Vietnamese Spring Rolls

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Crispy, salty, and savory, these Vietnamese-style spring rolls are fried to perfection and make a delicious appetizer. I’ve adapted these from the traditional version: I use ground turkey instead of pork, and I shallow-fry instead of deep-fry. And you know what? Even though they’re labor-intensive, I prefer them to the restaurant version.

Make sure to make enough nuoc cham dipping sauce to go with these spring rolls: the bright, tart sauce cuts through the spring rolls perfectly.

Vietnamese spring rolls

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 ounce bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained, and cut into 1-inch lengths with scissors (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce
40 round rice papers
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons rice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai bird chile, minced

1. Combine 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 cup fish sauce, lime juice, water, vinegar, sugar, and chile in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

2. Place the turkey in a mixing bowl and add the shallots, remaining garlic, carrot, bean thread noodles, black pepper, and remaining fish sauce and mix well. Set aside.

3. Set out two large plates. Fill a wide bowl or basin with 2 inches of warm water. Wet 1 paper until softened, then place on one of the plates. Place 2 tablespoons filling in a line about 5 inches long across the wrapper, leaving a 3/4-inch border at either end of the line. Fold the edge nearest you over the filling, fold over the sides of the rice paper, and roll up tightly. Place on the other plate, cover with a damp cloth, and repeat with the remaining papers and filling.

4. When ready to fry, set out another large plate lined with paper towels. Place a stable wok or heavy skillet over medium high heat and add oil to a depth of about 1 inch and heat until hot. Add the rolls one at a time to the pan, being careful not to splash yourself with oil, without crowding, and make sure the rolls aren’t touching. After you add the rolls to the oil, they’ll bubble and the rice paper will change texture. Use a spatula or heat-proof tongs to gently turn the rolls so they cook evenly. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden all over, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining rolls.

5. Cut each cooked spring roll in half on the diagonal and arrange on a platter alongside the nuoc cham dipping sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.

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

Ingredients:

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.

Thai-Style Curried Crab

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If you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes you probably know that I love Dungeness crab. Come November every year, I eagerly await reports that crabbing season has begun, so I can make oven-baked crab, steamed crab, deviled eggs with crab, crab curry, chili crab — you get the picture.

When I was in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago, I tasted a mild yellow crab curry that was out of this world. Soft and eggy, it was like a warm blanket of crab and spices (okay, that sounds kind of weird, but bear with me). I wanted to recreate that taste at home and I finally nailed it here. This is not just one of my new favorite crab recipes — it’s one of my favorite recipes, period.

Freshly shelled crab is essential here. Go for the good stuff.

Thai stir-fried yellow crab curry

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai seasoning sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound crabmeat
1 green onion, cut into 2-inch slices
Ground pepper
2 cups baby spinach

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, half and half, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Thai seasoning sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the curry powder.

2. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the onion, sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon curry powder and stir-fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Reduce the heat, add the egg mixture, and stir until it resembles a soft custard, about 1 minute. Add the crabmeat and 1 cup of spinach and toss to coat the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the green onion and a pinch of pepper, then toss to combine.

3. Spread the remaining cup of spinach onto a serving platter and top with the curried crab and serve warm.

Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry

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This recipe is endlessly adaptable and customizable. No okra? Cool, use zucchini instead. No sweet potatoes? Go with pumpkin instead. You get the picture. What’s constant is the creamy, coconut-y curry that brings it all together — and the crispy shallots that add an extra dose of umami. Don’t skimp on those.

Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry

Ingredients:

1 13-ounce can coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
5 cups seasonal vegetables, cut into pieces (I used okra, bok choy, zucchini, and sweet potato here)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon peeled and shredded ginger
1/2 cup fried shallots

1. In a large saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the curry paste, sugar, fish sauce, and turmeric and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and separately blanch each vegetable, setting aside to drain each time. You want each vegetable mostly cooked but still slightly firm so that they’ll finish cooking in the curry.

3. Meanwhile, thin out the curry with the chicken broth. Once the vegetables have finished cooking, stir them into the curry along with the ginger and simmer for a few minutes until warmed through and combined.

4. Serve alongside warm rice and garnish with fried shallots.

Roasted Broccoli with Brown Butter

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Broccoli is kind of like the muzak of the vegetable world. Unoriginal, run-of-the-mill, bland.

Or so I thought.

Roasting broccoli transforms it into something sublime: crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and drizzled with an umami bomb of brown butter, capers, and fish sauce. Yes, fish sauce. It’s the not-so-secret ingredient that’ll have you wishing you doubled this recipe.

Sorry I ever doubted you, broccoli. Let’s be friends again?

Roasted broccoli with brown butter

Ingredients:

1 pound broccoli, cut into florets

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt
Pepper

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon fish sauce


1. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the broccoli and red onion with the olive oil. Spread in an even layer and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the broccoli is just tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a platter.


2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter browns and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the capers and fish sauce. Drizzle the brown butter sauce over the broccoli and serve.