A Pair of Thai Classics

A couple months ago Lolly and I took a Caribbean cruise. On the night before departure we were in Cocoa Beach and visited a charming little family-run Thai restaurant called Thai Fuku. While there, Lolly sampled a pair of classic Thai dishes, one a soup and the other a salad. She found herself enraptured with the amazing array of complex but well-blended flavors, and has been bugging me ever since then to make them for her at home. So for tonight’s offering I present to you Tom Kha soup and Nam Sod salad.

There are probably as many different variations on these recipes as there are grandmothers in Thailand, so what follows is not intended to be the definitive pronouncement on the subject by any stretch of the imagination — just one of many possible interpretations of these dishes.  Let’s start with the soup first. Here are your ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass, cut in several pieces
  • 6 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh Thai basil, chopped

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium flame and stir in the curry paste, cooking until the aroma releases. Whisk in the stock and coconut milk, making sure the curry is well blended. Add the lemongrass, ginger, chilies, lime juice and fish sauce, and bring it up to simmer. Add the chicken and simmer another 15 minutes. Lastly, add the mushrooms and basil, and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the ginger and lemongrass, and you’re ready to serve.

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While your soup is cooking you can work on the salad, which consists of three main components: the bed of lettuce, the cooked chicken, and the dressing. Here is what you will need to make 2 hearty, satisfying salads:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup thin-sliced red onion
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup shredded fresh ginger
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups water or chicken stock
  • 8 oz. ground chicken breast
  • ¼ cup roasted cashews
  • 6 leaves of Boston lettuce

For the chicken, I recommend that you get half of a boneless breast and chop it up in your food processor. Alternatively you can buy ground chicken at the store, but that will have been run through a meat grinder and will have that signature stringy look that doesn’t work great for this presentation.

In a large bowl, combine all but the last four ingredients, and mix well to create your dressing. In a deep skillet, bring the water or stock to a boil and add the chicken. Cook it through, which should only take a few minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked chicken to the dressing bowl and toss well. Add the cashews and stir through. Arrange three lettuce leaves on each plate, spoon half of the chicken mixture onto each plate, and garnish with some fresh cilantro leaves.

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There you have it, a pair of delicious traditional Thai dishes that will have your taste buds dancing with joy – assuming you’re not to averse to a little spice. If so, you can back down some of the ingredients in that category to balance things more to your taste. We munched these down with big happy grins all around, and look forward to doing it again soon.  Until next time: Eat well, my friends!

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