Milk Street Thailand North to South (Ep 319)

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Southern Thai–Style Fried Chicken

Start to finish: 40 minutes, plus marinating | Servings: 4

Gai tod hat yai, or fried chicken from the southern region of Thailand, inspired this recipe, but we made it quicker by using boneless, skinless thighs cut into strips instead of the typical bone-in, skin-on parts. The chicken is customarily sprinkled with crisp fried shallots after cooking, but we opted out of this garnish, as the spices themselves provide plenty of bold flavor. If you like, you can purchase fried shallots in most Asian grocery stores; scatter them over the chicken just before serving. If you’re not up for making our extra-easy version of Thai sweet chili sauce (nam jim gai), serve with store-bought sweet chili sauce, or simply offer lime wedges for squeezing.

Don’t marinate the chicken for longer than an hour or it will be too salty. Don’t crowd the pot when frying. Cook only one- third of the chicken at a time so the temperature of the oil won’t drop drastically, which leads to greasiness.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons ground white pepper, divided
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1⁄4 cup fish sauce
  • 1  bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2  serrano chilies, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, each cut crosswise into 3 strips
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 quarts peanut oil, plus more if needed
  • Lime wedges, to serve
  • Sweet chili sauce, to serve (recipe on next page: optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a 10-inch skillet over medium, toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant and just beginning to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of white pepper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white, fish sauce and 1⁄4 cup water. Stir in the cilantro, chilies and 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture. Add the chicken and stir to thoroughly coat, then cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, the remaining 2 tablespoons white pepper and 2 teaspoons salt.

Drain the chicken in a colander. Scraping off excess marinade, add 1⁄3 of the chicken to the cornstarch mixture and toss to coat completely, then firmly press the pieces into the cornstarch. Transfer the pieces to the prepared rack in a single layer, shaking to remove excess coating. Repeat with the remaining chicken and cornstarch mixture, a third at a time.

Set another wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil to 350°F (the oil should be at least 2 inches deep; add more if needed). Add 1⁄3 of the chicken pieces and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the chicken to the second rack and season on all sides with about 1⁄3 of the reserved spice mixture. Allow the oil to return to 350°F, then repeat with the remaining chicken and spice mixture, a third at a time. Serve with lime wedges and sweet chili sauce (if using).


Tangy-Sweet Chili Sauce

Start to finish: 10 minutes | Makes about 3⁄4 cup

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup white sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small saucepan over medium-high, bring the vinegar, sugar and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture thickens and is reduced to about 3⁄4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in the chili-garlic sauce. Cool to room temperature.


Thai Braised Pork and Eggs with Star Anise and Cinnamon (Moo Palo)

Start to finish: 1 hour 40 minutes (30 minutes active) | Servings: 6

Moo palo is a classic Thai braise that combines the richness of pork belly and eggs in a savory-sweet broth flavored with Chinese five-spice powder. For our version, we opted for easier-to-source pork shoulder; it’s a leaner cut but it cooks up equally flavorful. Traditionally, hard-cooked eggs are simmered with the pork and take on a brown hue from the braising liquid, along with a firm texture from long cooking. We opted instead to simply garnish the bowlfuls with hard- cooked eggs so their color is brighter and texture more tender. And rather than use five-spice powder, which can give the braise a muddled, overspiced flavor, we preferred the cleaner, purer notes of whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Serve the pork and eggs with steamed jasmine rice. As with most braises, this dish tastes even better the next day.

Don’t use preground white pepper. Whole white peppercorns have far more flavor and aroma. Black peppercorns would be a better substitute than preground white pepper, but its flavor is sharper and more pungent and will slightly alter the flavor profile of the dish. And don’t use regular soy sauce, which is too salty.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems chopped, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, plus more as needed
  • 1⁄3 cup fish sauce
  • 1⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar, plus more as needed
  • 5 star anise pods
  • Three 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1⁄2-inch chunks
  • 6 large eggs

INSTRUCTIONS

In a blender, combine the cilantro stems, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, soy sauce, fish sauce and 6 tablespoons water. Puree until almost smooth, about 20 seconds. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, stir together the sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sugar turns foamy, then dry and begins to smoke lightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cilantro stem–garlic mixture, then add 7 cups water to the blender, swirl to rinse it, then add the water to the pot. Stir, scraping up any caramelized sugar from the bottom and sides of the pot.

Add the star anise, cinnamon sticks and pork, distributing the meat in an even layer. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to medium-low and cook, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, for 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a folding steamer basket in a large saucepan and add enough water to skim the bottom of the basket. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Add the eggs to the steamer basket, cover and cook for 12 minutes. While the eggs cook, fill a medium bowl with ice water. When the eggs are done, immediately transfer them to the ice water and let stand until cooled. Crack and peel the eggs, then set aside.

After the pork has simmered for 50 minutes, uncover, increase to heat medium and cook until a skewer inserted into the pork meets no resistance, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard the star anise and cinnamon sticks, then let stand for about 5 minutes. Tilt the pot to pool the liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off and discard as much fat as possible from the surface of the liquid. Taste and season with additional soy sauce, then return to a simmer over medium.

Spoon the pork and broth into bowls. Cut the eggs lengthwise in halves or quarters and place 2 or 4 pieces in each bowl, then top with cilantro leaves.


Spicy Beef Salad with Mint and Cilantro (Larb Neua)

Start to finish: 20 minutes | Servings: 4

Larb is a minced-meat salad from northern Thailand. Versions abound, but this beef version was inspired by the spicy, tangy Isaan style from the northeast that’s also popular in neighboring Laos. Easy-to-make toasted rice powder, called khao kua, is an essential ingredient here—it imparts a unique flavor, absorbs a small amount of the liquid and adds a subtle crunch. Cabbage leaves and sticky rice are the traditional accompaniments, but lettuce leaves and steamed jasmine rice are equally good. If you like, for more spiciness, add another chili or two.

Don’t use extra-lean ground beef. A little fat keeps the meat moist, adds flavor and balances the acidity of the dressing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons long-grain jasmine rice
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 medium shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 Fresno chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh mint, torn
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-low, toast the rice, stirring often, until browned and fragrant, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool, about 10 minutes; set the skillet aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in the shallots and chilies. Let stand for at least 10 minutes or up to 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, pulverize the toasted rice to a coarse powder. Return the powder to the bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the beef, the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and cook, breaking the meat into very small bits, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately add the beef and any juices to the shallot-chili mixture, along with the mint, cilantro and half of the rice powder, then toss to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining rice powder.

PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES