, and it has everything to do with the Thai penchant for chili. I love love LOVE spicy food, and Thai food is known for its liberal use of bird chilis, the tiny, incendiary red and green peppers. Also prevalent in Thai cooking is the use of coconut, lime, basil, and various curries. Most Thai curries are vastly different from traditional Indian curry, but many of the preparation methods are the same. Thai cooking relies on "The Five Flavors" and a balance for each. The Five Flavors are salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot. Larb Gai is a good balance of salty, sour, and hot and the cucumber salad adds a slightly sweet element.

Here in Columbus, we have a few Thai restaurants but my favorite is Chili Thai, the closest to our home. Maggie had never eaten Thai before, so this is what I ordered for her on her first trip to the restaurant as it was my favorite and I was certain she'd like it as well - and man oh man was I dead on! They make a fantastic warm chicken salad called Larb Gai, which is my favorite Thai dish hands down. It is fragrant and spicy, made with lean chicken breast, lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, chilis, fresh cilantro, and green onions. Part of what gives it its character and distincive flavor is the addition of ground, toasted, raw rice which imparts an interesting flavor and texture to the finished dish. It is a simple thing to make, from start to finish it may take me about 20 minutes including prep time. With the Larb Gai we eat Jasmine rice and Cucumber salad to cool our mouths down from the heat of the chilis used in the Larb Gai. Two other things I enjoy are stir-fried pineapple with ginger, which is very similar in both preparation and usage to chutney, something else I really love, and jasmine flower syrup. The syrup has many uses, from a sweetner for tea and sodas to a dip for fruit. The best thing about the Larb Gai is the fact that it contains almost no fat whatsoever, making it very light, nourishing, and guilt free.

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