Posts tagged Thai

A world of chili sauces

On a dare my teen once drank a glass of Cholula, a vinegary Mexican hot sauce that’s spicer than Tabasco. She was used to dousing her food with the hot stuff anyway so it didn’t seem like a big deal to have a drink. She downed the Cholula in a few gulps, reached for a glass of water and then downed that too. I should probably mention that my middle child was the one who suggested the dare. And me? Well, I just sat back and watched the whole thing unfold.

This is NOT the way I’d suggest introducing your kids to hot sauce. My advice is to go gently. One dab at a time. Mix a little into stews or sauces to give them a bit of a kick. Add a drop or two to sandwiches. Why hot sauces? To put it simply, they give food an added dimension of flavor. They wake up your taste buds. Turn up the heat in your food by trying out one of these sauces:

Cholula sauce: This bright, deep orange-red Mexican sauce is thin and vinegary. Use it in place of Tabasco sauce on sandwiches or mix it into guacamole to turn the heat up just a bit.

Valentina sauce: Another Mexican hot sauce. But this one is slightly thicker and spicier than Cholula. I noticed a chef at Caffe Lola in Niagara Falls mix it into marinara and I’ve been doing the same ever since. The heat isn’t overpowering just enough to give you a tickle in your throat.

Chili Garlic Sauce: You can see the red peppers seeds right in this pungent sauce that combines heat and garlic. This Vietnamese sauce works well in Asian dishes. But you might also mix it with mayo to use it either as a dip for chips or a sandwich spread.

Sriracha sauce: The standard variety available in the U.S. has a building heat that envelops the middle of your tongue–and stays there. Mr. Squid is a huge Sriracha fan and sneaks it in whenever he gets a chance. The consistency is almost like ketchup and you can use it as you would ketchup. Just remember that it packs a kick. Use it in Italian, Asian, Indian, Mexican … well, you get the idea. This is one versatile hot sauce.

Frank’s RedHot sauce: I had to add one all-American favorite. This sauce is synonymous with the place where it was created: Buffalo. It’s a must if you’re making wings and it’s a perfect match with bleu cheese. I like to dabble it on salads that have creamy dressings too.

Your turn: What’s your go-to hot sauce–or do you prefer to go without the heat?

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Thai grilled corn lollipops

Forget grilling a whole corn on the cob when it’s so much easier–and fun–to make corn lollipops. And with corn in season right now it tastes so sweet it could almost be candy! You don’t have to add much to it to make a tasty dinner side dish. But you know me, I had to do a few tweaks. We were making Thai chicken satay. So to meld the Asian flavors, I soaked the corn ‘pops’ in coconut milk spiked with fresh lime juice, soy and honey. Yes, coconut + corn + lime = tasty.

I have to thank Bobby Flay’s Throwdown for this one. I finally got around to watching the ‘rematch on the grill‘ episode that’s been sitting on my DVD for weeks. He gave me the idea for the ‘pops’ and his competition the idea to soak the corn in milk. But the coconut milk is all my idea. Wait, back up, actually Mr. Squid may have come up with it while I was piecing off kernels and eating them raw (seriously sweet corn right now).

Ready for the recipe?

Thai grilled corn lollipops

Ingredients

1 corn cobs (the fresher, the better)

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 juice from a lime

1/2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

10-12 bamboo skewers

Directions

  1. Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes so they won’t burn on the grill.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the corn into disks about 1-1/2″ thick. Add them to a mixing bowl with the coconut milk, lime juice, honey and soy sauce. Marinate for around 20-30 minutes.
  3. Using the sharp end of the bamboo skewer carefully poke it into the side of the corn pop.
  4. Heat your outdoor grill to medium high. Mr. Squid also places a band of heavy duty aluminum foil where the ends of the sticks will be so  they don’t burn.
  5. Place the corn pops on the grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Warning: some of the kernels will pop.
  6. FYI: The leftover corn kernels are great in salads and fried rice. Remove the kernels with a sharp kitchen knife.

Check back in tomorrow I have a contest ready for those of you sending kiddos back to school!

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Getting Kids to Try New Foods at Restaurants

Lemon grass chicken. That’s what my oldest ordered the last week at Peppermint, a Thai restaurant we went to as a family. When her dish came everyone, my husband included, couldn’t wait to try her dish–it was stunning. Thin slices of charbroiled chicken topped with veggies, a light brown sauce that was wafting citrusy scents in all directions and on top a batch of fried, crispy spinach. I didn’t even know you could fry spinach!

Beef Satay--from the Kids' Menu

So how did my daughter end up with the enviable entree? She asked. There’s several strategies we’ve tried to get our kids to try new foods (and shun the ever-present chicken fingers offered on the kids menu). Here’s what’s worked for us.

Talk to the server. Your server knows the menu better than anyone else. Ask away to find out what she recommends. Try specific questions, “I like noodles and spicy dishes, but not something with a lot of meat, what do you suggest?” We’ve found that general questions, “What do you suggest?” yield general answers and aren’t nearly as helpful. My daughter was the only one from our table who talked to the server about her meal–the rest of us had already picked our favorites. And wouldn’t you know it, she tried something new and we were all vying for the last nibbles of her food.

Split a dish. Forget the kids’ menu, encourage your kids to share an adult meal or split one with her. My younger two love shrimp so often they just get whatever shrimp entree is available and we ask for two plates.

Eat family style. We won’t win any awards for best etiquette–when we eat at a restaurant we always try each other’s dishes, or one of my daughter’s decides she doesn’t like part of her meal so we put it on her sister’s plate. The other day we tried a new Polish restaurant, Babushka’s Kitchen after a hike in the woods. Everyone ordered a different flavor of pierogie or entree. Once the food arrived we were swapping bites of all sorts of things. My oldest downed her dad’s kraut with noodles, while I swiped bites of his swiss cheese and mushroom pierogie (heavenly!). It was so much fun to try all the new flavors. My middle child took a bit of her chicken paprikash and said, “Oh, mom, this is soooo good. You gotta try this.”

Try an appetizer. When I was a kid we never ordered appetizers. Ditto on desserts. But we’ve found that appetizers are perfect for sampling something new. First, your kids are already hungry. Second, they’re small bites–kid-sized–if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat more. At the Thai restaurant we ordered spinach potstickers. I was sure that the spinach-infused rice dumplings stuffed with tofu wouldn’t appeal to my crew (I was sorta counting on it because I really like them). But in the end I only got one pot sticker and then I had to split the last one with my youngest.

Come hungry. Kids with empty tummies seem much more willing to try something new–and eat it–then kids who’ve been snacking all afternoon.

Pierogie time!

Pick an interesting restaurant. You can’t really expect your kid to go beyond chicken fingers if you’re at a burger place (unless of course they serve a creative assortment!) But the child’s plate at the Polish restaurant either had pierogies or chickcen paprikash. At the Thai place, the kid’s menu included chicken or beef satay. You don’t have to go for a restaurant steeped in culture, but we’ve found family-owned, non-chain restaurants are more likely to have options that intrigue the kids.

Order dessert. Okay, this one is optional. But coconut ice cream or apricot-filled handmade kolcachky–yum! Dessert can be part of the fun of trying new flavors. (We came up with this recipe for banana mini-eggrolls after visiting the Thai restaurant.)

Now your turn, how do you get your kids to sample something new at a restaurant?

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Chef Q&A: Thai Bistro’s Lada Sripinyo

Photo credit: Barron

Years ago when our family moved from New York to Michigan a friend told us we had to try the Thai Bistro in Canton. Italian food. Chinese food. Mexican food. Japanese food. I’d already learned that I liked to sample a variety of flavors. But I’d never had Thai fare, with its spicy-sweet sauces, rich curries and tender noodles. The first time we went to Thai Bistro, I ordered the drunken noodles. I was hooked.

The owner and chef of Thai Bistro, Lada Sripinyo moved from Thailand to the U.S. in 1968 and at the urging of a friend opened the restaurant in 1994. “I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” explains Sripinyo. The eatery quickly drew notice and a devoted following in the area. “We opened in February 1994 and by April we were very popular,” she recalls.

For a MKES first, the digital-shy Sripinyo passed along a handwritten recipe for her Thai BBQ ribs.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

Chile. Red chile, onion, garlic.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

My favorite is ga poa guy because it’s a little spicy and it tastes really good. It’s very popular here at the restaurant.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?

Dark chocolate. Not in ice cream. Either in a bar or a box, I just like dark chocolate.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

I don’t know. Maybe once when I made a stir-fry and I put too much salt in it and it was way too salty. I didn’t even let people try it. I tried it and then just threw it out.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

Potato chips.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Thai Bistro? What menu item should they make sure to try?

If they like noodles then the pad thai—it’s a little sweet and it’s very popular here. You can choose whether you want it mild or spicy. If you like something with rice than the ga poa guy is very good and spicy. It comes with chicken, Thai basil, red pepper. The eggplant stir-fry with shrimp is very good too.

