These rice balls are inspired by my friends Lawrence and Noi Allen, who used to own one of the only Thai markets in Houston, Asia Market. I started going there to buy green papayas. But I never left with just papayas—each visit would start with me wandering the aisles, checking out all the different ingredients, until Lawrence would come over and strike up a conversation. He probably didn’t realize when he asked me if I needed help that I was going to bombard him with all kinds of questions about ingredients and Thai cooking, but he was always generous with his time and knowledge.
Instant noodles wind up practically everywhere regular noodles do, and even occasionally where they don’t. For instance, I’ve seen people crunch into them straight from the bag. It’s no shocker, then, that the beloved product—called MAMA in Thai, in reference to the best-known brand—makes great fodder for yam. Yam is often translated as “salad,” and while the English word does the trick, it doesn’t do much justice in describing the room-temperature jumbles of vegetables, herbs, and proteins dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, and chiles. When MAMA enters the fray, yam becomes a hearty snack to share while you booze, the heat and salt compelling another swig, and then another.
Green Curry Recipe provided by chef Hong Thaimee from the cookbook True Thai. In collaboration with City Harvest, chef Hong offers a Curry Kit with all the hard-to-find ingredients you need to produce an authentic Thai green curry at home. $5 from every kit goes to support New York City's largest food rescue organzation.
For an authentic tasting Thai coconut soup recipe made with readily available ingredients, we developed an acceptably rich base by using equal parts chicken broth and coconut. Our "magic bullet" substitution: jarred red curry paste, which includes all the exotic ingredients we were missing. Just adding a dollop at the very end of cooking and whisking it with pungent fish sauce and tart lime juice allowed all the classic flavors of the best Thai chicken soup recipe to come through loud and clear.
Khao Sen | Shan-Style Noodle Soup with Pork and Tomato
24-Hour Chicken Matsaman Curry | Kaeng Matsaman Kai
What do you do when you have leftover chicken from khao mun gai or gai yang? You turn it into a dish befitting the situation. My mother did that best, letting very little go to waste. You could poach chicken just for this salad and it would be delicious, especially if you serve it slightly warm. What’s even better, the next time you make khao mun gai, poach extra chicken to make yum gai the next day. If you’re not starting with leftovers, poach raw chicken and tear it into strands. I like adding the skin — it provides richness and moisture, the way oil does in Western salads. Slice it into thin strands.
The secret to a good Thai larb is the roasted rice powder, which adds texture and also thickens the dressings, helping them to stick to the chicken. Served with some raw vegetables, it makes for a great light dinner. You could also try this with pork, beef or turkey mince.
For our take on Thai grilled chicken, we started with Cornish hens, which are similar in size to the hens traditionally used by chicken vendors in Thailand. Butterflying and flattening the hens helped them cook more quickly and evenly on the grill. We created a marinade consisting of cilantro leaves and stems (a substitute for hard-to-find cilantro root), lots of garlic, white pepper, ground coriander, brown sugar, and fish sauce; thanks to its pesto-like consistency, it clung to the hens instead of sliding off. We set up a half-grill fire and started cooking the hens skin side up over the cooler side of the grill so the fatty skin had time to slowly render while the meat cooked; then we finished them over the hotter side to crisp the skin. We whipped up a version of the traditional sweet-tangy-spicy dipping sauce by combining equal parts white vinegar and sugar and simmering the mixture until it was slightly thickened and would cling nicely to the chicken. Plenty of minced garlic and Thai chiles balanced the sauce with savory, fruity heat.
Fresh, hot, sour, salty, and sweet -- Thai cuisine, and this salad, hits every pleasure point. The dressing alone is like money in the bank, it improves nearly anything it touches.