A Thai Dish That Ties One On

I had Thai food for the first time when I was 16 years old and it took me almost 10 years to realize that drunken noodles were not relegated to Typhoon! in Portland, OR. I’m happy to say that it only took me two additional years to realize that I could easily replicate the dish at home.

I decided to experiment with drunken noodles when I saw Thai basil in the produce section of the grocery store. Since I didn’t have a recipe with me (or an iPhone), I went to the Asian food aisle and used the process of elimination to select a jar of roasted red chili paste to flavor the sauce.

The sauce I made was a pretty close approximation of the restaurant dish, even without the noodles. It wasn’t perfect, but this stir fry will definitely satisfy my cravings for drunken noodles until I make it back to Typhoon!

Drunken Stir Fry
Serves 3-4
¼ cup roasted red chili paste
¼ cup fish sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. water
Sriracha sauce to taste
peanut oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced ginger
1 pkg. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 green onion, sliced
Thai basil, stemmed and whole
cilantro, chopped
lime wedges

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Add a the Sriracha sauce one small squirt at a time until the sauce is as spicy as you like it.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat until it smokes. Pour in enough peanut oil to coat the sides of the wok, about 2 Tbs. Add the garlic and ginger to the oil and stir until brown, less than 1 minute. Remove the garlic and ginger from the oil and set aside.

Add the tofu to the wok and let stand over high heat until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Stir and repeat until browned on all sides. Remove tofu and set aside.

Add the onion and red pepper to the wok and stir until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Return the garlic, ginger, and tofu to the wok. Stir in the carrot, green onion, and Thai basil. Turn off the heat, pour in the sauce, and stir to coat. Serve with rice or stir-fried noodles. Garnish with cilantro and lime.

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Orange Chicken

I am never going to Panda Express again. Okay, that’s not true, but I will definitely make this Orange Chicken again. It was almost as easy as driving all the way to the other side of town for take out.

Sometimes I get a little carried away with themed dinners (remember the Indian Feast?) and Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect excuse to go over the top with Chinese food. It started out simply — I saw an recipe for Orange Chicken that I just had to try. I thought I’d throw in some tried and true Pork Dumplings. Then I accidentally bought wonton wrappers instead of dumpling wrappers, so when I went back to the store I picked up some cream cheese to make Crab Rangoons. Next thing you know, we’re having a four-course meal. Since this was the first Valentine’s Day Glenn and I have ever spent together, I figured we’d make up for lost time.

The Orange Chicken was everything I hoped it would be. The sauce had strong citrus flavors, which made the entire dish tangy and bright. The recipe seemed a little light on the garlic and ginger, so Glenn doubled it. The great thing about making it yourself is that you can make it as spicy or sweet as you want.

The Pork Dumplings turned out perfectly. The water was barely simmering when I put them in — it was 212 degrees, but there were no bubbles — and I think that helped keep them in tact.

The Crab Rangoons didn’t exactly turn out. Several of them burst in the oil, others seemed understuffed, and the rest were nothing special. I didn’t notice any correlation between the wrapping techniques and the tendency to break (I tried folding them in half to form a triangle, folding the corners over the top to form a square, and bringing all the corners to the top). I wasn’t too disappointed since I never intended for these to be a part of the meal anyway.

It was a bit of an endeavor to have everything done at the same time, but we worked out a nice little schedule. First, we prepped each piece. Glenn cut the chicken into pieces and tossed it with egg and flour; he chopped and measured the ingredients for the sauce; he mixed the pork stuffing; I assembled the dumplings and rangoons. That took a little more than an hour with two people working the whole time. Then we took a break for an hour. Then we went back and put the rice on, fried the rangoons, and fried the chicken in batches. When I put the last batch of chicken in, Glenn added the corn starch to the sauce to finish it off and I put the dumplings in the (not really boiling) water. That took about half an hour.

We froze the leftover dumplings and rangoons (you can boil and fry them straight out of the freezer) and we stored the chicken and sauce separately so the breading wouldn’t get soggy. I’m off to reheat it all now.

Fried Rice (from the Minimalist)

I’ve had some issues with fried rice in the past, so I was thrilled to see Mark Bittman write about it in his recent Minimalist column.  After watching the video, Glenn and I went straight to the store and fried up a batch as soon as we got home. The results were phenomenal. It was not the crunchy, smoky fried rice you get with takeout — it was something completely different.

