All week I've been publishing recipes and stories from Northern Thailand, the country's least exported regional cuisines. With strong funky aromas, heavy spicing, and the kind of bitter and hot flavors that can make you weep simultaneous tears of pain and pleasure, it's definitely not Thai Food 101 material, but you'll be richly rewarded if you delve into it. If you can't make it all the way to the spice markets and roadside restaurants in Chiang Mai, making these dishes at home is the next best thing.
Recipes From Chiang Mai: How to Make Real Deal Khao Soi Gai (Coconut Curry Noodle Soup With Chicken)
Khao soi, a curry- and coconut-flavored noodle soup, is Northern Thailand's most famous export. Westernized Thai recipes often make compromises to suit Western palates. Not this time. This is the recipe for folks who are willing to scour the backstreets in search of makrut limes and settle for nothing but fresh turmeric. Fasten your seatbelts, we're going for a trip.
I've spent my whole life soaking black beans before cooking them just like every other bean around. But Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times recently chastised me for it, claiming that un-soaked black beans are better in almost every way. I put it to the test, comparing soaked and un-soaked beans for flavor, texture, color, ease of preparation, and, er, digestibility. Guess which method came out on top?
It wasn't until a few years ago, when I had my first taste of a freshly made, flaky, charred, lard-packed flour tortilla in Texas, that I realized how good these flatbreads can be. And the cook-at-home tortillas from TortillaLand I just discovered last week are a revelation: I can now have my fresh tortillas and stay lazy in the process.
Think of the best chicken soup you've had: steaming hot, rich, comforting, and soul-satisfying to the core. Now add to that the complex fragrance of fresh Thai herbs like lemongrass, galangal, a sweet shallots. And wait, we're not done yet! To that base, add a big fat pinch of warm Northern Thai spices and you're starting to get an idea of what yum jin gai is all about.
I had a bit of a shock-and-awe-style jaw-drop when I saw our Account Executive Leandra making herself a salad for lunch earlier this summer. She dumped some whole spinach leaves and other ingredients into a bowl, reached for the pizza wheel, and started rolling it over the greens directly in the bowl. The method is sheer brilliance from a purely lazy, I-don't-want-to-wash-a-cutting-board standpoint. I'll cop to having used it ever since.
This ain't your grandma's pork larb. Unless your grandma happens to be of Lanna descent and native to Northern Thailand, in which case, this is probably very much like your grandma's pork larb. Unlike Isan larb, this is a darker mince, with tender bits of lean pork mixed together with chunks of fat, chewy bits of intestine, and a rich, thick sauce flavored with crushed spices and pork blood. It's not larb for the faint of heart, but it's one worth seeking out or cooking at home if you've got any interest in offal.
If you're anything like me, when you first taste nam phrig noom, the smoky, garlicky, roasted chili dip from Northern Thailand, it's gonna blow your mind. Made with roasted green chilies, shallots, and garlic, it's served as a side dish alongside all sorts of raw and cooked vegetables, boiled eggs, or—my favorite—crispy pork rinds.
Pasta with a light and creamy sauce, tender chunks of tuna, and peas, in about 15 minutes start to finish. This is the kind of recipe that I wish I'd known in college. All it takes is a single large skillet or pot, one burner or hot plate, a bowl, and a fork. That's it. And on top of that, it turns out a dish that's not just good-given-the-constraints, but legitimately good-enough-that-I-would've-made-it-for-that-girl-I-was-trying-to-impress-in-college or even good-enough-for-a-mildly-romantic-weeknight-dinner-with-the-wife.
Every year, when fall vegetables begin dominating the farmers markets, I have the same though process: charred brussels sprouts are so damn awesome, I wonder if there are other similar vegetables that I can char to get the same effect? It turns out the answer is yes: pretty much any brassica will get nice and sweet and nutty when exposed to extreme high heat, and the simplest of them all, the basic green cabbage, is no exception.
This is one of my favorite salads of all time and an absolute classic: corn grilled until it's smoky and sweet, then tossed with ripe end-of-season tomatoes in a light lemon and olive oil dressing. Salty chunks of feta and a ton of fresh herbs finish it off. As simple and delicious as recipes come.
Chiang Mai easily makes the list of my top five favorite cities in the world. Culinarily, it's one of the least familiar regions of Thailand. The local dishes, influenced by Burma to the Northwest, and China's Yunnan province and Laos to the north, don't really make it far beyond Northern Thai borders. With the exception of a few dishes at Pok Pok, Andy Ricker's ode to Chiang Mai in Portland and New York, I'd never seen half the dishes I tasted while we were there. The big exception is Khao Soi, the area's most popular export. I was eager to taste this fantastic dish at the source.
Located at the terminus of the Silk Road and at one time the cultural and political capitol of China, the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi province has one of the more interesting culinary histories in China, in no small part due to the influence of its large Muslim population.
You can wander the streets of Bangkok for weeks, pointing at every single thing that looks tasty, handing over a couple dozen baht, and eating until you burst, all without ever eating the same thing twice. And you'd have difficulty spending more than around $10 a day doing it. And, in fact, that's pretty much what my wife and I did for the few days we were there. Here's just a taste of what you'll get.
I spend an awful lot of time experimenting with ramen toppings. And of all the toppings I've created, this smoky eggplant is the one. Whether you're making ramen from scratch, or just want to improve a store-bought kit, look no further than this chunky puree of eggplant meat infused with the Japanese flavors of bonito flakes, mirin, and soy sauce.
This variation on a classic Thai chicken and banana blossom salad hits every note, with its accessible, clean flavors of tender poached chicken breast and crunchy banana blossom, rich fried shallots, garlic, and lemongrass, and a bright, bracing garlic, chili, and lime juice dressing.
Though Chongqing Province and the city of Chongqing itself are no longer part of Sichuan Province (they split in the '90s), they share a culinary and cultural backbone. It's a foundation built on the slow, smoldering burn of dried chilies, the pungent bite of raw garlic, and mouth-numbing handfuls of citrus-scented Sichuan peppercorns, all balanced with dashes of black vinegar and more peanuts than you ever thought you could eat.
I ate a lot of good things when I was in Istanbul last winter—eggs scrambled with tomatoes and chilies, flatbreads topped with cheese and eggs, teeny tiny dumplings served with yogurt and sumac—but kebabs, made with juicy lamb meat molded around flat metal skewers and grilled over live coals were the kind of thing that even at their worst, were still pretty freaking awesome. Here's how to make them at their best.
Ever since having my first taste of a Xiao Long Bao—variously referred to as "soup dumplings" or "juicy steamed buns" on American Chinese menus—I've yearned to taste them at the source in Shanghai. But it turns out that XLB are only half of the soup dumping story.
Thai cooks are experts at grilling all manner of meats, but nowhere does that proficiency shine more brightly than with chicken. Crisp, golden skin, coated in a richly charred marinade of toasted spices and herbs seasoned with fish sauce and sugar, the chicken is butterflied, flattened, and threaded onto bamboo skewers before being slowly grilled over charcoal. It's tasty enough on its own, but dipped into a sweet and spicy chili sauce, it becomes mind-blowingly delicious.
Why is it that nearly all recipes for stir-fried beef call for flank steak? I've been following the advice for years, but have never been truly satisfied with the end results. Sure, flank steak is pretty meaty, absorbs marinades well, and can come out tender. But may I propose an alternative? Skip the flank and go for the skirt.
I haven't gotten around to naming the Seven Culinary Wonders of the World, but Peking duck would be high in the running for one of those coveted slots.
As much as I now love real-deal Sichuan kung-pao chicken, my absolute favorite Chinese dish as a kid was this mildly spiced Americanized version—and to be honest, I still love it today. Just because it's a Chinese-American standard, complete with slightly-gloppy-sauce and mild heat doesn't make diced chicken with peppers and peanuts any less delicious. Here's how to make it at home.
