Khao Soi (Chiang Mai Curry Noodles)

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Chiang Mai has two seasons: smoky and not smoky. Each spring, farmers create manmade fires to get rid of material from old rice stalks to clear the way for the next season’s planting. The air becomes polluted in addition to the stiflingly hot weather. It’s not the most popular time of year to visit Chiang Mai.

But I am undeterred. When I visited Thailand last year, I had to include Chiang Mai in my travels. Why? I wanted to eat khao soi. Khao soi is a soupy, curry-laden bowl of Burmese-influenced goodness, a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, shallots, lime, ground chilis, coconut milk, and usually meat. I researched the best khao soi restaurant in Chiang Mai and Nishan and I trekked through the smoggy heat until we found it: a nondescript outdoor restaurant with a corrugated sheet metal roof and plastic stools, identifiable only by the huge crowd of happy eaters.

The khao soi was worth the walk and when I’ve since learned to recreate these curry noodles at home, adapting my version from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. If you want to make this dish a bit healthier and easier to cook, omit the fried noodles. The red curry paste is a shortcut to making your own curry paste by hand, but the results are still delicious.

Chiang Mai curry noodles (khao soi)

Ingredients:

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon cooking oil plus more for deep-frying noodles
3 cups canned coconut milk, with 1/2 cup of the thickest milk set aside
1/2 pound sirloin beef, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 pound Chinese egg noodles
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 shallots, chopped

1. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, turmeric, and a pinch salt until well blended. Stir in the curry paste and set aside.

2. Place a large heavy pot over high heat. Add the one tablespoon oil and when it is hot, add the curry paste mixture. Stir-fry for one minute, then add the reserved 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and lower the heat to medium-high. Add the meat and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the meat has slightly browned. Add the remaining coconut milk, the water, fish sauce, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice. The soup can be prepared ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

3. Make the optional crispy noodles: line a plate with paper towels. Place a large wok over high heat and add about 1 cup oil, or 1/2 inch oil. When the oil is hot, drop in a strand of uncooked noodles to test the temperature. It should sizzle slightly as it falls to the bottom, then immediately puff and rise to the surface; adjust the heat slightly, if necessary. Toss a handful (about 1 cup) of noodles into the oil and watch as they crisp and puff up. Use a spatula or long tongs to turn them over and expose all of them to the hot oil. They will crisp up quickly, in less than 1 minute. Lift the crisped noodles out of the oil and place on the paper towel-lined plate. Give the oil a moment to come back to temperature, and then repeat with a second handful of noodles.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining noodles, bring back to a boil, and cook until tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes. Drain well and rinse in fresh water to get rid of extra starch and stop the cooking process.

5. Divide the cooked noodles among four bowls. Ladle over the broth and meat. Top with crispy noodles and a pinch each of shallots and scallions.

Manhattans

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I know what you’re thinking. Manhattans? Too easy. But I beg to differ. I’ve had many a sad Manhattan: too bitter, too sweet, too weak. It’s easy to go wrong. I’m taking it back to basics. Artisanal vermouths are all the rage right now, but you know what? I actually prefer Martini brand vermouth in my Manhattans. It’s smooth and it’s balanced. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Manhattans

Ingredients:

1 cup bourbon, preferably Bulleit
2/3 cup red vermouth, preferably Martini Rosso
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 thin slices orange
4 maraschino cherries

1. Combine bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass.

2. Divide cocktail among 4 ice-filled rocks glasses. Garnish each drink with an orange slice and cherry.

Orange Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale

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This is my favorite dal recipe, and I don’t say that lightly. From Iranian adassi to Sri Lankan parippu, I’ve never met a version of dal I didn’t like, but I always come back to this one. Creamy, coconuty, and redolent with warm spices, this dal is what dreams are made of.

Make sure to use actual orange (or red) lentils here — not yellow split peas (chana dal/gheymeh). Toor dal will also work in a pinch. Split peas won’t give that velvety texture that lentils will. The chicken stock isn’t traditional, but it adds a savory layer of depth. This is alchemy in a bowl.

Yellow lentil dal with coconut milk and kale

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
1 green chili pepper (such as Serrano), thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
One 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups orange lentils, cleaned
1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt
Pepper

1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the cumin, fennel and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Spoon half of the spiced onion mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

2. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and lentils to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the dal into bowls. Top with the reserved onion mixture and serve warm.

Roasted Broccoli with Nutritional Yeast

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I get it. Nutritional yeast doesn’t make your tastebuds salivate and broccoli never got anyone too excited. But this easy side dish is virtuously healthy and actually tastes really, really good. Never had nutritional yeast? Think of it as umami powder: slightly cheesy and super savory. Sprinkle it on your greens and you’ll be asking for seconds in no time.

Roasted broccoli with nutritional yeast

Ingredients:

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets and similarly-sized pieces of peeled stalk
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquefy
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss vegetables with oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20–25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then toss with nutritional yeast.

Hot and Sour Soup with Lemongrass

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I’ve amassed a lot of cookbooks over the years, but there’s one I return to time and time again. It’s my tattered, dog-eared copy of Martin Yan’s China. I grew up watching PBS’ roster of old school chefs, including Martin Yan. Naturally, the first cookbook I bought followed suit.

Hot and sour soup is one of the first things I learned to make from Yan’s cookbook. My version today bears little resemblance to the original recipe, but the nostalgia remains strong. It may not be authentic, but it has a piece of my heart forever.

Oh, also, this soup is delicious.

Hot and sour soup with lemongrass

Ingredients:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 pieces dried wood ear mushrooms
1 package soft tofu
5 cups chicken broth
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom six inches only, crushed
2 slices ginger, crushed
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Soak shiitake wood ear mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Thinly slice mushrooms. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.

2. Place broth in a large pot; bring to a boil. Add shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, lemongrass, and ginger. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard lemongrass and ginger.

3. Add tofu, carrots, and bamboo shoots; cook for 2 minutes. Add vinegar, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce; bring to a boil.

4. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until soup boils and very slightly thickens. Turn off heat. Add egg, stirring, until it forms long threads. Serve hot.