These are all ingredients that I’ve used in fried rice before, but the difference is in the quantity and preparation. This method uses about four times as much garlic and ginger as I usually do and cooks it for much longer. The essence of those spices is captured in the oil and is eventually infused into the entire dish. The soy sauce and sesame oil offer a salty, earthy contrast to the ginger’s brightness.

The flavor in this dish is so complex and delicate that you’ll feel like you’re in a restaurant.

Panko and Ginger Crusted Chicken with Bok Choy Salad

DSC02759

I think I’m going to convert to a new method of recipe organization. I used to get a recipe from a magazine or from a friend, make it, eat it, and file it away. No matter when Glenn asked, Can we make that Moroccan Chicken again? I’d say, We just had that! I like trying new things and I’m afraid of falling into my mom’s Midwestern casserole rotation.But there’s no real risk of that happening and there’s nothing wrong with making the same dish twice. Now that I’ve reopened my recipe box, it’s a disaster. So what now? A three ring binder? Mac Gourmet?

The inspiration for this change? These two old faithfuls that I dug up for my sister. This chicken is nothing special, but if you’re looking for chicken that’s tender and crunchy, this is it. The bok choy salad, on the other hand, blows any other Asian inspired salad out of the water. Sweet, salty, crunchy. Yum. It’s only good the first time around (the noodles and nuts get soggy overnight), so I guess you’ll just have to have seconds.

Panko and Ginger Crusted Chicken with Stir Fried Vegetables and Sweet and Sour Mustard

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Chinese mustard
  • 2 Tb rice wine vinegar
  • Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes.

Chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups panko
  • 2 Tb minced ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tb canola oil
  • Cut each breast lengthwise into 4 strips. Combine panko and ginger in a bowl. Lightly beat egg in a bowl (I like to thin the egg with half a shell of water). Dip chicken in egg and coat with panko. Saute in oil 3 minutes on each side.

Vegetables:

  • 2 Tb canola oil
  • 1 Tb minced ginger
  • 2 cups chopped bok choy
  • 1/2 cup julienned leeks
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Heat oil. Saute ginger 30 seconds. Add bok choy, leeks, and water chestnuts and saute for 3 minutes. Add bean sprouts and cook 2 minutes.

Serve chicken and vegetables on a plate drizzled with sauce.

Bok Choy Salad (from Glenn’s mom)

  • 3 oz Ramen noodles
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tb soy sauce
  • 1 bok choy, shredded
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • Crumble noodles. Roast noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds 8-10 minutes at 350.
  • Bring sugar, oil, vinegar, and soy sauce to a boil and let cool.
  • Toss all ingredients and serve immediately.

Don Ishiyaki and Ramen (Greensboro NC)

To most people, Don is probably “the place where Sushi Republic used to be” or “the place next door to Coffeeology.” Walking by, you wouldn’t expect Don to be much better than its neighbors: two convenience stores, two mediocre ethnic restaurants, and two chain sandwich shops. On the contrary, Don surpasses its neighbors in quality, atmosphere, and service.

Glenn and I moved Don to the top of our restaurant list when we found out that they served ishiyaki (or, more accurately, when we found out what ishiyaki was). Japanese ishiyaki is very similar to Korean dolsot bibimbap. Both employ a technique of cooking raw food (an egg or meat) at the table in a hot stone bowl (along with rice and vegetables). Glenn ordered the bowl with bulgogi (marinated beef) and I ordered it with spicy tuna (it was so spicy!). The waitress brought us a variety of sauces, but Glenn thought the teriyaki went best with bulgogi and I thought the sesame went best with the spicy tuna.

Did I mention we ordered an appetizer? I used to take gyozo (pork dumplings, pot stickers, whatever) for granted, but now I’ve had enough slimy or deep fried versions to know better. These were delicate and delicious.

I always complain that all the nice, sit-down Greensboro restaurants are overpriced. Don was a great date spot — small, romantically lit, excellent service — and, even though we ordered an appetizer, two entrees, and drinks, our bill was under $40. When I make my list of affordable date spots in Greensboro, Don will be at the top.

Don Ishiyaki and Ramen is located on Tate Street near UNCG. It’s a small Japanese restaurant that offers rice bowls and noodle dishes (entrees are under $10). This would be a great restaurant for dates, but not for large groups.

