A Recipe-filled Reunion: Thai Vegetable Soup and Chicken Basil

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The moment I returned to America I started receiving invites to parties and reunion requests. I responded by sending a mass email: “Let me sleep for five days, then the planning can commence.”

Exactly six days later, I had two of my best girlfriends over for dinner. And even though I wanted nothing to do with rice, noodles, or any other kind of Asian fare, I thought it’d be nice to cook some recipes I learned in Thailand.

chang mai

In Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand), I spent an entire day at Thai Farm Cooking School. It’s located about 17 kilometers from Chiang Mai City, surrounded by mountains and an organic farm.

The day started at a local market where we learned about exotic produce and staple ingredients in Thai cooking. Then we took a tour of the garden, smelling and tasting fresh herbs. The next few hours were spent cooking curries, soups, stir-fried dishes, salads and desserts.

Everyone left the school with full bellies, bags of leftover food and recipe booklets.

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I don’t know how, but I managed to hang on to my tiny recipe book during the next two months of travel. And when I fished it out from the bottom of my backpack, I knew I had to recreate those delicious meals for my friends and family.

For my first (of many to come) Asian dinner party, I made Thai vegetable soup and chicken with basil. Both were huge hits, and the dinner was the perfect way to celebrate with old friends.

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vegetable soup

Thai Vegetable Soup
(Tom Phak Ruam) {Serves 1-2}

Ingredients
• ½ c sliced tofu (I left this out)
• 1 c coconut milk
• 1 c water
• ¼ c sliced galangal (Similar to ginger root but milder. You should be able to find it at an Asian market. If not, try 1/8 c sliced ginger then add to taste)
• 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced into 3 cm long pieces
• ¼ c sliced tomatoes
• ½ c sliced mushrooms
• 1-5 fresh chilies, minced (Remember a little goes a long way. You can always add more chilies but you can’t take them away!)
• 2-3 kaffir lime leaves
• 1 stem chopped spring onion
• 5 coriander leaves (cilantro)
• ½ c chopped long beans (If you can’t find these at an Asian market, substitute with broccoli or cauliflower. Green beans get too mushy.)
• ½ c chopped pumpkin (I couldn’t find pumpkin so I used butternut squash and it was excellent.)
• ½ c chopped carrot
• 2 tsp lime juice
• 1 tsp fish sauce or soy sauce (I prefer fish sauce.)
• ½ tsp sugar
• pinch of salt

Preparation

Put water and coconut milk in a pot, heat until boiling. Add galangal, lemongrass, onion, pumpkin, long beans and carrot, cook until fragrant. Add tofu, tomatoes and mushrooms, continue boiling on medium heat until cooked. Season with fish or soy sauce, sugar and salt. Finally add lime juice, coriander and kaffir lime leaves, spring onions and chilies. Serve with rice.

Chicken with Basil
(Phad Kaprao Gai) {Serves 1-2}

Ingredients

• 100 grams sliced chicken (1 thin chicken cutlet. Chicken can be replaced by tofu, pork, beef or squid)
• 2 tbsp oil (soybean or canola)
• 5 cloves minced garlic
• 1/3 c sliced long beans
• 2-3 hot chilies
• 1 c Thai basil (holy basil) leaves
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• 1 tbsp oyster sauce
• ½ tsp sugar
• ¼ c sliced onions
• 3 tbsp water

Preparation

Pour the oil in the wok (If you don’t have a wok, use a large pan.) on low heat. When the oil is hot, add garlic, onion and chillies. Stir until fragrant. Add chicken and turn the heat up. Stir until well done. Next add long beans, fish sauce, sugar and oyster sauce. Add a little water. Stir together well. When everything is done, add basil leaves and stir once again. Serve with rice