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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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Salted Chicken Shreds ไก่คั่วเกลือ

Salted Chicken Shreds
Last November marked the 6th anniversary of SheSimmers. I’ve been doing this thing for six years. And though it doesn’t feel that way to me, that’s a long time. In most relationships, this is long enough for people to feel so comfortable with each other that even certain bodily functions no longer present an issue. Don’t worry; I’m not going to do anything in your general direction — at least not yet. All I’m saying is that I now feel comfortable enough around you guys to post things that I was once afraid might cause you to avert your eyes. This thing you’re looking at, for example. You can see why no poets have ever compared it to a night of cloudless climes and starry skies or declared it more lovely and temperate than a summer’s day. In fact, is there even a way to make it look cute? Stack it up like brownies and tie it with 3-colored raffia? Slap a few Hello Kitty stickers on it? I don’t think so.

But actually, now that I think about it, I did this once before. Remember four years ago when I wrote about salted/fermented soybean paste? That was the only time on this blog I’d ever described something as aesthetically-compromised. (I didn’t say she was ugly, though; I just said she was no Helen of Troy.) What happened next? Many of you have fallen in love with khao man gai (RTGS: khao man kai), a dish whose success rests on this condiment. Well, these chicken shreds are no different. So even though you may hesitate to make room in your life for something that looks like this, I’m asking you to trust me that this dish could very well become your new best friend. Continue Reading →

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Sichuan Peppercorn-Ginger-Butter Shrimp aka M’s Shook Shrimp

Spicy Buttered Shrimp
A long trip of traveling to different parts of Thailand and East Asia was responsible for my absence of late from the blog. But then it’s also the guilty party who has given me many recipes, ideas, and stories to share with you in the weeks and months to come. So I hope you’ll forgive me (big, toothy grin; head slightly tilted to the left; ten rapid blinks).

This recipe, for example, was picked up during a brief stop in Bangkok; it came from my friend M (to understand this post better, you really should read this older post about M first).

Knowing I was in town, M called and informed me of a new dish he said was a mashup between a Chinese shrimp dish that his mother-in-law often made and my dried pepper-butter shrimp (which isn’t a traditional Thai dish; no need to write me). He added that it was so good that he always whipped it up whenever he got his wife mad, because once it was put on the table, ahem, she could never stay mad. Tender shrimp with buttery, aromatic sauce that goes beautifully with warm jasmine rice is conducive to marital harmony, M argued. Besides, it’s kind of hard to be angry when you sit at the dinner table peeling shrimp with your hands and sucking the delicious juices out of their heads. In all seriousness, though, Leela, this is good stuff, he said.

You see, according to the way my brain interprets things, that was a dinner invitation right there. So that afternoon I showed up at M’s condo with fresh ingredients and asked him to demo the dish. This is what happened. Continue Reading →

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