Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Thai Dinner and Menu

This Saturday is a dinner with an ethnic food cooking group I've been in for quite a while. In the past few months we've enjoyed Caribbean, Northern Italian, Spanish, Indian, and a meal for Epiphany. This month, it's my turn to host and I chose Thai.

When I moved to Indiana from points west, I went through withdrawal for quite a few things, many of which we now have -- Trader Joe's, Cost Plus, and even a soon-to-come Whole Foods. What I still have never been able to satisfy here was a craving for really good Thai food. Long before Sawasdee (still the only Thai food I'll eat in town) came long winters and a recipe for a good Thai green curry from a friend whose then husband had grown up in Thailand when his father was ambassador. From there, I learned Thai soups, spicing, and seafood. I've still not mastered a really good pad thai. But with a little research and some balance, I think we've put together a Thai feast to satisfy everyone --keeping the spice down, limiting the fried food, and including a seafood-eating vegetarian. I'm helped additionally by the fact that all the people in this group are fantastic cooks and enjoy learning about new ingredients and styles. Here's the menu so far.

Mieng Kum (leaf-wrapped savories)
Yam Som-O (pomelo salad) (more in season than the more traditional green papaya)
Cucumber Thai soup (as Americanized as Jean-Georges Vongerichten can make it, maybe not traditional, but delish)
Hoi Ma-Laeng Poo Ob (steamed mussels with lemon grass and basil)
Basil Noodles/Pad Thai
Ambassador's Thai Green Curry with chicken
Jasmine Rice/Coconut Rice
Mixed Vegetables
Haw Mok Thalay (steamed seafood cakes)
and finished with a deep fried caramelized banana spring roll

A feast! The only thing missing? A great Thai cocktail! Off to do more research. If you see people jockeying for the last of the kaffir lime leaves at Saraga this week, you'll know why!


sgillie said...

Enjoy your feast. Check out Chez Pim's Pad Thai for Beginners. I haven't made it yet, but it's heavy on technique and explanation. Always a good sign.

SCUBAchef said...

Have you ever tried Thai Taste Restaurant (5353 E. 82nd Street) in the same strip mall as Trader Joe's. It's run by the same guy who used to have the once one-and-only Thai place in town, the sorely missed Bangkok. I re-discovered how great Thai food can actually be - complex yet elegant at the same time.

braingirl said...

Trust me, I have tried every Thai place in town. Thai Taste is OK -- not excellent. I think they have a soup or two I like. Not as bad as the late-awful Thai One On. (And no one here does the Thai dish I love most -- braised kale or napa cabbage with chicken and sweet peanut sauce.)

Ty up at Sawasdee has spoiled me on pad thai. It's just to my taste, perfectly light, and never greasy. (Why do so many places finish the noodles in stale grease from previous batches in woks that don't get hot enough?) And who else can always get Thai eggplant for curry in winter! I've tried Chez Pim's sauce and have tweaked it some and am not quite there yet.

While much Asian cooking is simple and clean, other dishes are a journey. Many cooks spend a lifetime perfecting some cuisines. But I do love working with the Thai flavor complexities -- tweaking the nam pla, lime, chilis and coconut. Mmmm.