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Simple Thai Food: Beef Shank Matsaman Curry (แกงมัสมั่นเนื้อน่องลาย)

Beef Shank Matsaman Curry from Simple Thai Food Book by Leela Punyaratabandhu
To continue the series of photo-based posts from Simple Thai Food, here’s matsaman (massaman) curry made with beef shank.

I made this with fresh coconut milk from a mature coconut which I grated with the coconut bunny and extracted myself. Because of this, the coconut fat splits more readily and the curry broth, though certainly rich and full-bodied, doesn’t have the creamy, homogenous appearance that it usually does when canned or boxed coconut milk is used.

I didn’t have any yellow or white onions around when I made this batch of matsaman, so I went with the tiny pearl onions I had in the freezer. To compensate for the undersize onions, I –and, trust me, this made perfect sense at the time– cut the Yukon Gold potatoes into larger-than-usual chunks. But now I’m looking at the size disparity between the two, and I’m just as confused as some of you may be. None of this affects the taste, though.

Lastly, if you look closely, you will spot tiny little ivory/light golden-colored (or are they black and blue?), Siamese cardamoms which are used routinely in Thailand (I’ve mentioned them in the glossary), at least in the central Thai version of the curry. If you can find them, by all means, use them. If not, green cardamoms which you can find at most Middle Eastern and South Asian grocery stores will work just fine.

You can find the recipe for beef shank matsaman curry on page 108 of Simple Thai Food.

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Mike Sula and Spicy Thai Lao Egg Rolls from Spicy Thai Lao Restaurant, Chicago

An Interview with Chicago Reader Restaurant Critic, Mike Sula, and an Egg Roll Recipe from Spicy Thai Lao Restaurant in Chicago
James Beard Award-winning journalist Mike Sula has been writing for the Chicago Reader for 20 years, covering various topics in various formats and styles from short blog posts to long-form features. One of the city’s most respected restaurant reviewers, Sula scours the nooks and crannies of Chicagoland in search of stories to tell you. Sure, he has a reputation for both being difficult to impress and being very capable of vividly articulating why certain things don’t impress him. But if you have followed his work for several years, you will know that Sula is actually impressed with a lot of things.

Sula is also a writer whom I deeply admire. He has always been generous with his help and advice whenever I, a relatively new writer, ask him for it. I have always felt grateful for that. And I would like to dedicate this post to him.

But, first, I asked Sula a few questions. Continue Reading →

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Simple Thai Food: Chicken in Brown Sauce on Rice (ข้าวหน้าไก่)

Khao Na Kai - Chicken in Brown Sauce over Rice from the Book Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen
I’ve been wanting to start a series of photo-based posts featuring dishes, or samples of family meal ensembles, that you can create from Simple Thai Food (which I’m sure my long-time readers have a copy of). I hadn’t had a chance to do so until now.

Debuting the series is one of my top favorites in the entire repertoire of what the Thais refer to as “one-plate meals”: khao na kai (also informally spelled khao na gai).

This is one of the old-fashioned Thai-Chinese dishes that are very well known among those who are deeply familiar with Bangkok. My generation grew up eating this; our parents and grandparents loved it so much that even though they had to herd their kids and grandkids into the car and drive to specific restaurants on the other side of the city for good versions of it, they never hesitated (I know, because I was one of those kids).

Not all comfort foods are easy to make as, to be ‘comfort,’ they often require long, slow cooking. Not this one where the active cooking time is less than 15 minutes. The ingredient list is pretty darned short as well. It’s one of those things that seem so ordinary that some people probably look at and go, ‘What’s the big deal?’But looks can be deceiving.

A simple recipe for it can be found on page 146 of Simple Thai Food. Feel free to top it with a crispy fried egg (page 194) and/or add some dried, sweet Chinese sausage (lap cheong), sliced and seared crisp, as done by one old Bangkok-based restaurant.

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