Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Entrees, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by Thaixican

Just a few ingredients, a bit of cook time, and your squash bowls are done.

I love seasonal ingredients; it makes me feel in balance with the seasons and nature. Squash is one of my favorite fall fare and they are easy to prepare to boot. If you are looking to get fancy this year without all the work, squash can be your best friend. Besides its rich, sweet and creamy taste, squash, such as butternut, is full of vitamin C and fiber. It’s vibrant fall color also lends well to dishes.

What I also love about squash is their bowl-like shape. Here is a fun and tasty way to serve your stuffing this year using whichever squash you prefer. Just make sure it is bowl-like and sturdy. Butternut and acorn squash, which are abundant this time of year, are both great choices.

Stuffing in Squash Bowl

For this recipe, each person gets one half of a squash. So if you are serving six people buy three squash.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the outside of the squash of any dirt and with a sharp and sturdy knife cut each squash in half. With a spoon, gently scrape out the seeds and discard. Arrange the squash on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. In each squash, place a 1/2 tablespoon pad of butter, one crushed garlic clove, and a sprinkle of fresh minced flat-leaf parsley. Side note: this can be done Thanksgiving morning and placed back in the refrigerator. Remove the squash about an hour before your guests arrive and pop them in the oven so that they ready and warm for mealtime.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the squash you are using. To check the progress of your squash, simply poke it with a fork. When the consistency is fairly soft and creamy, but not too mushy, the squash are done cooking.

While you are waiting for your squash to cook, prepare your favorite stuffing recipe. Once the squash are ready, remove them from the oven and remove and discard the cloves of garlic. Serve your stuffing inside the squash. Make sure to tell your guests the protocol for eating this dish: make sure you get some stuffing and squash all in the same bite.  The flavors and consistencies pair great together.

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Taco Night Reinvented

Posted in Culinary Tidbits, Ingredients, Mexican with tags , , , , on July 8, 2010 by Thaixican

Forget the turf and head for the surf. Try our fish tacos with red cabbage and jicama relish

Taco night has become a fairly popular dinner choice for the modern family. Veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, and onions and simple ground beef are common choices for what can become a weekly family event but the possibilities for mixing it up are nearly endless. Incorporating different vegetables (or even fruits), salsas, and meats, taco night can still be a weekly event, but be something new each time. Tacos are hard to mess up. Any combination of these ingredients will make for a delicious family meal.

Mix Up Your Meats
Ground beef is simple and inexpensive, but there are a variety of other options as well. Instead of the fattier ground beef, try ground chicken or turkey seasoned in the same manner. There are other great options to grounds meats as well, such as steak, chicken breast, or even thin cuts of pork. If you love seafood, try medium shrimp left whole with their tales removed or a firm white fish such as tilapia, catfish, or cod either grilled or fried in a thick batter. Try our fish tacos with red cabbage and jicama relish.

Tortilla Types
The hard taco shell has become popular due to their ability to hold shape and their crispy consistency. Although hard taco shells are perfect for ground meats, other tortillas such as flour and corn and a great choice for other meats and seafood. These soft tortillas can be found at your local supermarket or Mexican grocery and are generally more affordable than their hard counterparts. A quick tip: if using the sometimes flimsy corn variety, double up the tortillas placing one on top of the other. This ensures that your ingredients do not fall through the taco. As for heating up tortillas, follow the directions on the package, which usually includes instructions for heating in a microwave and on the stove.

Veggies Galore

Italian basil left while lends a sweet and fresh flavor to chicken or seafood tacos.

Diced onions, tomatoes, and fresh lettuce are all staples on tacos. Vegetable varieties are numerous though and even switching up your leafy greens can be a good taco night variation. In place of iceberg or romaine, try red leaf, Boston, or my personal favorite, watercress, which has a peppery flavor. Mesclun is a great option as well – a mixture composed of several varieties of young greens.

Herbs are fresh and fragrant on tacos.  Top tacos with whole leaves of sweet Italian basil (this is great over chicken or seafood tacos).  Whole leaves of mint can top seafood tacos that have a fruit salsa (see “salsas” section below).  Sprinkling beef or steak tacos with fresh chopped oregano lends a slightly earthy flavor to the meat.

