Thai Red Chicken Curry

red thai curry

I grew up with a fairly narrow view of ethnic cuisines.  Anything outside of Chinese take-out or “Mexican food” served at Taco Bell was considered “icky”.  As far as I was concerned, Pad Thai was the only acceptable Thai dish to my American palate.

Luckily my tastes changed as I got older and was exposed more and more dishes and flavors from all around the world.  I can’t imagine what life would be like now without all of the different cuisines I eat on a weekly basis. Thai food being among my favorites!

My friend introduced me to Thai curries at a restaurant in Hollywood that features a Thai Elvis impersonator who croons to you during your meal.  She suggested I try her panang curry and I’ve been hooked ever since.

curry paste

I’ve been experimenting with some Asian ingredients and attempting to make more authentic Asian meals at home.  When I figured out I could make Thai curry at home, it was all over.  Now, I can’t handle spice like a normal person (I’m from the Midwest, after all), but I do love the way this dish makes me sweat and my nose run.  This recipe tastes authentic compared to what I’ve had in Thai restaurants, but I used ingredients that are easy to find.

mise en place for thai curry

This dish has all of the aspects of Thai cooking that I have come to love: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty.  Once you get the right balance of flavors, you can’t go wrong.  I make this red curry at least every other week and I’ve made it enough times that it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.

thai curry simmering

Thai Red Chicken Curry

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • scant 2 Tbsp. curry paste
  • 2 chicken breasts – sliced thinly
  • 1 red pepper – cut into strips
  • 1 green pepper – cut into strips
  • 1/2 yellow onion – sliced
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch + 1 Tbsp. water – whisk together to make a slurry (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped basil (Thai basil is best, but Italian basil works in a pinch)
  1. Pat chicken strips dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Add curry paste and garlic until it starts to brown slightly (about 1 minute).
  3. Add chicken to the pot and mix until chicken is fully coated with the curry paste. Cook for about 1 minute.
  4. Add coconut milk and water, and bring to simmer.  Simmer for about 4 minutes.
  5. Add peppers and onions, simmering for another 4 minutes.
  6. If you want thicker curry (I always do), add the optional corn starch and water slurry now.  Stir in and simmer until the curry has thickened.
  7. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients through basil. Taste and adjust as needed.
  8. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Notes on this recipe: You can add any veggies to this dish, but peppers and onions are my favorite.  I frequently see carrots, baby corn, tomatoes, snap peas, and green beans in other versions of this curry.

I’ve found that 2 Tbsp. of the curry paste is just right.  Any more and it’s so spicy I can’t eat it.  Any less and I can’t taste the curry flavor.  If you can handle heat better than this Midwesterner, you can always add an extra teaspoon or two at the end of cooking.

You can make homemade curry paste or you can buy a giant tub at a local Asian market or on Amazon.com for about $5.  One tub will last forever in the fridge; I’ve made about 10 curries with the same tub. Don’t skip or substitute the curry paste…it’s essential.

More traditional recipes call for kaffir lime leaves, but I find lime juice works just as easily and is a lot easier to find at the grocery store.

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Thai red curry

Do you cook a variety of ethnic cuisines at home?  What’s your favorite to prepare?

-Mads

 

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Balcony Garden Pests

Hello friends,

Summer is in full swing in sunny Ca-li-forn-eye-ay and my balcony garden has come to life!  It’s quite the jungle out there on the 4 X 10 space reserved for a table, two chairs, a grill, and an overflowing garden of herbs and vegetables.

Then and now garden

To update you on a few things from the last post, I ended up not using fertilizer.  About once per week I dumped my used coffee grounds in the soil, but the plants grew just fine without chemicals.

I pruned the basil here and there for sprinkling on dishes, but I also had enough to make pesto every few weeks.  Having homegrown and homemade pesto on hand at all times was well worth the effort.

And it was an effort.  Let me tell you.

About a month into the gardening endeavor I started to notice giant holes in my basil.  Soon the holes spread to my tomato plant and eventually spread to my bell pepper.  Somebody was eating my hard-earned vegetable bounty!

I read about all sorts of natural bug repellent remedies on the internet like creating a beer/soap trench for the bugs to drown in, sprinkling banana peels in the soil, etc.  As it turns out, it is much more effective to identify the pest and then find the appropriate remedy.

caterpillar

I posted this picture on Facebook and instantly got several comments that I had caterpillars (caterpillar=not pictured, caterpillar poop=full frontal).  Sure enough, I found one big beast wrapping himself in a cocoon in a basil leaf.  Filthy bastard!

The trick to killing the little jerks is to mix in a saucepan over medium heat 2 cups water with anything spicy and a small amount of dish soap.  I added what we had on hand, which was chopped garlic, onion, jalapeno, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Then I put the concoction in a spray bottle to spritz the plants down every few days (make sure to spray at night because the soap might burn leaves in hotter temps).

The pest situation is finally under control AND the tomatoes are actually starting to ripen!  Tomatoes are ready to eat when they turn red and pulling them off the vine takes almost no effort at all.

tomatoes

I made a lovely caprese salad with these 3 beauties earlier this week.  They were sweet and mild and oh so satisfying.  I highly recommend planting your own mini garden because it is definitely rewarding.

How do you deal with garden pests?  What’s the worst critter you’ve battled?

-Mads

P.s. If you noticed I neglected to mention the cilantro, there is a reason.  More updates to come.

Honeymoon in Belize: Part 2

Hey,

This post is the 2nd in a series documenting our honeymoon trip to Belize. Enjoy!
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caye caulker

Caye Caulker is a beautiful island in Belize, where the motto is “Go Slow” and they mean it! After several days of beach-lounging and strolling up and down the coast, we decided it was time for some adventure. Naturally, we signed up for snorkeling in Shark Ray Alley with the sting rays and nurse sharks.

snorkel

The first stop in the snorkel adventure was a coral reef, which proved to be a little daunting for Jonathan and myself. Jonathan is a first-time snorkeler, so getting him comfortable in the water with a mask on, while trying not to drown myself in the process was slightly anxiety-provoking. We eventually decided that we were holding the group back and to sit this round out. After all, we had two more snorkel stops throughout the day.

The next stop was Shark Ray Alley! Basically, guides stop by several times a day, throw some chum out, and let tourists swim amongst the sting rays and nurse sharks that come to feed. Now, I’ve gone snorkeling with sting rays before, but the addition of nurse sharks (they are about my size) was terrifying. Right before I was about to hop in, I asked the guide if he’s ever been bitten. He proceeded to point out the scars on his fingers stating it was “no big deal”.

The Lazy Lizard--Where Ben and Emily had an awkward date in the sand on The Bachelor

The Lazy Lizard–Where Ben and Emily had an awkward date in the sand on The Bachelor

My thought process ver batem: Right. Ok. Deep breath. I can do this. Count to three. One. Two. Nope. Not doing it. Come on! You’re in Belize and will never be able to do this again. Nope. I like my fingers. Jonathan’s already in the water and he still has all his extremities. One. Two. THE HELL WITH IT–THREE!

It was incredible. I could actually hear the sharks choping through the chum and swishing their fins around. Then the guide picked one up like it aint no thang (no wonder he has mauled fingers) and we got to pet the shark. Amazing. I highly recommend doing really dumb and dangerous things from time to time.

sunset

When we got back to the island, we decided it was too early for dinner, so we had cocktails instead. I do not recommend mixing booze with sunburn, swimming, heat, and empty tummies.
Luckily, we found huge bottles of water and pizza with habenero sauce to save us from heat stroke. It was touch and go there for a moment.

sunset

The next morning we took our water taxi back to Belize City to pick up our rental car. Something about driving on the open road in a foreign country totally makes you feel like Indiana Jones. We were humming the theme song throughout the entire trip.

Our next stop was San Ignacio!
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Have you ever gone on any outdoor adventures that make you question your own sanity?  What did you do?

More to come…

Honeymoon in Belize: Part 1

Hello folks,
 
I recently went on a honeymoon trip to Belize with my lovely husband, Jonathan.  I wanted to post some bits and pieces of the trip from my travel journal and our photographs.  The following post is the 1st in a series and documents our first few days of the trip.  I hope you enjoy it! 
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After two, five-hour flights we arrived in Belize City.  Jonathan was confused as to why we were descending, as he didn’t see a city or airport of any kind.  But soon a janky little building and a tiny landing strip came into view, and I knew we had arrived.
The sky and water changed colors continuously throughout the day.  It was so magical.

The sky and water changed colors continuously throughout the day. It was so magical.

Our trip advisors (Jonathan’s Belizean coworker and the internet) told us to take a cab directly from the airport out of Belize City, due to high crime rates.  Driving to the water taxi, I could see why.  The poverty, garbage, flea-ridden and bloody dogs were none too appealing.
The “water taxi” more closely resembled a slave ship than the luxurious name entails.  Luckily I had taken a high dose of motion-sickness pills and we had a ziplock baggie just in case.
The mixture of heat, body odor, and food smells were more than I could handle.  At this point, Jonathan and I were both extremely concerned that we had chosen the wrong honeymoon destination.
Just as we contemplated turning back, Caye Caulker appeared on the horizon.  This quaint little island off the coast of Belize is teeming with white sand beaches, brightly colored beachfront properties, and hammocks swaying in the breeze.
Finally, we arrived!  We celebrated our arrival by having a local beer on the sandy beach.

Finally, we arrived! We celebrated our arrival by having a local beer on the sandy beach.

Jonathan and I fist-bumped.
The first night we dined at Joe’s Habeneros, a romantic restaurant with Belizean food catered to our American tastes.  Delicious.
Much to our delight, the hotel room overlooked the pool, which overlooked the ocean.  It turns out, you can buy happiness, and it is found at the Island Magic Hotel’s honeymoon suite.
View from our balcony for the first portion of the trip.

View from our balcony for the first portion of the trip.

After an 11-hour nap, we awoke with renewed excitement.  It’s our honeymoon!!!  We drank coffee (fresh OJ for him) and enjoyed fresh fruit (bacon for him) while people-watching.  Fun fact: our tablemate did the dirty in the ocean the previous night with a traveling stranger.  Gooooooooooooood morning!
I can't explain how relaxing and lovely our breakfast was.  I could have stayed there all day.

I can’t explain how relaxing and lovely our breakfast was. I could have stayed there all day.

We then grabbed our books, our suits, and plenty of SPF 70 and hit the beach.  It was glorious.  We leaped off the dock into the ocean and then swam a few laps in the saltwater pool.  Why do you need both?  Why not?
This looks like a naked photoshopped adventure on the open sea.  I promise...it is!

This looks like a naked photoshopped adventure on the open sea. I promise…it is!

dock
Lunch was some fantastic garlic butter fish with rice and beans at Rainbow Grill & Bar.  Then we decided to stroll around the main drag (you can get around the whole island in 20 minutes by foot) and found some incredible homemade ice cream.  If that wasn’t enough, a woman wheeled a cart of homemade cakes right by us.  She called herself “The Cake Lady” and she had a whole heard of people and dogs asking for cakes.  Naturally, we had to have a slice of pineapple cake smothered in caramel.  Vacation is the best.
Betta no litta

Betta no litta

If all that wasn’t enough, we had grilled lobster for dinner.  Rose’s restaurant had a limited menu.  Pick what sea critter you want out front, then they’ll grill it up and take care of the rest.  The sidewalk “menu” was the best free advertising I’ve ever seen.  The smell alone would draw people in from blocks away.
Rose's "menu"

Rose’s “menu”

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Married folks, did you have a honeymoon?  Where’d you go?
Non-married folks, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
-Mads

Honeymoon Time!

Hey team!

Jonathan and I are finally going on our honeymoon!  We were planning on going the day after we got married, but I made a scheduling error and actually had to go back to school the next day.  Womp womp.
When I discovered my boo boo, I sat and wept for the vacation that would never be, but then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and planned our honeymoon over winter break.

WE ARE GOING TO BELIZE!!!

Click image for original source. From destination360.com

A beach in Belize…yes, please!  Click image for original source. From destination360.com

Honestly, Belize was not our top choice for destinations (Argentina, Bora Bora, and Thailand came to mind), but it was the rainy season almost everywhere that sounded interesting.  Belize was a good compromise for someplace slightly tropical with other interesting landscapes, and affordable.  Plus, Jonathan and I are big travel addicts, so I’m sure we’ll get to those other places soon.
The hope is to do at least 1 historical thing (Mayan ruins), 1 beach thing (snorkeling and relaxing on an island), and 1 Indiana Jones thing (cave tubing).  I’m sure we’ll do much more, as we are there for 11 days, but these are our main goals.
We’ll also be on the lookout for John McAfee’s mansion and any evidence of his bath salt drug kingpin ring and murder charges.  More on that bizarre story here.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?  What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation?
-Mads

Sweet and Sour Pork

Hello friends,

I realize it’s strange to post about my weight-loss and then immediately post about deep-fried pork, but everything in moderation! 😛

I recently married a Chinese-American man.  His dad is renowned for his bbq pork buns (cha siu bao), and his grandma makes the absolute best chicken curry.  I want our kids to grow up and learn Cantonese, understand the traditions, and eat the delicious homemade cuisines of Hong Kong.

Which is why I have been attempting to create fabulous Chinese dishes at home.

After I stocked my pantry with a few Asian staples, I found that cooking was not as intimidating as I thought.  (Keeping soy sauce, chili sauce, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and oyster sauce on hand helped a lot.)

This recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork came from Easy Chinese Recipes.  The pork was restaurant-quality, but it was also very easy to make.

To start, cut the pork into bite-sized pieces and marinade in 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. corn starch, and 1/2 tsp. rice wine or sherry.

Then chop up your veggies and set aside.  I used onion, bell peppers, green onion, garlic, and pineapple.  You could easily add snap peas, carrots, or whatever your little heart desires.

Kitchen trick: If you place a paper towel behind your cutting board, you can scrape the yucky bits off of the board for easy cleanup!

Jonathan’s heart is easily won over by pork, so this recipe was an instant hit!

While your 2 inches of vegetable oil is heating up to 350 degrees in the pan, whip together the fry batter.  (Fry batter=1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 egg white, 1/3 cup water, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, shake-o-salt)

Make this step look really good.

Making kitchens sexy since 2012.

Everything tastes better deep-fried.  Amiright?

Kitchen tip: If you want to keep your fry oil for future frying adventures, put it in a mason jar in the fridge. Then bring it to room temperature before your next sweet and sour pork dinner!

Deep fry the pork until golden brown, turning occasionally.  Babysit that pork with love.  When it’s done, drain off the excess oil on a paper towel, just like you would with bacon.

My babies.

Grab another pan and heat up 1 Tbsp. of oil.  Get to stir-frying those veggies!  Once the veggies are slightly softened, add the sweet and sour sauce.

Sweet and Sour Sauce = 2 Tbsp. ketchup, 1 Tbsp. plum sauce, 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire, 1 tsp. rice vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp. oyster sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, 4 Tbsp. water, 1/4 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. cornstarch

Once the sauce starts to thicken, add the pork and toss to coat.  Serve over rice.

What is your favorite ethnic cuisine?  What is the most intimidating cuisine you have attempted to make in your home?  Did it work or did you have a kitchen disaster?  

-Mads

p.s. You can substitute a lot of the ingredients for sweet and sour pork if you don’t have a lot of Asian sauces.  This website is a great resource for food substitutions: http://www.foodsubs.com/

 

 

A Welcome Distraction

Remember me?  I have been off the grid for over a month, so I’m sorry for my disappearance.  I’ll be posting with a little more frequency soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this guest post from my eloquent friend, Dik.  🙂  -Mads

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Friday evening. Barreling through the mountain ridge ten minutes west of Victorville, jettisoning past the smog and the fetid stench of the work week. Behind you, the sun quietly descending through the hills. A palpable sense of excitement seeps in through open windows. Wind in your hair, tickling the back of your neck. It feels good. And one word is on everyone’s tongue.


Vegas.


Whispered at first, it becomes kinetic as the excitement grows. The lights, the city – the feeling of unbridled recklessness. And then Tears for Fears plays on the radio. A moment passes. Furtive glances exchanged as no one touches the dial, each waiting for the other to start. Finally the car is filled with a chorus of jubilation: “…everybody wants to rule the world.” Grins become laughter and the first inside story is born.


Vegas is more than a place – its an idea. Its a tocsin that pierces the doldrums of a Wednesday afternoon with daydreams of possibility. You ask yourself: “It’s been too long, why haven’t we done this sooner?”


Each successive gas station has its own unique blend of charm – and Redbull – from the Shell in Barstow to the ARCO in Baker across from the giant thermometer. You feel the need to take pictures of it all- anything you can do to preserve the moment. Capture it. Hold on to that feeling – tonight is yours for the taking.


And just as the last vestiges of daylight slip away, a new dawn appears on the horizon. You can see it just as you pass Jean – that solitary beacon of light nearly forty miles away. The Luxor calls to you – it calls to everyone. All windows are down and the car is silent. Everyone lost in their own reveries – memories of past excess, hopes of future abandon.


And then you see the lights unfurl before you like Christmas. Turn off the GPS – its time to get lost…