Thai


I thought I would not get around to any writing while my visitor is here, but seen as I am unable to fall asleep again I might just as well spend some time blogging instead of rolling around in bed.

Nic is here from Taiwan and currently on a round-the-world trip that will take her to Greece, Turkey, parts of Europe and then Canada. I am jealous, even though I’ve spent most of this year living in foreign countries, Taiwan, the US, and Thailand, and have been traveling a lot I always feel a tinge of jealousy when I hear about other people’s travels.

I met her and after some initial problems with the airport bus we decided to take a taxi straight home. Alexander had fresh coffee and some delightfully delicious toasted sandwiches with tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil from the balcony waiting when we arrived.

I suggested that we go to Ban Chiang for dinner. It is the same place I took Alexander on his first night in Bangkok and we decided back then that we should come back at some point in the future, Nic’s arrival seemed the perfect excuse.

We made a stop in Siam first to satisfy my craving for a tall, warm latte. Vanilla Industry in Siam Square seemed like the perfect option. This coffee shop/ bakery/ restaurant/ bake shop was a surprise discovery some weeks ago and is probably the most adorable and stylish coffee shop in Bangkok. There are many pleasant and nice places here, but this one takes first prize in my books.

My latte urge was pleasantly satisfied and I also convinced the others to share a brownie with me from the cake stand full of tempting goodies like sunken chocolate cake, banoffee pie, heavy chocolate cake and nine-layer vanilla cake.

We spent some time browsing around Siam Square and discovered It’s Happened To Be  A Closet. A store that mixes interiors, fashion, food, and beauty in a tiny space with a lot of creativity and style. Anybody with a love of food, design and style who ever finds themselves in this part of Bangkok should make a point of visiting these two establishments. Big must-not-miss places!

After Alexander picked up a sexy new T-shirt and Nicole and I contemplated some new wardrobe items we headed to Ban Chiang near the Surasak BTS stop. Tempting as it was we opted not to sit outside in the lush tropical garden but rather in the air conditioned comfort of the old teak house, pleasingly decorated with antique Thai furniture and old family portraits of the Thai monarchy.

The highlight on the menu on our previous visit was the minced chicken wrapped in kale leaves. But this time we opted for papaya salad, tofu marinated in lime and ginger, and fish souffle in a coconut shell. Everything was fantastic and this time the fish souffle was the highlight. A coconut shell gets filled with some shredded cabbage, fish and some aromatic Thai herbs and spices. The fish turns melt-in-the-mouth soft during the cooking process and the flavors spread throughout the fish, the cabbage and the coconut flesh. After we finished the dish Alexander and I scooped out generous helpings of the soft white interior until only the shell was left.

I would have loved to try some dessert, but the meal was satisfyingly filling and we so we decided to call it a night and return home.

An old favorite of mine is stuffed or filled chicken breasts cooked in liquid of one kind or another. The options are almost limitless; I’ve used pesto, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta and even peanut butter for stuffing and cooked in balsamic vinegar, red wine and stock.

Seen as we are living in Thailand and get to savor new combinations of ingredients and tastes on a regular basis I decided to experiment with a new filling and cooking sauce inspired by some Thai flavors.

Collect:

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 red chili, sliced
3 sprigs of spring onion, the white and light green parts separated from the darker parts- mince two of the spring onions and slice the third on in half
3 kafir lime leaves, roughly copped
2 big shallots, sliced
juice of half a lime
2 chicken breasts, trimmed of the skin and fat
1 cup of flour
salt
toothpicks
½ chicken stock cube
½ cup of warm water
½ cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder

Make:

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, when the oil is warm, add garlic and chili and fry quickly until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the halved spring onion) and stir-fry it for about two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Set aside.

Dissolve the stock cube in the warm water, add the curry powder and coconut milk and set aside.

Flatten your chicken breasts with one hand and make careful incisions in them with a sharp knife for the filling. Divide the stuffing between the two chicken breasts and insert half a sprig of spring onion in each. Close the breasts with one or two toothpicks. Season with a little salt.

Spread the flour out onto a flat surface and roll the breasts around in it till covered, shake of any excess flour and set aside. In the same saucepan you used for preparing the filling, add a little oil. Put the chicken breast in the saucepan and cook until a light golden brown. To this, add the liquid mixture and lower your temperature to a gentle simmer. Cover the saucepan slightly and cook the chicken until it is cooked through. I left it on for about 20 minutes.

The end result was superb. The flavors of the filling were pleasantly subtle, complimented by the curry flavored cooking sauce, the leftover sauce I poured over the steamed rice I served it with. The chicken breasts were also incredibly tender. Definitely one to try again.

Suggestions for Chicken Breasts with Thai flavors filling.
– depending on your personal tastes you can add more or less of any of the ingredients to change the flavor and of course you can add any other ingredients that may add to the end result.
– the dark green parts of the spring onions can be used as garnish and a little bit of curry powder sprinkled around a side of the plate adds to the presentation
– keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks

The rambutan is a drupe related to lychees and longans, but much more vicious looking. Its skin is usually varying shades of red and covered in curving, vicious looking tentacles. However, moving through the bizarre looking outside you get to the translucent flesh clinging to the pit, the taste much less overwhelmingly sweet than a lychee and not as peculiar as the longan.

For my birthday this year Alexander took me to Saladang Song, a popular and very chic Thai restaurant in Pasadena. There is a great review of the restaurant at Foodie Universe’s Restaurant Reviews.

On the menu I noticed a rambutan salad that included ginger, toasted coconut flakes, and peanuts. Intrigued we ordered it.

The fruit was served skinned and pitted with the rest of the ingredients arranged around the plate. You put a little bit of everything in the rambutan, roll it in a lettuce leave and eat. What an astonishing burst of flavor and texture it was! I could not wait to get to Asia where rambutans are dime a dozen so I could try to recreate this dish and recently, I finally did.

It takes a bit of time to prepare, but I assure you, you will not be sorry.


For an appetizer for two people you will need:

8 rambutans, skinned and carefully pitted
½ tablespoon crushed peanuts
½ tablespoon lightly toasted coconut flakes
1 small red chili seeded and minced
8 very small pieces of lime, you can leave the skin on
½ tablespoon of minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
a little water
one or two large kale leaves, washed and sliced into long strips
8 toothpicks

Make:

Heat the sugar over medium heat in a saucepan and add a tiny bit of water. Remove from heat when the sugar is melted and becoming all sticky. Scrape it into a bowl so it can set and then crush it a little. It should have a hard yet crumbly consistency.

In your rambutans, put a little bit of all the ingredients so you get a mix of dry, crunchy, sweet, sour and spicy. Wrap it up in a strip of the kale leave, insert a toothpick to keep it all together and you’re ready to impress your dinner partner(s).

Suggestions for making filled rambutans:
– I’ve only ever seen fresh rambutans in Asia, if you cannot find them fresh, try using the canned variety, possibly available at Asian supermarkets, although this may be really sweet.
– removing the skin and pitting is tricky: slice the skin open from top to bottom on one side and slip out the fruit, make another incision from the top of the fruit to the bottom and gently pry the flesh away from the pit
– to save time, instead of the caramelized sugar you can use a drop of dark honey
– when serving, always keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks