Simply Thai with Chef Jeanne Raffetto-Tentis

THAI NOODLE SOUP w/ SHRIMP                       Serves 4


8 oz. dried Thai rice noodles, medium or linguini-width

4 c chicken stock, or vegetable if vegetarian

2 stalks lemongrass, crushed and cut into 2-inch lengths on the bias

2-3 kaffir lime leaves or 2T lime zest

1 thumb size piece galangal or fresh ginger, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 T Thai fish sauce + 1/2 T soy sauce or all soy sauce if vegetarian

1 T palm sugar or dark brown sugar

1 Thai chili or Serrano or jalapeno, sliced thin, or more to taste

5 oz. coconut milk

1 c Napa cabbage or bok choy, cut into bite sized pieces

½ lb.  raw shrimp, shelled and deveined or medium tofu, cut into cubes

¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped

¼ c fresh Thai basil or regular basil, chopped

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Place the noodles in the water and allow to soak until noodles are al dente, about 5-8 minutes.  Drain.
  2. Place stock in a soup pot along with the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and carrots.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes or until carrots are softened.
  3. Add the fish sauce/soy sauce, sugar, chili, and coconut milk, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  4. Add the cabbage or bok choy and simmer until it is softened.
  5. Taste broth and adjust the sweetness and saltiness if necessary.  If you desire additional sourness, add some fresh squeezed lime juice.
  6. Just before serving, add the shrimp and cook briefly until they turn pink, just a few seconds or so depending on the size.
  7. To serve, add a portion of noodles to individual bowls.  Ladle a portion of the soup over each and top with a sprinkle of the cilantro and basil.

Note:  If desired, you can fish out the lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal before serving.  Taste before adding the coconut milk and if desired flavor is there, it is easiest to remove before adding the coconut milk.


JASMINE RICE                                                               

Makes about 5 cups


2 c Thai jasmine rice*

3 c water


Place the rice and water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Stir the rice with chopsticks or wooden spoon to loosen grains.  Simmer for 2 minutes then reduce heat to very low.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork.  Keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

*If you wish to wash the rice as some Asian cooks do, place the rice in a strainer.  Under running cold water, wash the rice using your hand to stir the grains around.  Personally, I think this step is unnecessary and may remove some of the fragrance of jasmine rice.


General guideline for cooking jasmine rice is 1 part rice to 1 ½ part water.  The closest substitute is Indian basmati rice.


BASIC STICKY RICE                                             

Yield:  3 c rice = 6 ½ c cooked


Khao Neeo – Staple food in Laos, Northern Thailand and Northeast Thailand.  It is also widely eaten in Cambodia, Vietnam, Yunnan, and other parts of Thailand.  It is often used for making sweets and ceremonial foods.


Sticky rice is medium to long grain and opaque white before cooking.  It is sometimes called glutinous or sweet rice.


Sticky rice is fun food eaten without utensils.  To eat it, take a large ball of rice in one hand, then pull a smaller bit-sized piece off with your other hand and squeeze it gently into a firm clump.  It is then like a piece of bread.  Use it to scoop up some sauce or grilled meat.


To Prepare:  Measure desired amount of rice.  Soak overnight in room temperature water.


Soak the rice in a container that holds at least twice the volume of the rice.  Cover the rice with 2-3inches of water and soak for 6 to 24 hours.  The longer soak gives more flavor and more even texture, but if need be you can shorten the soak time by soaking it in warm water (about 100 degrees) for about two hours.


Drain the rice and place it in a conical steamer basket or alternative steaming arrangement (see note).  Set the basket or steamer over several inches of boiling water.  Do not allow the rice to touch the water.


Cover and steam for 25 minutes, or until the rice is shiny and tender.


If using alternative steaming method, turn the rice over after 20 minutes so that top layer is on the bottom.


When cooking is complete, turn the cooked rice out onto a clean work surface.  Use a wooden spoon or rice paddle to flatten it out a little, then turn it over on itself, first from one side to the other.  This helps get rid of lumps.  After several foldings the rice will be an even round lump.  Place it in a covered basket or in a serving bowl covered by a damp cloth or lid.


Serve warm or a room temperature, directly from the basket or bowl.  The rice will dry out if exposed to the air as it cools, so keep covered until and during serving.


In Thailand and Laos, cooked sticky rice is kept warm and moist in covered baskets.


Equipment Note:  Rice can be steamed in a Chinese bamboo steamer or a steamer insert or a large sieve.  Line it with cheesecloth or muslin, place over a large pot of boiling water and cover tightly.  The steamer must fit tightly so the steam does not escape and all the steam is forced up through the rice.