Details:
423 Tate St.
Greensboro NC 27403
(336) 370-9677

Other Reviews:
Eating Up Greensboro
Eat Our Blog

Fried Rice

fried rice

Let’s start out on a positive note. The vegetables were crisp-tender, the eggs were fluffy, and the flavor was very well balanced (peanut oil + fish sauce + soy sauce). The problem? The rice was mushy.

The rice always turns out mushy. I’ve tried several techniques, but none have resolved the problem. Day-old rice. Check. Smoking hot wok. Check. More oil. Less oil. More stirring. Less stirring. Smaller batches. Check, check, check, check, check. My current theory is that I’m cooking it too long (10-15 minutes), but who knows. My dad told me to stir constantly over super-high heat until it felt like my arm was about to fall off. Who knows what that means in minutes.

I just want to be able to make that junky, crispy, smoky restaurant fried rice at home. My dad can. Can anyone else?

I don’t really follow a recipe, which is maybe part of the problem. Here are some things that have made a positive difference in my fried rice:

  • Use a wok, if you have one. Otherwise, use your biggest, most heat-conducting pan. Heat the wok/pan until it’s really, really hot.
  • Invest in some peanut oil. This will make the biggest flavor difference in all your Asian-inspired dishes. Use enough peanut oil to coat the entire surface of your wok and leave a tiny bit standing in the bottom.
  • Use day-old rice. It gives your fried rice a better texture. Also, it’s a good way to repurpose leftovers.
  • Have all of your ingredients ready to go. That means you have already chopped the veggies, beaten the eggs, and broken up the rice with a fork. I eyeball proportions, but I’d say you want about 1 part veggies and 2 parts rice.
  • Think about the order you’re going to cook things in. You want to add the longest-cooking veggies first (carrots, mushrooms, etc.), then rice, then eggs (if you’re into that sort of thing), and finally stir in the veggies that just need to be warmed (peas, water chestnuts, green onion, etc.). It’s better to undercook veggies than overcook them.
  • If you’re using eggs, here’s what you do: scoot the rice to one side of the wok. Then tilt the wok so that the rice is on the high side and the empty space is over the heat. Add a little more peanut oil and heat it. With the wok still tilted, add the beaten egg. Stir a little like you would scrambled eggs. Just before the egg is cooked, mix it into the rice.
  • This is the secret ingredient: fish sauce. Just before you serve the fried rice, add two drops of fish sauce and about a teaspoon of soy sauce. Whatever you do, don’t smell the fish sauce.
  • Work in small batches. Like most fried or sauteed foods, you don’t want to overcrowd the pan. I’m usually not patient enough to do this, but it’s probably best to fry it one serving at a time.
  • Eat it with chopsticks. Seriously.

Taste of Thai (Greensboro NC)

We were trying to go to Bangkok Cafe (well, we were trying to go to Vintage 301 or Rim, but they are both closed on Mondays), but we walked in and the family who owns the restaurant were all eating dinner together. As it turns out, they’re closed on Mondays, too. By then I had my heart set on Thai, so we went to Taste of Thai.

healthywraps

Lesson number one in ordering off a menu: pay attention to the specials. Even at a place like Taste of Thai where the specials are also listed in the regular menu, there’s a reason the restaurant wants to highlight them. These Healthy Wraps were a DIY appetizer that came with a lesson from the owner. Basically, cabbage plus peanuts plus coconut plus lime plus ginger plus onion plus sweet and sour equals delicious and not going to ruin your appetite.

keemaoLesson number two in ordering off a menu: always read the description closely so that you can find it on other menus under a different name. This is the Kee Mao (aka drunken noodles), which is a noodle dish stir fried with basil, carrots, onion, broccoli, and maybe some other stuff. This is my favorite Thai dish ever. Glenn ordered it.

padthaiLesson number three in ordering off a menu: just because someone else ordered what you wanted doesn’t mean you can’t order it too. I ordered Pad Thai so that Glenn and I wouldn’t have the same thing. That’s just ridiculous. This was good, but nothing to write home about.

coconutcustardNo lesson on desert because I didn’t actually order this. They just brought us coconut custard. You can’t argue with that.

Taste of Thai is located on Mill Street Between Battleground Avenue and Westover Terrace. It’s an average Thai restaurant (variety of noodles and curries) with average prices (under $10 per entre). The atmosphere is nice (tablecloths and flowers), if a little weird (a bridge goes through the middle of the dining area). It is better than Thai Garden, but not as good as Bangkok Cafe.