Thai Fourth of July

One of the (many) awesome things about a long weekend is having the
extra time to try recipes you might normally avoid. Thai food is way
beyond my comfort zone, with its hard-to-find ingredients, exotic
flavours that require a delicate hand, and the simple fact that my Thai
cooking never tastes as good as the stuff I order from my favourite
take-out place. This weekend seemed like a nice time push my culinary
boundaries.

A recent meal of coconut poached chicken (divine!) at Toronto’s Red
Tea Box
inspired me to duplicate the dish at home. I wish I could say I
came through with flying colours. Alas, the chicken turned out tough
and stringy, and it lacked the succulent coconuttyness I had hoped for.
I plan to try again (maybe marinate in the coconut milk next time) and
report when there’s something worth reporting.

My kitchen adventures were not in vain, as I discovered a magical
salad to pair with the chicken. May I present to you…Thai-Style Coleslaw!

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Okay, so there’s nothing revolutionary about a dish like this; it’s
basically shredded cabbage in an Asian-inspired vinaigrette. And it’s probably not even actual Thai food. But I
love that I had all the ingredients easily at hand, and the resulting
deliciousness was way out of proportion to the effort required in
preparation. Plus it made great leftovers!

The original recipe comes from Rachel Ray via ‘katie in the UP’ on Recipezaar,
but I tweaked it a little to suit my taste. I cut back on
the amount of vegetable oil in the dressing to make it lighter—both
in taste and in calories!—but I
increased the sesame oil for depth of flavour. I also eliminated the
cucumber ’cause I hate how that vegetable gets soggy when you soak it
in dressing. If I didn’t have a wedding/white dress photo-ops in my
near future, I probably would have added the toasted sesame seeds or
slivered almonds to nice effect.

Serve this as a refreshing counterpoint
to a hot protein dish like chicken or tofu stirfry, or make it a main
course by throwing in some leftover BBQ chicken, steak, etc.

THAI-STYLE COLESLAW (with apologies to authentic Thai food)

Ingredients

  • 1 small shredded green cabbage, about 4 c. (I used prebagged coleslaw mix. Shameless!)
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced 
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • generous fresh-ground pepper, to taste

Whisk dressing together and toss with salad ingredients in a large
bowl. Let it sit at least an hour before serving to give the flavours a
chance to meld. And stay tuned for the refinements on that coconut
poached chicken…because I’m determined to prove that Thai can be done at home!

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