 THAI SQUASH CURRY w/ TOFU                        

Serves 6

1 lb. firm tofu, drained (boneless/skinless chicken breast can be substituted)

1 small butternut squash (about 2lb.)

1T vegetable oil

1 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 t Thai red curry paste

14 oz. coconut milk

½ c vegetable or chicken stock

2 T soy sauce

1 T palm sugar or packed brown sugar

1 T fish sauce

½ t sea salt

1-2 hot peppers, red or green, such as Thai, Serrano or jalapeno, thinly sliced

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

¼ c chopped fresh cilantro

2 T fresh lime juice

2 T salted peanuts, chopped

  1. Pat tofu dry  and cut into ¾-inch cubes.
  2. Peel and seed squash and cut into 3/4-inch cubes to make 3 cups.
  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; cook onion, garlic and curry paste, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add squash, coconut milk, stock, soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, and salt; bring to soft boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low; partially cover and simmer until squash is almost tender, about 12 minutes.
  6. Add red pepper, simmer for 5 minutes.  Add tofu; simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in cilantro and lime juice; sprinkle with peanuts.  Serve.

Note:  To make ahead:  Follow instructions through step 6.  Let cool for 30 minutes.  Cover and keep refrigerated for up to one day.  Reheat to continue.  Be careful not to bring to full boil as coconut milk may separate.



LEMON GRASS CHICKEN w/ CHILI                                                        

Serves 4


 1 lb. chicken thighs, boned and skinned

2 stalks fresh lemon grass (each 10-12 inches long)

2 T fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) or to taste

2 t sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 T canola oil

½ c shallots, sliced

1c chicken stock

1-2  thinly sliced fresh hot red or green chili, such as, Thai, Serrano or jalapeno

Fresh cilantro leaves


Trim excess fat from chicken thighs.  Cut into ¼ inch strips, 2-3 inches long.

Rinse lemon grass.  Cut off and discard tough tops and root ends; peel off outer green layers of stalk to tender white portion of bulbs.  Finely chop tender portions; you should have 5-6 T.

In a bowl, mix chicken, lemon grass, 2 T fish sauce, sugar, and garlic.

Set a 10-12 inch frying pan over high heat; when hot, add oil and shallots and stir until shallots begin to brown, about 1 minute.

Add the chicken mixture and stir until chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the stock and sliced chili to taste; bring mixture to a boil.  Taste and add more fish sauce if desired.

Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro.  Serve with hot cooked rice and stir fried vegetable, such as green beans and a light broth based soup.





The Thai Pantry


Coconut milk (nam gati) –  Made from grated coconut meat and water.  Used as a substitute for cow’s milk.  It is used to enrich soups, curries, stews, roasts, beverages and desserts.  In Thailand, coconut milk is especially important in curries, imparting a richness and sweetness that compliment the spiciness.


Fish Sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) – Fish sauce is the most important ingredient in Thai cuisine.  Like soy sauce, this salty fish extract is used to season food or make dipping sauces.  Five crabs, Squid, and Viet Huong are consistently good brands.  After opening, store in the refrigerator or a cool place.  Fish sauce will last up to two or three years if stored properly.


Five-spice powder – A fine brown powder made from a blend of star anise, fennel seed,

cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel.  Lending a licorice, woodsy fragrance, this  spice combination is great in marinades, especially for roast duck, stews and vegetarian dishes.


Galanga ( kha) – Also known as Thai ginger, galanga is a cousin of ginger.  Available

fresh, frozen, or dried (don’t bother with the latter), galanga is easy to use.  The flavor of galanga is best captured when added at the last minute of cooking.  If you purchase it fresh, store it in the freezer for future use.


Ginger (gung) – Sharp and pungent, ginger adds extraordinary flavor and zing to food, from savory dishes to desserts.  This spice is used as extensively as garlic in Thai cooking.  Available in most grocery stores.  Purchase and use fresh.  If wrinkly and dry it is too old.


Green curry paste – Made with green chilies, lemon grass, garlic, galanga, shallots, and

shrimp paste.  A milder curry, but should be used sparingly.  For better flavor store in the refrigerator after opening.  Buy a small quantity since you rarely need more than 2 TBS at a time.  If you are going to stock just one kind of Thai curry paste, buy this one.


Red curry paste – Red curry paste is made like the green except roasted red chilies are substituted for the green chilies.  The smoky flavor of roasted dried red chilies stands up particularly well against red meats.  The Mae Ploy brand is quite good.


Yellow curry paste – This is the “Indian” version of Thai curry and the mildest of all the

Curries.  Made with ingredients similar to the green and red pastes, yellow paste includes turmeric, which gives food a beautiful golden color.  Yellow curry greatly enhances fish, chicken, or vegetarian dishes.


