shrimp with spicy green rice

IMG_2153.JPG

A Southeast Asian-flavored dish inspired by Venetian risi e bisi, an Italian rice with peas. To me, this dish is reminiscent of  khao tom, a Thai rice soup with meat or seafood, served with steamed rice in a broth. In Thai cooking, condiments are served on the side so you can make it as salty, sour, sweet or spicy as you like. Although this recipe recommends seasoning the dish in the kitchen, I have reserved some of the herb sauce for seasoning at the table. 

Shrimp with Spicy Green Rice (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 21 minutes

2-4 large cloves garlic
1-2 green Thai chilies, sliced with or without seeds, depending on your preference for heat
1 cup packed fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (4-inch piece), minced
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup veg oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small leek, thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 cups chicken broth/stock preferably home made and low sodium
4 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup long-grain white rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Salt

For serving:
Herb sauce
Cilantro, chopped
Basil, chopped
Lime wedges

Special equipment: a medium-sized Dutch pot with a lid

Prepare all ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse garlic until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons ginger, chili, basil, cilantro, fish sauce, and sugar. Process until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 3 tablespoons water and process finely. You should have about 2/3 cup of sauce. Set aside

In the pot without the lid, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Add leeks and remaining 1 tablespoon ginger. Cook until leek is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir in rice and broth along with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer rice until it is very soft, 17-18 minutes. The texture will be soupy.

Add shrimp, simmer, stirring once or twice, until shrimp just turns pink, 1-2 minutes. Stir in peas and 2 tablespoons of the herb sauce. Taste for seasoning and heat. If you wish, add more sauce—it’s quite salty and you won’t need any additional salt. It’s better to be cautious and not add all the sauce to the pot, but reserve the remainder for spicing up individual plates at the table. Remove from heat and serve with more cilantro, basil, and lime wedges, as well as the remaining sauce. I found that the dish didn’t need any additional cilantro, basil, or lime so I left them out, and just served it with the remaining herb sauce.

dinner for two: baked chicken and rice

IMG_2134.JPG

This simple chicken dish is complete. All you have to do is make a salad to go with it. The method is quite straightforward: Season the chicken, brown it, season the rice then bake the chicken and rice together. The rice reminds me of my mother’s version of rice pilaf, cooked with onion in chicken broth. It’s so good!

Baked Chicken and Rice

4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 to 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup long grain rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper

Special equipment: medium oven-ready pot with a lid

Preheat oven to 375˚F/190˚C

Pat dry the trimmed chicken thighs and season with seasoning salt and dried parsley. Let stand 10-20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

In the pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the chicken thighs in the pot and fry, skin side down until it is browned, 5 minutes. Turn over the chicken and brown the other side for 5 more minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot. You should have about a tablespoon of oil and fat in the bottom of the pot. Remove any excess oil or add more oil if there isn’t enough.

Add the garlic and onion and cook them, stirring, over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the chicken broth/stock, stirring until well combined. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in the pot, skin-side up, and cover it.

Put the pot in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until the rice is fluffy and all the liquid is absorbed. Serve the chicken on a bed of rice.

chicken in rice (khao mok gai) low-fat version

DSC05332.jpg

Low-Fat Version of Chicken in Rice (Khao Mok Gai)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 2-12 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes

8 chicken drumsticks with the skin removed
1 package Lobo brand Spicy Chicken-in-Rice Seasoning Mix (2 seasoning packets inside)
8 oz or 250g Greek style yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups white jasmine rice (Recommend basmati rice, if available)
250 ml coconut cream or coconut cream substitute
1 ½ cups water
1 shallot or red onion, sliced and fried (optional)

Equipment: a large pot with a tight fitting lid. If you haven’t got a tight fitting lid, cover the top of the pot with a sheet of tin foil that’s slightly wider than the pot. Then place the lid on top of that.

DSC053261. Remove the skin from the chicken legs. To do this, grasp the top and the bottom of the leg with paper towels and pull down towards the bony end, just like pulling down one’s pants! Pull off the bits of fat. Discard the skin and fat.

Cook’s Note: You can add other chicken pieces like breasts and thighs, but remember they cook at different rates from the legs. It’s better to use all breasts, all thighs, or all legs so that you can control the cooking time.

DSC053282. Open one Lobo seasoning packet in a bowl and spread it on the chicken pieces. Add the yogurt and mix it in thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

Cook’s Note: Wear a disposable glove to season the chicken because you don’t want to stain your hands with the turmeric in the seasoning packet.

DSC053313. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and carefully put them in the hot oil. Do not discard the marinade. Fry the chicken pieces briefly in the oil just to brown them. Remove chicken and set aside.

4. To the hot oil in the skillet add the rice, half the remaining packet of seasoning, and scrape in the remainder of the marinade. Stir fry the rice until it is translucent, about 10 minutes, and the seasonings have been absorbed. If it looks dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 1/4 cup of water.

5. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the coconut cream and the 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low so that the chicken and rice can cook together, about 15-20 minutes.

Cook’s Note: Do NOT open the pot lid to check it. Only open it after 15 minutes. Taste to see if the rice is cooked. If it isn’t and the rice seems dry, add 1/4 cup of water and cover the pot again. Cook 5 minutes more or until all the water is absorbed.

6. Serve with fried shallots on top of the rice for garnish, if desired. Add sliced cucumber on the side and a sweet-vinegar dipping sauce. This is an easy one to try:

Sweet-Vinegar Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine

In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic as fine as possible. Mashing the garlic with a fork helps to make it paste like, even finer. Put the onion and garlic in a small bowl. Pour the cooled vinegar sauce over the onion and garlic. Serve over chicken.

poached egg and grilled pork on a rice burger patty

DSC05214.jpg

We haven’t been to Somtam restaurant in months, so we went last night and brought home our leftovers:  grilled pork and sticky rice. I like these leftovers. They make a great breakfast the next day.

Heat about 2 teaspoons oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.

To make the rice burger patties, I pressed the sticky rice in the bottom of a ramekin, to make a patty about 1 inch high. If the rice is too dry, pour about a teaspoon of water on it and nuke it for about 20 seconds or until it is soft. To unmold the rice, run a sharp thin blade around the edges and shake it out upside down into the skillet with the hot oil. The rice will sizzle. Fry each patty about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, crack an egg on the counter and open the egg in a clean ramekin.

To poach the egg, heat 2/3 pot of water in a small sauce pan. Add about 1 tablespoon vinegar to the water and let it boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Using a silicone spatula, swirl the water and slip the egg from the ramekin  into the center of the eddy. Swirl a little bit more, being careful not to break the yolk. The vinegar helps the egg yolk and egg white to combine while the swirling eddy helps to shape the cooking egg  into a round. Cook 3-4 minutes depending on how runny you want your egg yolk.

To remove the egg from the sauce pan, I use a spider. This is a spatula with a round head that has holes instead of slits. Drain the poached egg well and put it on top of the rice burger patty.

To assemble, put the  patty on a plate. Top with a piece of ham, or in this case, grilled pork, and  of course, the poached egg. Garnish with Sriracha sauce, if desired. Other garnishes: minced onion or scallion and chopped fresh cilantro.

steamed chicken breast with herb butter and coconut basmati rice

DSC03902
I forgot the pickled vegetables.

This dish is made in 2 steps; the rice is cooked in a rice cooker and the chicken is steamed by wrapping each breast in foil then baking the packets in the oven. The original recipe from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy directs steaming packets of chicken over the rice as it cooks. This is tricky, since both rice and chicken cook at different rates depending on the temperature. I thought it would be easier to do them separately. My solution worked, for the chicken and the rice came together wonderfully, with delicate undertones of coconut and herbs. The original recipe called for just a butter-cilantro stuffing. Though I love cilantro, by itself, the taste can be monotonous. The Chinese know this, and often combine it with other herbs such as Chinese celery (kunchai in Thai) and onion. The result is a more complex flavor, however, it lacks that extra bite and tang. The Thai solution is to put in chiles, and I agree with this approach. You want the flavor of chile without burning off your taste buds.

Coconut Rice
2 cups (8 oz each) Basmati rice
1 250ml coconut cream
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse the rice, if directed to do so. Then put all ingredients in a rice cooker pot, press the button and forget it!

Cook’s Note: If desired, dress up the rice with fried garlic and minced scallion.

Steamed Chicken Breasts with Herb Butter
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 fresh Thai chile, seeded and chopped (if more heat is desired, leave in the seeds)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped Chinese celery stems (reserve leaves to garnish a soup otherwise discard, they are bitter)
3 tablespoons onion, minced
8 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
8×12 inch square pieces of aluminum foil

Preheat the oven 350˚F/185˚C

To stuff the chicken breasts, slit each chicken breast from the thickest part almost to the end of the thinnest part. The pocket should be about 2 1/2 inches deep at the thickest part. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, chile, cilantro, Chinese celery, and onion. Stuff each chicken breast with a generous spoonful of the herb mixture. Sprinkle top and bottom of the breast all over with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the stuffed chicken breast in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, bring to edges together and fold to seal. Fold and seal each end. Place on a baking tray and repeat with the other chicken breasts.

Place the baking tray in the oven. Do four at a time or at the most, six. Bake about 15-18 minutes. Pierce the thickest part of one chicken packet with an instant read thermometer. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165˚F. If not, bake an additional 3-5 minutes.

Spoon cooked coconut basmati rice on a plate and place one cooked chicken breast on top; pour reserved juices from the packet on top. Serve with Pickled Vegetables, which as I said,  I forgot.

Pickled Vegetables
1 medium carrot
1 medium cucumber
3 scallions
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons simple syrup

Shred all the vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and simple syrup. Pour vinegar mixture over the top of the vegetables and toss to combine.