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Thai Bistro’s: BBQ Ribs

Photo credit: Barron

Ingredients:
2 1/2 lb. baby back ribs
2 tsp. thin soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. red wine
Pinch of black pepper
Chinese broccoli or spinach (side)

Directions:

  1. Clean ribs and cut into five or six pieces.
  2. Mix all ingredients well and marinate for 1-2 hours.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well.
  4. Put ribs in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  5. Serve with stir-fried Chinese broccoli or spinach.
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Dinner on a Stick: Thai Chicken Satay & Cucumber Relish

Photo credit: chooyutshing

Slightly sweet with a kick of spice and savory flavors—that’s what comes to mind when I think of putting together a Thai dish. We came up with this satay recipe after visiting a local favorite restaurant, The Thai Bistro. While I enjoyed the coconut soup—and the entree, Drunken noodles—my favorite part of the meal was the appetizer, satay. These strips of turmeric-laced chicken skewers are more often given to start out the meal, but around our house, they make the meal.

Skewers take some work to put together—you have to cut the chicken into thin strips, marinate it, thread it onto sticks (and soak the sticks so they don’t burn), and then grill. Lacing 20 or so strips of chicken onto sticks can be tedious and a bit time-consuming, but the efforts are worth it. My kids love the tangy flavor of satay—and, of course, having a chance to eat off a stick. And the leftovers are tasty (that’s if you have any!). Yes, I have eaten them cold for breakfast.

Still aren’t convinced that chicken skewers are worth a few pokes when you’re putting them on the stick–and yellow fingers from the turmeric? What I like about satay is that the flavors are unique and fresh. Our friends put on an Iron Chef competition at their house (yes, it was modeled after the popular Food Network show). Each couple brought a dish using the “secret ingredient.” They told us the ingredient about a week before the get-together, limes. We brought these skewers, decorating a large serving dish with most of the skewers lying down and some poked into a half-cut orange (the oranges cut side are down on the platter and then the sticks are pushed into the round part; make sure to balance these carefully). Sure enough, the flavor-drenched chicken skewers won overall—and there was some steep competition—lime cheesecake, lime rice, pork roast in a lime marinade and more. Our prize? Bragging rights and a $10 gift certificate to Carvel’s.

Is your mouth watering yet? Time to make some satay.

Recipe
Inspired by a dish in Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue Bible.
Prep time: 40 minutes + 1 hour marinating + 10-15 minutes grilling
Servings: 4
Ingredients
3 lbs. chicken breasts
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (regular or light)
6-8” Wooden skewers

Marinade
4 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
3 Tablespoons fish sauce (or 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce + 1 ½ tablespoons chicken broth)
4 Tablespoons honey
1 bunch Cilantro, wash and cut the stalks into ¼” pieces (save the leaves for garnish)
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional, but adds a kick)

Optional: Cucumber relish (see recipe below)

Whisk together all of the marinate ingredients. Test the flavors with your fingertip—you may want to add a little more honey for sweetness or a little more fish sauce for tartness.

Cut the chicken into thin, ¼” strips. (You can place fresh chicken in the freezer for 30 minutes or so to make for easier cutting.) Place the chicken strips into a large, heavy Ziploc bag. Place the chicken in the bag in a large bowl.

Add the marinade ingredients to the bag of chicken and marinate for at least one hour, up to 24 hours. Note: turmeric stains cooking dishes with a yellow color, so the bag helps protect your baking ware. Also, we use cilantro stalks as a substitute for the more traditional lemongrass. Cilantro is easier to find and we like the buzzy flavor.

While the chicken is marinating, fill a large dish with water and submerge the wooden skewers into the water. They should be covered completely. Soak for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning once they’re on the grill.

Thread the chicken strips onto the wooden skewers and place on a cookie sheet until all of the skewers are done and you’re ready to start grilling. Do not thread the chicken completely over the skewer—you should leave about 1½ inches at the end so that you have something to grab with tongs to turn and rotate the chicken on the grill.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Put 1/3 cup of coconut milk into a dish and get ready a long-handled basting brush. Place the skewers in the grill and cook on each side for 4 to 5 minutes. (Watch the skewers carefully, because they will cook fast!) Baste the skewers as the cook with coconut milk. The added fat will not only improve the grilling, but it will add great flavor.

Serve over steamed rice, butter lettuce, or eat plain.

Cucumber Relish
*Prepare at least an hour before grilling the chicken so that the relish has time to chill.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup white vinegar
½ scant cup white sugar
½ red onion
1 English (seedless) cucumber
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water over medium-high heat until it just thickens. Add in the vinegar. Allow to cool. Toss in red pepper flakes. Cut the cucumber into thin, quartered pieces. Thinly slice the red onion either into rounds, or quarters, depending on your preference. Add into the thickened sauce. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve alongside the satay.

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