Sweet onions are a great substitution for red or white onions, in that they have a mild sweet flavor that is conducive to dicing and serving raw. Thinly sliced red bell peppers, briefly cooked over medium heat with a little bit of oil, are also tasty over tacos. Green onions, also known as scallions, or cilantro, chopped and sprinkled as a final garnish lends tacos a fresh flavor. Shredded red cabbage, tossed in a bit of apple cider or rice wine vinegar, is a zesty addition over tacos, especially seafood ones. Tacos are hard to mess up. If a veggiesounds good on it, give it a try. You might discover something new.

Peppers are perfect for any taco.

The different varieties of salsa are nearly endless. There is always the good old stand by – the tomato and onion based, pico de gallo, like salsa. Of this is the perfect addition to any taco, no matter the meat or vegetable. Salsas with fruit are also a great choice, especially in the summer when many fruits become more affordable and more abundant. One simple salsa consists of dicing red onion, green mango, and a ripe but firm avocado and tossing them with a bit of salt and some finely chopped jalapeño. Squeeze in a bit of fresh lime juice and spoon over your taco. This fruity and slightly spicy salsa goes great over seafood and pork tacos. Do some recipe research and you can showcase a new salsa every time taco night rolls around.

Since the possibilities for tacos are endless, please leave a comment sharing your variation or take on tacos, whether it be the addition of an unusual veggie or special salsa.

Char Siu Rice (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Posted in Recipes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by Thaixican

One of the many exotic islands that pepper the South China Sea is Singapore.  A melting pot of Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Indian cultures, visiting or living on the tiny island is a truly unique cultural experience.  Living in Singapore fostered a love for its diverse culture and cuisine.  Some of my fondest memories include sitting among friends in a hawker center or open air food court.  With a cold Tiger beer in hand, we enjoyed delicious fare on the hot and humid Singaporean nights.  One of my favorite hawker centers was Newton Circus, a haven for the adventurous diner.  Rows of stalls boast delicacies such as chicken rice, roti prata (an Indian pancake served with spicy curry), or endless types of noodles and seafood.  Stingray topped with chili sauce was even a delicacy served at these types of food courts.  In addition to the many dinner entrees, Newton Circus offers a variety of exotic fruits and tropical desserts.

One of my favorite dishes is char siu pork, a Chinese style barbecue pork served over rice with a thick sauce.  It is often recognized by its characteristic red color and on many occasions is served in a heaping pile on butcher paper and wrapped into a neat parcel.

This char siu pork can either be roasted in the oven or grilled outdoors.  Also, the characteristic red color of Chinese BBQ pork though mostly just comes from the use of red food color.  We opt to keep the food coloring out of this dish, an option that does not affect the integrity or taste.  If you want to give the pork its characteristic red color though, just add 2-3 drops of red food color to the marinade.

2 lbs. pork tenderloin
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Cilantro or scallions (green onions) to garnish
Jasmine rice

In a small saucepan combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, and sugar and cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously to incorporate ingredients well and prevent burning.  Bring the mixture to a soft boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2-3 minutes while stirring continuously.

Baste pork tenderloin with the marinade generously, reserving at least a ½ a cup as sauce for serving.

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Place about 2 inches of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and place a rack on top.  Place tenderloin on rack and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325° F and roast for an additional 30-40 minutes, basting every so often with sesame oil.  Grilling is also an option for this dish.

While the tenderloin is cooking, it would be a good time to make the rice.  Cook the jasmine rice as per the directions on the package.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes to prevent drying the meat out.  Cut pork in thin slices and place several pieces atop the rice.  Drizzle some of the reserved marinade over the pork and rice and sprinkle finely chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, or both over the top.  Serve and enjoy!

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Dirty Rice Tacos

Posted in Mexican, Recipes with tags , , , , on June 25, 2010 by Thaixican

Drizzle your favorite hot sauce or some fresh salsa over these tacos

This recipe is dirty for two reasons.  First, the dish resembles a dirty rice; a mixture with this and that in it.  But it also reveals a dirty secret – as much as it is preferred to not use prepackaged foods, a semi-homemade meal makes its way into our rotation at least once a week because every now and then time just doesn’t permit homemade cooking from beginning to end.  Yes, pre-packaged Spanish rice is a component in this recipe but the final result is an easy, quick, unique, and tasty meal.  Tip: because pre-packaged rice usually contains a lot of sodium, look for lower or reduced sodium versions and refrain from using additional salt in the recipe.  The sodium in the pre-packaged rice is salt enough for this dish.

Makes about 2 ½ cups of rice

1 package Spanish rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound ground meat, such as lean beef, chicken, or turkey
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
½ tablespoon black pepper
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh jalapeño, finely chopped
1 cup white or sweet onion, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
½ cup canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of half a lime
Corn or flour tortillas

Cook the rice as per the instructions on the package.  Once rice is cooked, set aside.

Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (I actually used a wok for this dish and it worked great).  Add ground meat of choice and cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly done.

Add chili powder and black pepper and stir to incorporate.  Add garlic, jalapeño, onion and bell pepper and stir to incorporate.  Lower heat to medium and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once onions and bell peppers start to become tender, add pinto beans and corn (no need to de-thaw corn, the heat from the stove will do the job) and stir to incorporate.  Cook, while stirring occasionally, for another 2 minutes or so, or until the frozen corn begins to lose its frost.

Add tomatoes and cilantro and stir well.  Add rice to the meat and vegetables and mix, incorporating all ingredients well.  Remove from heat.

Heat the tortillas as per the instructions on the package.  I usually just warm them in a clean and dry skillet over medium-low heat, allowing them to warm for about 30-45 seconds on each side.

Place a small about of the rice mixture in a strip down the middle of the tortilla and top with hot sauce or salsa.  To eat, roll the tortillas up and enjoy!  The rice mixture alone is a great side dish to a meal as well.

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Happy Summer Solstice! Our Most Summery Recipes

Posted in Appetizers, Beverages, Entrees, Fusion, Mexican, Recipes, Thai with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by Thaixican

Plum Tomatoes ready to be "salsafied."

It’s officially summer.  Celebrate the longest day of the year, and all the days between now and September 23 (the autumn equinox) with our most summery recipes. Enjoy!

Garden Fresh Salsa – Take advantage of tomato season by making large amounts of this garden salsa, which can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container.  This recipe is especially good for late summer months when tomatoes are abundant or when you have grown your own and have more than you know what to do with.   This is a good just-because gift too.  I’ve learned from experience that people love receiving this fragrant and fresh tasting salsa.

Thai Spicy Basil Chicken – Herbs are abundant in the summertime, both at produce stands and farmers markets and in plant form.  Thai basil chicken features either the licorice-like taste of Thai basil or the subtle spicy undertones of spicy globe basil.  Although we love to use Italian basil, refrain from using it in this recipe.  It’s overly sweet flavor does not lend well to this particular dish.

Jugo de Sandia (Watermelon Juice) – The dog days of summer evoke images of certain foods in the United States.  We often think of sweet corn on the cob, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, abundant sweet berries, lemonade, sun tea, and yes, watermelon.  Our father has a particular fondness for the giant fruit and memories of him shoving the big red pieces in the blender to make this refreshing juice are stuck in our heads.  We’ve added a tiny twist to his tried and true method of making the juice that stems from our Thai heritage.

This is how we hope summer will look to us one day, until then these summery recipes will have to do.

Bangkok Grilled Chicken Drumettes or Chicken Wings – One word in the title of this recipe explains why this is a summertime dish: “grilled.”

Thai Iced Coffee – As much as we love coffee, often in the summertime a hot one doesn’t sound too appealing, especially if it 90 degrees outside…in the shade.  Come to think of it, this might be why Thai people first came up with this drink.  We both remember visiting Thailand during the summer when the weather can be likened to sitting inside an oven.  Thai iced coffee is sweet and refreshing and therefore perfect for those sweaty days when a hot coffee doesn’t sound so cooling.  Diet warning:  this beverage is tasty but only because a lot of sugar is involved.  We suggest saving this drink as a treat.

Thai-xican Shrimp Ceviche – This recipe is great for the summer because it requires lots of fresh ingredients, is served cold and boasts plenty of fresh and zesty flavors from the cilantro, fresh ginger, scallions, and lime zest.  A great variation on this dish is to add a ripe but firm avocado, diced into about 1/2 inch cubes.   If you’re adding avocado, add it last to ensure its freshness.

Thai-xican Shrimp Ceviche: serve as the "surf" during a surf & turf meal.

Lychee Berry Smoothie (non-dairy)– Lots of different kinds of fruits become more affordable and more abundant during the summer months.  This simple non-dairy smoothie drink is cool and refreshing and is actually perfect for entertaining.  Add some rum or vodka for a summer party twist.

Thai Beef Salad with Green Mango – This salad is summer friendly because of two things – you can break out the grill to cook the flank steak and you finally have an excuse to buy that mint plant you were eying at the nursey (“When am I going to use mint?” you might have asked yourself).  Well, you’ll use mint in this recipe, giving this dish a refreshing flavor.

