Lao-style Turkey Lettuce Cups

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I’m trying to eat grain-free as much as possible these days, and while I haven’t completely cut out grains, I have reduced them by about 75%. I feel good about that: I’m eating more greens and more sources of lean protein.

I’m always trying to come up with creative and delicious ways to put together a grain-free meal, and these turkey lettuce cups are one of my favorites. They’re not traditional, though: I’ve replaced pork with turkey and omitted some of the toppings (*cough* cilanto, my nemesis *cough*).

These are kind of like larb, but without the toasted rice powder and herbs. (But don’t fret, there is always a time and place for larb.) The best part? You probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Thai-style turkey lettuce cups


1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced
1 head butter or bibb lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated

1. Place a sieve over a bowl and press the dissolved tamarind through the sieve; discard the pulp. Set the tamarind juice aside.

2. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Stir-fry until golden, then add the turkey and stir-fry until it has all changed color and is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, the tamarind juice, the fish sauce, and salt and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and peanuts and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and let cool.

3. To serve, put a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, then scoop up a tablespoon of filling and place it on the leaf. Fold the leaf over to make a bundle, or leave it open, and place on a platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Singaporean-Style Chicken Congee

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Congee, jook, bubur, porridge — whatever you call it, it’s the ultimate comfort food in a bowl, and an endlessly adaptable one at that. Topped with fried shallots, drizzled with sweet and salty soy sauce, served alongside Chinese doughnuts or a soft-boiled egg — the possibilities are endless.

Whenever I travel to Asia, I eat a lot of congee, especially for breakfast. One of my favorite ways to prepare congee is Singaporean-style. This version uses sticky rice as well as short-grain rice for a creamier version, but you can use simply regular short-grain rice for equally delicious results.

Singapore-style chicken congee


1/2 cup short-grain rice
1/2 cup glutinous white rice
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound boneless chicken, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons shredded ginger
2 teaspoons crisp-fried shallots
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. Wash both types of rice, drain, and place in a large saucepan. Add the water and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the saucepan partially covered for about 1 hour, until the rice is very thick and soft, stirring from time to time to keep the rice from sticking. (If the congee is looking too thick, add some water or stock to thin it out.)

2. When the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, put the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to coat. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and ginger. Mix and set aside.

3. When the rice is porridge-like, add the chicken and its marinade. Stir well and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 7-10 minutes.

4. Transfer the porridge to serving bowls and top with the crisp-fried shallots, green onion, and pepper to taste. Serve accompanied with more soy sauce for adding to taste.

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


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
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.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup): Version Two

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So, you’ve toiled laboriously and made a too-good-for-words chili sauce for version one of the tom kha gai I take it, right? Now try this version of tom kha gai, adapted from Night + Market, where I go off recipe to employ an easier (albeit less authentic) way to produce a just-as-delicious-but-tastes-a-little-different soup.

Don’t be deterred; this version takes less than half the time as the original to produce results.

Tom kha gai - version two


1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and root trimmed
3 cups chicken broth
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 1/2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
3/4 pound chicken thighs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons jarred Thai-style chili sauce
2 teaspoons chili oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh bird’s eye chilis
4 tablespoons lime juice
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Mince 1 tablespoon of the lemongrass and set the rest of the lemongrass aside. Place the chicken in a bowl, add the garlic, 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. In the meantime, carefully bruise the remaining lemongrass with a heavy object, then slice the stalk crosswise at an angle into 2-inch lengths.

3. In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water and the chicken broth to a boil. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, and bouillon cube, stirring until dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, mushrooms, and chicken and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chili sauce, chili oil, and lime juice and remove from the heat.

5. Serve hot in individual bowls and garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup): Version One

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Ever try two different recipes for the same dish and they’re both really, really good? But really, really different?

I love tom kha gai, or Thai lemongrass and coconut chicken soup, and I’ve tried my hand at two different versions. Inspired by my travels to Thailand, I typically hand-make my own nam prik-esque chili sauce for this soup, which I’m including here. But I have another version of this soup that uses an uh, not so traditional route. I’ll include that in the next update.

Try both out and decide for yourself: which version is tastier? I know I can’t decide.

tom kha gai


1/2 cup Thai dried red chiles
1/3 cup cup shallots, unpeeled
1/3 cup garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup fish sauce
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoons brown sugar
2 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, inner white part only, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced 1
/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chiles, seeded and very thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. To make the nam prik: Place a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add the chiles, and dry-roast them, moving them around as necessary to prevent them from burning. After about 3 or 4 minutes, they’ll darken and become brittle. Remove from the skillet and set aside to cool.

2. In the meantime, slice the unpeeled shallots lengthwise in half. In the same skillet over medium heat, all the shallots and garlic and dry-roast until browned on one side; turn over and dry-roast on the other side. When they’re softened and roasted. about 8 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Break off the chili stems and discard them, then break up the chiles and place in a food processor. Peel the shallots and garlic and add to the food processor. Process to a smooth paste.

4. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and then add the paste. Stir the paste as it heats in the oil and absorbs it. After about 5 minutes, it will have darkened slightly and give off a warm, roasted chili aroma. Remove from the heat, stir in one teaspoon of the fish sauce, and let cool to room temperature.

5. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the remaining 1/4 cup fish sauce.

6. In a large saucepan, combine the stock with the 3 tablespoons of the nam prik chili paste, sugar, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Add the chicken and fish sauce to the saucepan along with the shiitakes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaves. Stir in the lime juice and chiles. Ladle the soup into bowls, with the cilantro and serve.