We are only two weeks away from departing for Thailand and we are getting really excited. Last night Paige and I visited a Thai market on Hollywood Blvd. here in L.A. to get some inspiration, and shop for dinner. The intention was to roast a chicken using aromatic Thai herbs and spices, and post that recipe today. Unfortunately, we got distracted by Beerlao, the beer of Laos, and started dinner late. By the time I remembered to take a picture, we had already devoured the meal. But don't worry, it wasn't nearly as delicious as what we made today with the leftover herbs and veggies.
In my limited experience with authentic Thai cuisine, some of my favorite dishes have been their salads. We use the term salad to describe a wide array of different cold Thai dishes with different categories unto themselves. This particular one is not something I have ever eaten before today, but follows loosely the format of a "yam" which translates to "mix". Yam can consist of just about anything cold, raw or cooked, as the main ingredient. They will almost always include: fish sauce, sliced shallots, lime juice, sugar, and Thai chile. Unlike western salads, oil isn't used as a main ingredient in dressing. This keeps the salad from wilting and maintains a much more vibrant flavor. This is my own adaptation, using Chinese Spinach and herbs as the base. If you can't find Chinese Spinach, or some of the herbs mentioned in the recipe, a reasonable likeness can be created with western counterparts. However, I do suggest going to an authentic Asian supermarket to search for true eastern ingredients. Look around, ask some questions, it's an adventure in cultural immersion right here in the U.S.A. If you have never been to a big Asian supermarket, you may find that it's a better place to shop for produce than your regular supermarket and usually cheaper.
This recipe creates a large salad for one, or a side for two. A great accompaniment to grilled meat or runny eggs. Thai Birdseye chiles are very spicy. I don't find this recipe to be very spicy, but it may be for more sensitive palates.
2 cups chopped Chinese Spinach including the stems
1 cup picked Holy Basil
1 cup picked Cilantro
1/2 tsp very thinly sliced kefir lime leaves
1 tsp very thinly sliced fresh lemongrass (remove a few layers of the tough outside and reserve for a future soup, only use the tender inside for the salad)
1 whole green Thai Birdseye Chile sliced very thin
1 very small shallot sliced thin
4 Tbsp fish sauce (Three Crab, and Shrimp brand are some really good ones, for this I used Megachef brand and it was great.)
Juice of one lime (you need about 3 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Pinch of sugar
Small pinch of salt
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, basil, cilantro, kefir lime, lemongrass, shallot and chile.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, sugar and salt. Mix until the sugar and salt are well incorporated.
3. Immediately dress the salad, toss, and eat.