Ground chili paste – Made from ground red chilies, garlic, and vinegar.  A stir fry that starts with oil, chili paste, and garlic is on solid ground.  Store in refrigerator after opening and it will keep indefinitely.


Hoisin sauce – Made from soybean puree, sugar and caramel sauce, hoisin sauce is primarily in dipping sauces, marinades, and stir-fries.  This sauce is never intended to be eaten straight.  Mix with onions, garlic, chilies, vinegar and crushed peanuts for a delicious sauce.


Jasmine rice (gao thom) – The long-grain “jasmine rice” is the preferred rice of Thai cooks.  It is similar in texture and fragrance to basmati rice.  The jasmine rice sold in the United States is imported primarily from Thailand and Vietnam.


Sticky rice (khao niao) – Also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice.  This rice is usually white and less translucent than jasmine rice.  Sticky rice is high in gluten, so the kernels tend to adhere to one another – convenient for finger-style eating and for dipping into curries and sauces.


Kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut) – These jade-green citrus leaves impart a lemon/lime aroma that is positively intoxicating.  Used extensively to flavor and liven up curries, soups, and stir-fries, kaffir lime leaves are picked from wild lime trees.  Leaves can be purchased fresh at Asian markets or found frozen.  Lime zest can be substituted but it is not as effective.  I buy the leaves whenever I can find them and keep them stored in my freezer in small freezer bags.


Lemon grass (takrai) – Lemon grass is used extensively in Thai cooking.  It is available fresh, frozen or dried.  Although fresh is best, I often buy fresh and store in the freezer for future use.  This herb has a fresh lemony ginger aroma and is used to infuse sauces, soups, curries and marinades.  Lemon zest can be substituted but it pales in comparison to the real thing.


Oyster sauce – Made from oyster extract, caramel sauce, and soy sauce, this brown sweet-salty sauce is used to enhance sit fries, especially those made with beef.  It is available in most markets.


Peanuts – Peanuts are widely used in Thai cooking.  Peanut sauces are common especially for satays, salads and curries.  Peanuts should be roasted and unsalted for use in most recipes.  Ground peanuts are often used as a garnish as well.


Rice noodles – These noodles made from rice are most frequently found dried and are referred to as rice sticks.  They are available either flat or round.  Flat noodles are distinguished by width-small, medium or wide.  The round variety, also called vermicelli, are used in salad style dishes and in soups.  Traditionally, rice noodles are soaked in water to soften before using but some people prefer to blanch them.


Sesame oil – Made from roasted sesame seeds, this rich, nutty oil is not used for cooking but instead as a flavoring for many Asian dishes.  It is a must in the pantry.  Sesame oil is graded similarly to olive oil (it has first and second pressings, for example).   I prefer Japanese-style sesame oil, either Kadoya or Marukan brands.


Shallots – Considered more aromatic than its onion cousin, shallots are roasted then pounded in a mortar along with lemon grass, chilies, and other spices to make curry pastes or marinades.


Soy sauce – There are many different types of soy sauce.  All- purpose Japanese Kikkoman will do for most recipes.   Most recipes will indicate if a lighter or darker style is needed.


Star anise – This six to eight pointed star spice imparts a flavor resembling cinnamon and cloves.  It is mostly used to flavor soups.


Tamarind – Comes from a long beanlike fruit of the tamarind tree.  The indefinable sweet-sour flavor is the basis for many sauces, soups, and salads.  Tamarind is usually sold in a syrupy form or as a paste that must be diluted.


Vietnamese-style curry powder – Vietnamese curry powder is similar to Madras-style curry powder.  This powder is not only used for curries, but to spice upstir-fries and soups.


Serrano chili pepper – The Serrano is a hot green chili common in Latin markets and very popular with Thai cooks.  It’s somewhat plump, around 2 inches long and very easy to handle and slice.


Thai chili, long – These slender bright red chilies have less fire than the more frequently used small Thai chilies, but they still pack a respectable punch.  Red jalapenos can be substituted.


Thai chili, small – Sometimes called Thai bird chilies or bird.  They are about 1 inch long, usually green but sometimes red. They are hot and should be used sparingly.  They are available fresh or dried.


Coconut palm sugar – This is the maple syrup of the tropics.  It is enjoyable in a cup of tea or in curries, stir-fries, and sweets.


Tofu – High protein, cholesterol free soybean product also referred to as bean curd.  There are several varieties such as firm, soft and silken.


Thai basil – The leaves are pointy ovals with purple stems and a strong anise flavor.


Holy basil – All basils are related to mint and this variety is especially mint like.


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