If I put in the work to develop a technique I'm happy with, I'm the kind of guy who likes to maximize its utility. Prime example: take all the lessons I learned during months of testing recipes for General Tso's Chicken and apply them to its very similar partners-in-crime on the Chinese-American lunch special menu, orange chicken and sesame chicken.
Smoking is generally a method reserved for long-cooking, tough cuts like pork shoulder, ribs, or beef brisket, intended to deeply flavor and tenderize the meat over the course of a half day of cooking. But with a bit of finesse and a couple hours of free time, it's perfectly possible to get that same smoky flavor into a thick-cut steak and still have it come out perfectly medium-rare and juicy, so long as you play your cards right. Here's how it's done.
What kind of turkey should I buy? What size? How far in advance? And what the heck do I do with it once it's at home? All of these burning questions and more, straight ahead.
Here's one late night sandwich that isn't a greasebomb. Good for lunch as well.
A few months ago, my wife and I spent all of 24 hours in Naples on our way home from Sicily. It was probably the second-most pizza-packed 24 hours of my life (the first being when I took my Colombian brother-in-law on a whirlwind pizza tour of New York). We hit over a half dozen pizzerias over lunch alone, and a few more for dinner. Here now, I present to you the Serious Eats guide to Eating Pizza in Naples.
Ever made a traditional Peking duck? Turns out it's a pretty involved process, requiring not only multiple steps but multiple days, cooking apparatuses, and spices. The end result: an incredibly crispy, juicy bird that's seriously delicious. Come along with Serious Eats's own Carey Jones as she learns how to make Peking Duck. Chef Brian Ray of Buddakan gives us the grand tour.
We're looking at what I like to call the "Big 3" of Cheerios: Original, Honey Nut and MultiGrain. Any die-hard original Cheerios fans out there? Can we talk about the awesomeness of Honey Nut and MultiGrain?
Last week, we examined the distinction between single malt and blended Scotch whiskies. Today, we'll step back a bit and take a more detailed (much more detailed) look at the single malt. I'll describe what single malts are, explain how they're made and aged, discuss the concept of Scotch terroir, and explore some of the regional variations. Grab a tasting glass and let's get started!
Uh oh. The buzzer rings. Friends are coming over to spread holiday cheer and you panic. Serve frozen dumplings...again?! You can do better than that. Print out this list of easy-to-assemble, stress-free, mostly-sub-20-minutes-to-prepare munchies and paste it to the fridge. Here are 60+ dips, hors d'oeuvres, small bites, toasty snacks, sweet nibbles, appetizers, and more festive munchies to prepare in a snap.
The Serious Eats Cookie Swap has become an annual tradition. We break out the Duane Reade tinsel and twinkle lights, and are forced to do a major office detox to make room for cookies. Many, many cookies. (OK, maybe a dozen doughnuts snuck in this year too). It was our third year swapping, and as per tradition, the tables were covered with butter-laden treats. Our NYC-based contributors really pulled out their ninja baking skills. Get all the recipes here.
Our recipe for Bacon Banh Mi brings our favorite Vietnamese sandwich home, swapping out the usual array of cold cuts and charcuterie for bacon but staying true to the other elements that make this sandwich so balanced and irresistible.
When you think about Thanksgiving and you think about various elements of the Thanksgiving meal, it seems like you're just waiting through the big meal to get to the pie. I really believe this, which is why I always fantasized about an all-pie Thanksgiving. (Anyone with me on this?) At an editorial meeting about a month ago, we were at the office talking about Thanksgiving coverage and I shared this fantasy with the team. Knowing how much I adore and obsess over pie, the Serious Eats editors weren't too shocked, so we did the only thing we know how to do: make it happen.
Urban legend has it that some industrial candy snafu botched the names of 3 Musketeers and Milky Way. The tale has a certain logic. 3 Musketeers doesn't have three ingredients but Milky Way does. And the very name Milky Way recalls the smooth, uninterrupted creaminess found in 3 Musketeers. Those kinds of wonky urban legends ran amok in the eighties, but we have the internet now, so let's clear this stuff up. It's not a tasty tabloid tale of "Switched at Birth!" but rather "Murder, She Wrote."
