As we approach the end of the year, I would like to take this occasion to wish you all a very happy holiday season with joy and cheers. I would like to give you a special list of recipes that will hopefully give you some insight and inspiration on how to cook your old and new holiday recipes with Thai ingredients to add a new twist to them. Please follow along to see how some Thai dishes or Thai ingredients can delight your family and friends—and most importantly, you the cook, who will have a fun time in the kitchen giving your holiday meal a Thai twist.
Tom Yum Flavor, Zesty and Spicy
First, I would like to inspire you to think “Thai” and make it part of your cooking by using zesty Thai herbs and tropical flavors either instead of or in addition to your traditional herbs. Western cooking has so many uses for lemon zest; Thai cooking uses Kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and lime zest in similar ways. When shredded fine, you can add them to practically everything, including stuffing, soup, or cranberry sauce. And when you want to infuse them in a sweet syrup or soup, their essential oils are water-soluble, making it is easy to impart their flavors in boiling liquid. It takes only about 5 minutes for them to achieve their maximum flavor.
A few years back I created two recipes that I prepared and gave to friends as a holiday gifts: Pranee’s Cranberry Sauce with Spiced Rum and Thai Herbs and Pranee’s Thai Lime Green Chili Jam (which is especially tasty served alongside an appetizer such as Pranee’s Crab Wonton). It was fun for me and my friends still remember the unique tastes of these two dishes and mention them often.
Crunch with Spring Roll Wrapper
You should also think Thai when you want to ease your cooking. Asian spring roll sheets or lumpia sheets make it easy to prepare large quantities of appetizers. You can wrap just about anything up in them for a quick appetizer or dessert where texture is needed. I often have spring roll sheets in the freezer as part of my emergency ingredients at home. Last week, while I still had some jet lag after returning from Thailand and had little time to cook, I wrapped cooked chicken curry filling in the sheets, deep-fried them (they can also be baked), then served them with cucumber salad and Thai sweet chili sauce. It was a satisfying quick fix.
Sweet and Spicy with Sweet and Hot Chili Sauce
Today, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and Thai Sriracha sauce have become staple Thai ingredients in American kitchens. Adding Thai Sweet Chili Sauce to sauces in place of sugar or honey adds more complex flavors. And if you want to spice anything up, Sriracha sauce can do the magic by just adding a drop or two to your holiday sauce or dressing. Having these two sauces at home can also provide a nice taste balance in an instant.The Thai flavor profile is sweet, sour, salt, salty and spicy. I often balance the Chili Sauce (sweet) and Sriracha (hot) sauces together with a dash of fish sauce, a splash of lime juice and a touch of cilantro. Soon all of the flavors are harmonized, and provide a perfect dipping sauce for everything—including leftover turkey. Sweet Chile Sauce also makes a great base for a salad dressing. I hope you will enjoy my recipe with a modern twist: Sweet Chili Vinaigrette.
Finally, try giving some Thai flavor to your desserts. A few years ago I was inspired by Russian Tea Cakes to develop a recipe for Coconut Tea Cakes. The Thai version made a nice surprise for a friend who discovered the coconut texture and flavor after assuming from their looks that she was going to bite into a traditional Russian tea cake cookie. Another dessert to try if you have a surplus of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes is to substitute them for mung beans to make a delectable Thai Coconut Custard.
I hope you have a great time preparing meals with a little Thai twist during the holiday season. Warmest wishes from my Thai kitchen.