Bright Thai Flavors Bring New Life To Leftovers + Pickled Chilies For The Table
This weekend's episode of Milk Street Kitchen traveled to Thailand to get lessons in Thai cooking, and learned how to use its big, bold and fresh flavors to add new life to leftover rice. And Chris learns how to make pickled chilies, a pantry staple for any Thai kitchen.
Thai cooking is all about strong, bright flavors such as fish sauce and lemongrass. Back in the kitchen, Chris and Milk Street Cook Rayna Jhaveri drew on that flavorful palette as they make Thai fried rice. Note that this is a great recipe for leftovers. We honestly can't think of a better way to use up leftover rice.
Chris also learns how to create a pantry staple — pickled chilies. To end the show, Milk Street Cook Mathew Card shows Chris how to make Thai chicken at home, and it's delicious.
You can watch the episode here. And we've got the recipes below. Surprise the family this weekend with a Thai feast!
Thai Fried Rice
Milk Street liked the aromatic speed flavor of jasmine rice, but long-grain white or basmati works, too. A good Thai fish sauce was essential (Milk Street uses Red Boat). Andy Ricker uses pork belly, but that can be hard to find in the U.S. Pancetta worked well as a substitute—it has the right amount of salt and fat. Plain bacon will do the job, too, but avoid smoked bacon.
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active), plus cooling
Makes one 9-inch pie shell
- 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 4 cups cooked and chilled jasmine rice
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
- 4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced, reserved separately
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
- Sliced cucumber and lime wedges, to serve
In a bowl, stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce, water and sugar. Set aside. Use your hands to break up the rice so no clumps remain. Set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until just smoking. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring, until just set. Transfer the eggs to a plate. Add the pancetta to the skillet and cook over medium until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the plate with the eggs.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites, shallot and garlic, then cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Stir the fish sauce mixture, then pour over the rice. Cook, stirring, until well mixed. Stir in the pancetta and egg, breaking up the egg. Transfer to a large platter and sprinkle with cilantro and scallion greens. Serve with cucumber, lime wedges and pickled chilies.
Chiang Mai Chicken (Kai Yang)
Chicken legs and breasts were easy to buy at the grocer, but breaking down a whole chicken worked well, too, and ensured the parts were of similar size. You also can use four whole legs or four split breasts instead of a combination.
While optional, lemongrass added bright, citrusy flavor that’s characteristic of Thai food. Milk Street also found the lemongrass paste sold near the fresh herbs worked in a pinch; substitute 2 tablespoons of paste for the fresh lemongrass. If you can find it, Thai palm sugar can be substituted for the brown sugar; it adds a delicious earthiness.
Cooking the chicken over a bed of salt prevented the marinade from burning as it dripped off the chicken. While a simple squeeze of lime was enough to dress the meat, Chris and Mathew also liked dipping it in tangy tamarind or chili-lime sauces.
Start to finish: 3 hours (20 minutes active)
- 1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 lemongrass stalk, ends trimmed, bottom 8 inches chopped (optional)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
- Two 10- to 12-ounce whole chicken legs
- Two 10- to 12-ounce bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, ribs trimmed
- 1 cup kosher salt
- Lime wedges, to serve (optional)
In a blender, combine the cilantro, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, lemongrass, if using, garlic, coriander and both peppercorns. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for the glaze.
Place the chicken in a large zip-close plastic bag. Pour in the remaining marinade and seal. Set in a bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 400F with the rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread the salt over it. Mist a wire rack with cooking spray, then set over the salt. Arrange the chicken on the rack over the salt. Bake for 30 minutes. Brush the chicken with the reserved marinade and continue to bake until the thighs register 175F and the breasts register 160F, another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges or dipping sauce, if desired.
Don’t marinate the chicken longer than two hours. The salt in the marinade can toughen the meat and overwhelm its flavor.
Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Makes about 3/4 cup
Chili-garlic sauce has a coarser texture, fuller body and more pronounced garlic flavor than Sriracha. Look for it in the grocer’s Asian foods aisle.
- 1/2 cup lime juice (4 to 6 limes)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
In a bowl, stir together all ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes about 2 cups
Tamarind pulp is sold in blocks and will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. A blender gave the sauce its smooth consistency.
- 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, bottom 8 inches chopped
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1 serrano chili, stemmed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 21/2 cups water
- 2 ounces tamarind pulp
- 5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
- Ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the lemongrass, shallot, oil and chili. Cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water, tamarind and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the tamarind has softened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, stir in the fish sauce and soy sauce.
Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the solids; discard the solids. Stir in the lime juice, then taste and season with pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Thai fried rice was delicious on its own, but some of the folks at Milk Street wanted to spike it with something bold. The solution: jalapeño chilies pickled in fish sauce, lime juice and a little sugar.
It’s a milder variation of the typically fiery Thai dressing called nam prik. The chilies and their sauce added a balanced hit of heat, sweet and acid. They’re also good on regular steamed rice, scattered over green papaya salad or cabbage slaws, or wrapped up in lettuce leaves with grilled salmon, chicken or avocado.
Start to finish: 35 minutes (5 minutes active)
Makes 1 cup
- 4 jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded (if desired) and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
In a bowl, stir together the chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 week.