When you first joined me in my quest to unlock the secrets of culinary time travel, I told you it would take equal parts science and magic to make the foods that could power the flux capacitor of the mind. I said, "leave the DeLorean in the garage, preheat your oven to one point twenty one gigawatts, and rev that Kitchen Aid to eighty eight mph. We're going back to the Eighties." And we did. But while there, what if some careless action altered our timeline? Could we, like Marty McFly, inadvertently create an alternate universe? One where the Keebler Soft Batch Cookie tastes freaking delicious? Friends, this isn't speculation. I have done such a thing.
Dried mango was matched up with cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno to make this juicy chicken link. It's bright, fresh, and fruity.
[Photograph: Kenji Alt] Want more details? Here are the ins-n-outs. Follow Kenji on Facebook or Twitter....
This week we survived a salt and vinegar chips tasting (try feeling your tongue after one of those!), played fetch with Hambone, special-ordered the semi-discontinued Rice Krispies Treats Cereal, and more. And if you're wondering, yes, RKTC would be RK cereal that turned into treats then transformed back into cereal again (full circle!).
This week at Serious Eats World Headquarters, we ate loads of chocolate sandwich cookies for our Oreo/Faux-reo taste test, filled up our office with Sandwich Festival goods, watched Ed attempt to feed Hambone, and more (and by "more" we mean "Hambone Hambone Hambone").
I'm not sure how else to break this except to just come out and say it. On Wednesday morning, my French bulldog Dumpling was struck by a bus outside of my apartment building. He died in my arms on the way to the emergency room.
This week at Serious Eats World Headquarters, Dumpling napped and drooled, a swarm of bees took shelter in a nearby mailbox, I confirmed I don't like absinthe, and a few of us met some cows (ok, that last one happened far, far away from SEHQ). The slideshow is 75 percent Dumpling in one way, 125 percent in another. Enjoy!
This "Memphis-style" is my favorite to make at home—it takes the aspects of sweet tomato-based sauces I grew up on, but by dialing back the sugar and amping up the vinegar, creates a sauce where seasonings and spice are more defined and achieves a pleasing balance between the main defining aspects of a barbecue sauce.
These are the only fancy-restaurant fried clams I think are really worth the cash ($14 half/$26 full). That they start with Ipswich bellies makes all the difference; these juicy, sweet, whole-belly behemoths are harvested from the mud flats off Ipswich, where experts claim that the particularly nutrient-rich soil gives the bivalves their superior, almost nutty flavor.
Sherbets and sorbets require a spoon, but they date back to the Persian Empire, when vividly flavored fruit- or flower-based syrups were mixed with snow to make a cool, refreshing drink called sharbat.
Last Thursday morning, Dean Sparks, a dairy farmer from upstate New York stopped by the office with some cheese, eggs, and milk. They come from nymilk, a New York state consortium of around 35 upstate organic dairy farms that...
As food aesthetics go, the murky, rust-brown, pebbly lalla musa dal at Tamarind Bay Coastal Kitchen can't compare to the restaurant's other specialties like the fennel cream-sauced cauliflower dumplings or the spiced lobster tail. But famed Indian chefs like Julie Sahni don't consider this dish "the most exquisite of all dal preparations" for nothing, and speaking in terms of decadence, it outclasses the rest by a long shot.
For all that I've grilled (150-plus recipes and counting), there's always plenty of uncharted territory. One of those areas: planking. There aren't usually many planking recipes in cookbooks, save the ubiquitous planked salmon. Put simply, planking is cooking food directly on a piece of hardwood. When cooking this way, the surface of the food touching the wood picks up some of the plank's natural flavors.
I don't use the word magical lightly, but there really is something wondrous about making bagels at home. Maybe it's the shape. I think most everyone understands a loaf of bread, but the round shape with a hole ... well, it seems like a whole lot more work than simply plopping some dough in a loaf pan. But it's not. Really. Try making just one batch of these, and I'm sure you'll have the process down pat. Put on your sorcerer's robe and follow along!