Healthy: THAI NIGHT FROM FOOD FOR THOUGHT WITH CLAIRE THOMAS

Saturday, May 18th 2013. | Healthy

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Thai Night
My near obsessive love for Thai food has been well covered on my blog.  It’s my go to when I can’t bother cooking for myself, and I’ll never stop marveling at the perfect balance of savory, sweet, spicy, and fresh, that great Thai manages to hit every time.  
But making Thai food, or any food from a culture that’s not your own, can be intimidating.  There’s unfamiliar ingredients, techniques, and rules to the kitchen, and sometimes it can be infuriating that you can’t get a seemingly simple dish like noodles, to turn out like the ones you order from down the street.  So for today’s episode, I feature some of my favorite dishes that are Thai inspired, rather than authentically Thai. Fresh herbs, plenty of spice, and quick simple dishes that are so delicious, you’ll find yourself making them again and again. 
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Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
Make in a large dutch oven.
1/2 cup rice, dry
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lime, juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce 
1 tablespoon Thai chili powder (or regular chili powder)
2 tablespoons green onions
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
up to a 1/4 cup Toasted Rice Powder
1 head butter lettuce (very round)
Place rice in an empty 12-inch skillet and heat over medium-high heat, shaking constantly until rice is golden brown and toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to mortar and pestle and grind until it has the texture of cracked black pepper, or use a spice grinder, and set aside. 
Note: The dried rice powder is for texture, so use as much or as little as you like.

Put a skillet over medium high heat, add the oil, then add the chicken. Cook for about 4 minutes, then add lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, and chili powder.  Cook for another two minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and transfer to a large bowl and cool for 5 minutes.  Add herbs, sugar, and toasted rice powder. Toss with hands and taste for seasoning, adding more chili if higher heat is desired.

Serve immediately with butter lettuce on the side.

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Pan Fried Noodles with Basil and Chili Vinegar Sauce
Make in a large dutch oven.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces wide rice noodles, cooked and drained
Chili Vinegar Sauce:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
10 Thai chilies, thinly sliced
Combine the vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat, and cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the chilies and cool to room temp.
Combine soy sauce, molasses, fish sauce, and ground pepper in a small bowl. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil, and once the oil is hot, add the garlic.  Cook for about 10 seconds, just until golden brown. Add the rice noodles and toss until separated and heated through. Push the noodles to the side, add a little oil to the empty part of the pan if it needs it, and pour in the eggs.  Lightly scramble the eggs until cooked through.  Add the soy sauce mixture, green onion, and basil. Cook for another minute or two until everything is coated.  Serve with the chili vinegar sauce for garnish.
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Fresh Northeastern Thai Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce 
For 10 rolls
1 packet Vietnamese rice sheets
10 lettuce leaves, (butter lettuce or frilly romaine) cut crosswise into 1 inch strips
1/2 cup fresh mint, whole leaves
10 fresh basil leaves, whole leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 lb small-medium shrimp, boiled
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 cucumber cut into diagonal thin slices
1 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
Sriracha, to taste
You can serve this on a platter with a bowl of very warm water, where people build their own, or you can make them ahead and keep them in the fridge.
To make, dunk a rice sheet into the very warm water, and turn, wetting the edges.  Once the sheet starts to feel pliable, lay it on a clean surface and add your desired ingredients.  The rice paper is transparent, so I lay my shrimp down first (usually 3 in a row), and then put my other ingredients on top.  Finish with a drizzle of Sriracha, and roll up like a burrito (fold right and left edges over, then the top one, and then roll towards yourself). Set aside on a platter, and finish the rest. Serve with Homemade Peanut Sauce.
Homemade Peanut Sauce:
1/4 cup coconut milk, canned (light preferably)
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons palm or brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon sriracha
Blend everything together in a food processor until desired consistency.
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Thai Iced Tea 
For 4 glasses
Make with a french press.
4 cups hot water
1 tablespoon half and half
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4-1/2 cup Thai Tea (a type of red tea)
Add sugar and sweet condensed milk to a pitcher. Put Thai Tea into a French press or large tea bag. Pour hot water over tea and let it steep for 3-5 minutes, until deep in color. Push down the press or pull the bag out. Pour the tea into the pitcher and stir until the sugar and sweet condensed milk are dissolved. Once cool, pour over crushed ice and top the tea with half and half.

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