Green Curry with Rice Noodles and Mussels

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This coconut curry is the kind of dish that tastes too good to be healthy. Brimming with greens and herbs, this meal in a bowl comes together in about half an hour. I love everything about this dish: the vibrant green, the creamy coconut, the salty mussels. Oh, and rice noodles. Gimme all the noodles.

Green coconut curry with mussels

Ingredients:

1 serrano chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 cups basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed
8 ounces rice stick noodles
1/2 lime
Salt

1. Puree chile, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, and 3 cups water in a blender until smooth. Transfer curry to a bowl. Reserve blender (no need to clean).

2. Puree coconut milk, cilantro, 3 cups basil, and 1/4 cup cold water in blender until smooth; set herb puree aside.

3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add mussels, cover, and cook until mussels open, about 7 minutes. Uncover and transfer opened mussels to a bowl, reserving cooking liquid in saucepan. If any mussels are still closed, cover and cook a few minutes longer, then add to bowl with others; discard any mussels that don’t open.

4. Add curry base to saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

5. In the meantime, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

6. Pour any accumulated mussel-cooking liquid into curry mixture and stir in herb puree; bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and add reserved mussels and squeeze in juice from lime. Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve warm in bowls and garnish with reserved basil leaves.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Cucumber

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Stir-fried cucumber is my new favorite thing. I love cucumbers, but cooked? Consider my mind blown.

This is the kind of easy weeknight dish that comes together with what’s already in the fridge. It’s simple but delicious. Served with rice and a vegetable side dish, it makes a perfect, healthy meal.

Stir-fried chicken with cucumber

2 boneless chicken thighs
1/3 of an English cucumber
1 celery stick
1 clove garlic
1-inch ginger
1 green onion
1 small red chili
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon potato flour
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon chicken stock

1. On a chopping board, whack the chicken thighs with the back of your knife to tenderize them, then cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a bowl and add the salt, 1 teaspoon of the potato floud, 1 teaspoon of the wine, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons water and combine.

2. Cut the cucumber piece in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4-inch strips. Cut the celery into strips to match the cucumber. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger. Cut the green onion and chili into thin slices on the diagonal. Combine the sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon potato flour, remaining 1 teaspoon wine, remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce, vinegar, and chicken stock in a small bowl.

3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry. When the pieces have almost cooked, add the garlic, ginger, green onion, and chili and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the cucumber and celery and stir-fry for 1 minute.

4. Add the sauce and stir quickly to coat the chicken and vegetables. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Chinese-Style Chopped Celery with Ground Beef

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This is the perfect main dish for when it’s a weeknight and you want to pull together something delicious from what’s already in the fridge. Ground beef? Check. Celery? Check. Add a handful of seasonings and a bowl of rice and you’re set. Easy peasy.

Chinese-style chopped celery with ground beef

Ingredients:

12 ounces celery
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon tobanjan (Sichan chili bean paste)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
Soy sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)

1. Cut the celery sticks lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips. Finely chop the strips.

2. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the ground meat and stir-fry until it is cooked. Then add the chili bean paste and continue to stir-fry until it is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the celery. Continue to stir-fry until the celery is tender-crisp, about 3 minutes, adding a little soy sauce to taste. Just before removing from the heat, stir in the vinegar and serve warm.

Smacked Cucumber in Garlicy Sauce

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There’s this cucumber appetizer at Z&Y Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown that I love: piquant, garlicy, and salty, it’s perfect in its simplicity yet a challenge to recreate. Until now. This is as close as I’m going to get to achieving this cooling cucumber that’s perfect alongside a meal of spicy dishes.

Resist the urge to make smacked jokes: the smacking refers to whacking the cucumber to help it absorb the flavors of the sauce. Try not to crush it into a million pieces!

Smacked cucumber in garlicy sauce

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it a few times with a rolling pin. Cut the cucumber lengthwise into 4 pieces. Cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir, and serve.

Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice

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Looking for something easy and delicious to hit the spot mid-week? Something to brighten your drab Monday, perhaps? Look no further. This fried rice couldn’t be easier to pull together and well, fried rice is the ultimate comfort food. Weeknight eating isn’t so bad after all.

Thai-style chicken fried rice

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound chicken thigh
1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 eggs
4 cups steamed jasmine rice, cooked and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Thai seasoning sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths
salt
pepper
1/2 cup fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced bird’s eye chilis

1. Place the chicken in a bowl, add half the garlic, all of the minced lemongrass, a pinch of salt and pepper, and enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Mix and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove from brine and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Make the prik nam pla serving sauce: in a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice, chilies, and remaining teaspoon garlic. Set aside.

2. Heat a wok over high heat and then add the oil. Add the onion and stir-fry until softened, then add the chicken and stir-fry until almost cooked, about 4 minutes.

3. Crack in the eggs and mix with the chicken and onion. Once the egg resembles a soft scramble, add the rice, sugar, Thai seasoning sauce, and oyster sauce, stirring the rice to distribute the sauce evenly and break up the egg. Continue to stir-fry until rice has taken on a slightly toasted color, about 2 or 3 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat, add the green onion and a pinch of pepper, and toss. Serve with the prik nam pla sauce.