A few days before I hit the road to move to North Carolina, I invited my brother and some friends into my kitchen to raid my refrigerator and freezer. Everything had to go. Now that I’m here, I’m slowly stocking back up.
Since I’ve been here I haven’t made any real Thai or Vietnamese dishes so I didn’t have any fish sauce. It took a trip to three stores to finally find some. I forgot how stinky it is. If you have picky or non-adventurous eaters in the house, make sure they’re not around when you’re using it, one whiff of that and they will choose a PB&J sandwich over whatever you’re making.
Fish sauce — nuoc mam in Vietnamese, nam pla in Thai — adds a depth and flavor in a way that’s difficult to describe, much like anchovies add depth to tomato sauces, or Worcestershire sauce (made from anchovies) adds to marinades and Bloody Marys. It’s ubiquitous in Southeast Asian cooking. Saveur magazine explains how it’s made:
“Fresh fish (anchovies) are layered with salt in large porcelain jars or wooden barrels and allowed to ferment for three months, at which point liquid is tapped from the bottom and poured back in at the top. After six months, the sauce may be tapped again, bottled, and sold.”
This Cooking Light recipe is fantastic. I decreased the quantity of chicken and added bell pepper because I thought it would enhance the recipe. I used fresh ginger and garlic instead of the bottled they suggest. I also added scallions. If you really can’t stand the idea of fish sauce, omit it or substitute soy sauce, but if you’re used to Thai food, you’ll feel something is missing. The Broccoli Slaw really complements the flavors of the Thai Coconut Chicken.
Thai Coconut Chicken
- Rice – jasmine (fantastic!), regular white, basmati, brown
- 1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1”-2” pieces
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- Canola oil
- 1 cup sliced onion
- ½ cup bell pepper, any color
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup light coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp Sriracha or hot chile sauce – if you love a lot of heat, otherwise decrease the amount
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp green onions (scallions)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 lime wedges
Prepare rice according to package directions.
Toss chicken in a bowl with cornstarch and fish sauce. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan, sauté 5 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan.
Add oil to pan if needed. Add onion and bell pepper to pan, sauté until softened. Add garlic and ginger to pan, sauté 1 minute.
Return chicken to pan. Stir in coconut milk, Sriracha to taste, sugar, lime juice, scallions and cilantro, cook until heated. Serve over rice.
Serves 2, generously.
Original Recipe – Thai Chicken Saute, Cooking Light, March 2007
Broccoli Slaw Stir-Fry
- 1 Tbsp raw sesame seeds
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- Crushed hot red pepper
- 1 bag broccoli slaw mix
- 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place sesame seeds in a large dry skillet and set pan over medium-high heat. Cook 2 minutes, until golden brown, shaking the pan frequently. Remove. Add sesame oil to pan, allow it to heat up and add garlic and ginger, sauté 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper, slaw mix, sesame seeds and cook for 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and lime juice and cook 2 minutes, until vegetables soften. Season with salt and black pepper.
Original recipe: Sauteed Asian Broccoli Slaw, Food Network