Hitting the (Thai) Sauce
When Lynn cooks, the whole house smells mouthwateringly fragrant. Garlic, chiles and fresh herbs comingle, creating irresistible aromas as inviting as a Thai restaurant. Lynn, my new daughter-in-law, is from Thailand. She’s not a trained cook, but she has an instinctive sense of how to put ingredients together to make delicious Thai meals.
When we made kalua pig after returning from our Hawaiian vacation this summer, Lynn contributed a sprightly Thai dipping sauce that added zest, turning classic Hawaiian into Polynesian-Southeast Asian fusion.
Lynn knows how to make all sorts of delectable and spicy Thai sauces. The sauces are very quick to prepare and they wake up everyday American meals with big flavors.
Here are two. The Vinegar Chili Sauce is the one we used on the kalua pig. It’ s also good as a dipping sauce for grilled steak, pork chops or poached or steamed chicken or fish.
The second sauce is considered a basic, staple sauce in Thailand. It is used as a condiment for just about anything. Try it on eggs sunny-side up, fried fish, on fried rice, or with stir-fried dishes such as Kra Prao. This sauce is quite potent with the assertive flavors of fish sauce and chiles.
A Word about Chiles
Lynn uses Thai bird chiles, small red chiles that you can find in Southeast Asian or other Asian markets. I buy a handful and freeze what I don’t need in a plastic freezer bag, to use later. They keep indefinitely.
Be careful when cutting chiles because the oils are very volatile and will leave a residue on your hands. If you rub your eyes after handling chiles, your eyes will burn, even if you’ve washed up with soap and water first.
You can use food-safe plastic gloves or do what I do and wrap your thumb and index finger with strips of Glad Press ‘n Seal wrap to create finger mittens. Since the wrap is self-sealing, you can make a water-tight seal to protect your fingers from chile juices. I’ve heard that you can rub oil or salt on your hands to remove the volatile oils, but I haven’t tried these remedies myself. Please let me know if you have, and if this is true.
If you want to lower the heat level in the sauces below, remove and discard the seeds and the veins, which are the hottest parts of the pepper.
To get the Vinegar Chili Sauce, Thai Style recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.
Vinegar Chili Sauce, Thai Style
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 Thai bird chile
½ teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
Heat vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Smash the chile with the flat side of the knife, then halve lengthwise. Stir chile, salt and garlic into the vinegar mixture. Serve as a sauce for pulled pork or as a dipping sauce for steak, pork chops or poached or steamed chicken. Makes ¼ cup sauce.
Option: if you have a mortar and pestle, you can mash chile, salt and garlic together to pulverize, then combine with remaining ingredients.
To get the Thai Chile Fish Sauce (Prik Nampla) recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.
Thai Chile Fish Sauce (Prik Nampla)
1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 Thai bird chiles, sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
Combine all ingredients. This is a traditional sauce that’s used as a condiment for sunny-side up eggs, fried fish, or stir-fried meat and vegetables, such as Kra Prao (stir-fried ground meat, chiles and basil leaves). Makes 3 tablespoons sauce.
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