 

rice bowl

DSC03602

I got tired of eating street food. I know people who would say, I could never get tired of it. The fact is: I missed my kitchen. But for most of the week, I live in Salaya in a tiny studio that has no kitchen. I decided to buy a small 3 cup rice cooker and experiment with rice bowls. A rice bowl is a dish that includes meat, veggies, and rice all in one. I made this vegetarian version out of just a few ingredients: rice, a handful of cashews, golden raisins, sweet bell pepper, and scallion. The only thing I cooked was the rice. The rest I added when the rice was steaming hot. It’s  so simple it doesn’t need a recipe!

rice ruam mit

DSC03511

This dish has everything all mixed up together–ruam mit. Well almost everything.  The base for it is Thai jasmine rice, of course. Then I tossed in raisins, green peas, lime zest,  the juice of a lime, scallions, salt, pepper, and the chiffonade of a few leaves of basil. Should have been mint but all we had was basil.  The raisins added a touch of sweetness to a rice dish that was also salty and tangy. A-roy.

asian vegetable paella

DSC02554
This recipe is based on the Catalan Vegetable Paella in the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I made some changes to it in my quest to substitute local ingredients wherever possible. Instead of zucchini, I used winter melon or wax gourd in the paella. Its flesh can stand up to steaming with the rice so that it still has a firmness to it even when it is cooked. Winter melon turns translucent when it is cooked, by the way, and like zucchini, it is bland and takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. Using sushi rice, a short grain rice that is slightly sticky when cooked, is comparable to arborio, and a lot cheaper in this part of the world. This paella turned out to be quite delicious! I went back for seconds, and even my husband did not once complain about the absence of meat.

Asian Vegetable Paella

prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 55 minutes
servings: 4

1/4 cup rice bran oil
1 small green chile pepper, finely minced, optional
1 large Bermuda onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 medium orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium winter melon (wax gourd), peeled seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces
1 1/4 cups sushi rice
2 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used 1/2 vegetable bouillon to 2 cups water)
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot with a tight fitting lid, such as a Dutch oven. Add the chile pepper, if using; onion, bell peppers, and reduce the heat to medium –low to cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is lightly browned.

Add the garlic, paprika, thyme, and tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer 5 minutes.

Add the winter melon and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Cook’s Note: Resist the temptation to check the rice during this period! Test the rice after 20 minutes. If some of the grains taste hard, stir the pot, then let the paella cook for 5 more minutes.

Taste and correct the seasoning. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve hot directly from the pan.

sweet corn and okra purloo with lemongrass, thyme and chinese chives

DSC02282

I found this recipe on Food 52, and fell in love with its simplicity. A purloo is a traditional southern (US, that is) vegetable stew with smoked meat. Southern cooking is based on the trinity: onions, sweet green peppers, and celery. I did a variation on it, using Thai spur chilies  and Chinese celery. In fact, I took other liberties with this recipe and added lemongrass to it and Chinese chives. Spur chilies are not very hot, instead they add flavor rather than heat to the dish. Chinese celery has very skinny stalks and big leaves. Use the stalks only, as the leaves are very very strong tasting. In Thailand, the leaves are used as a garnish, often combined with scallions and cilantro. Chinese chives resemble scallion but have flat leaves and instead of an onion-y taste, taste faintly of garlic, hence its other name garlic chives. This dish is a mash-up of cuisines, using a mix of local Thai ingredients and Western. It tastes lemon-y, garlicky, and is a hearty meal for two–with leftovers.

Okra and Sweet Corn Purloo with Lemongrass, Thyme, and Chinese Chives (adapted from Food 52)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 as a main meal, 6 as a side dish

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
3 Thai spur chilies sliced on the bias (if desired, seed and devein the chilies for less heat)
1/4 cup Chinese celery stems only, small dice (save the leaves for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups okra, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 cups smoked ham cut into 1 inch chunks (I used black pepper ham for flavor)
1/4 cup lemongrass, sliced fine
2 cups sweet corn, cut from the cob (approximately 2 corn on the cob)
1 cup organic short grain rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (or 1 bouillon cube to 2 cups water)
1/2 cup Chinese chives (aka garlic chives), diced fine

Heat the oven to 400° F. Place an oven-proof 3-quart pot over medium heat on the stove top. Add enough oil to the pot to barely coat the bottom.

Cook’s note: I didn’t have an oven-proof pot, so I used a large skillet for this step.

Once the oil is hot add the onion, peppers, and Chinese celery. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not brown.

Add the thyme and garlic. Sauté until it becomes fragrant. Don’t let the garlic brown. Add the okra, ham, lemongrass, and corn. If the pan seems dry add a little more oil. Then add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains with the oil. Add the broth. Stir the ingredients. Bring the broth to a boil. Turn off the heat.

Cook’s note: I transferred the ingredients to a Corningware casserole dish with a lid for this next step.

Cover the dish and slide the whole thing into the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 325° F.

Set a timer for 35 minutes. At the end of 35 minutes remove the dish from the oven, carefully. Using oven mitts, remove the lid and taste. If you can taste tough grains of rice, stir then cover the dish and put it back in the oven. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Continue stirring and cooking in 10 minute increments until the rice is cooked. In my oven this took 55 minutes.

Taste and adjust any seasonings as necessary. If desired, lightly sauté the chopped chives in a little oil. Add the chopped chives and fresh celery leaves to the top of the purloo, and serve.