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Chili Garlic Chicken Wings: Perfect for a Party

Posted in Entrees, Fusion, Recipes, Thai with tags , , , , , , on June 19, 2010 by Thaixican

Get a stack of napkins or some wet naps because they wings are as messy as they are tasty.

Next to the ketchup and mustard in the refrigerator while growing up there was something else that we used just as often as these traditional American condiments – chili garlic sauce.  The thick hot sauce is popular in several Asian countries and consists of a blend of red chilies, garlic, vinegar, and salt.  This sauce boasts a variety of uses.  It can be used a dipping sauce, over food, in cooking, in marinades, or as an ingredient in another sauce.  Chili garlic sauce definitely has a spicy kick but is a flavorful choice for anyone who likes a little spice to their food.  If you enjoy a traditional hot wing, you will be able to handle these chili garlic ones.

The details behind this sauce are only half the story that surrounds this recipe.  Both my sister and I, whose significant others are both from the Midwest, have created monsters.  Both men insist on putting the sauce on everything and by everything we mean anything.  The sauce doesn’t just make its way onto Asian food for them but is used by both over pasta, as a dipping sauce for anything that might require a dipping sauce, and even a top pizza.

In steps Erik Losnedahl, husband to Maleesa Losnedahl (one-half of the Thaixican food blog).  Although he rarely cooks, he enjoys eating, like most men.  It was almost a surprise then when he conceptualized a chicken wing that was coated in the sauce and sprinkled with cilantro and scallions.  So Maleesa went into the kitchen and came up with this recipe.  The wings were a hit across the board, both sweet and spicy in flavor and extremely simple to make.

A note about where to find chili garlic sauce – This sauce was originally only found in the United States in Asian grocery stores.   Today, it has become such a popular and more widely used condiment that it can be found in your local supermarket.  Check the Asian food section and chances are this sauce is available.  Huy Fong Foods brand is the one mostly found in stores and is characterized by its green cap and rooster on the front of the jar.

Makes about 20 wings or drumettes

3-4 lbs. chicken wings or chicken drumettes
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup soy sauce, preferably low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425° F.  If using chicken wings, remove the pinions.  Arrange the wings on a foil-lined baking sheet or greased baking dish (cooking spray or a light layer or vegetable oil will do).  Lightly salt and pepper all wings on both sides and place them in the oven for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring continuously.  Bring to the mixture to a soft boil and reduce to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously to ensure that it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Chop the cilantro and scallions and combine in a small bowl.  Set aside.

After the first 20 minutes in the oven, remove the wings, turn each over, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.

When the wings are cooked, remove from oven and coat each wing or drumettes in the prepared sauce, ensuring that each is coated evenly.

Place all wings on a plate and sprinkle the cilantro and scallion mixture over the top.  The cilantro and scallion mixture can be optional.  Serve immediately.

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Lychee-Berry Smoothie

Posted in Beverages, Desserts, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Thaixican

Lychee fruit has a hard shell that can be peeled away from the fruit, revealing the sweet and succulent flesh on the inside, which surrounds a small pit.

As much as we love berries, they typically exit our diet during the winter months when they skyrocket in price.  Thankfully, it’s almost officially summer and berries are affordable and abundant once again.  Take advantage of the plethora of berries and make a refreshing dairy-free fruit smoothie.  If anything, this beverage is more of a fruit slushie, allowing the fruit and ice to mix to make a summery cool drink.  The lychee fruit, a member of the soapberry family and native to southern China, is a common sight in Asia and is beginning to make their debut, canned, in your local grocery store.  Other places that canned lychees can be found are international markets, health food stores, and Asian grocery stores.  The strawberries and raspberries can be substituted for other berries as well.  Instead of raspberries try blackberries or blueberries.  Likewise, this smoothie with just lychees and strawberries is tasty and refreshing as well.

Makes approx. 3 cups or serves 2-3 people

1 can lychee fruit with syrup
1 cup strawberries, quartered
½ cup raspberries, left whole
1 cup ice

Note about the lychees: Place the entire can of lychee fruit, including the syrup, in the blender.  The sweet syrup will replace adding additional sugar.  Taste test the smoothie before serving and if additional sugar is wanted, add it at this time, blending the mixture for another minute.

Place all ingredients in a blender and process on high for about 2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth.  Serve immediately.  If you’re trying to impress, garnish the drink with a sprig of fresh mint or cut a whole strawberry, with the leaves still left on, lengthwise about halfway down the middle and slip it onto the rim of the class.

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