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Sweet and Sour Red Curry of Water Spinach and Pork Belly (Kaeng The-pho) from Immm Rice & Beyond in Chicago

Sweet and Sour Red Curry with Pork Belly from Immm Rice & Beyond in Chicago
(This post assumes that you have read its prerequisite.)

When it comes to Thai restaurants in the West, the one type that brings the widest range of emotions out of me is ran khao kaeng, rice-curry shops.

They’re the ones I hope for (Rotating menu! Variety! New stuff at every visit!), look for (Why are they so hard to find in the US?), get excited about (Hooray! One just opened up in the city!), and am fearful for (I hope they won’t go out of business like the two I’d interviewed in the last 5 years…) the most.

When done right and supported by the members of their community (so the people who run them can continue to do it right), this type of Thai restaurant could become not only the most approachable but also the most variegated and interesting ‘learning center’ for those who want to know more about Thai food and sample a wider variety of Thai dishes.

But the way rice-curry shops operate in the West—and I’ll get into this shortly—can be confusing. Consequently, what’s written about them is sometimes inaccurate. And because I want them to succeed so much, seeing how they’re misrepresented or misunderstood makes me feel nervous for them at times. Continue Reading →

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Red Curry of Chicken and White Asparagus, Inspired by Pinto by Chak

Pinto by Chak - Red Curry of Chicken and White Asparagus
A familiar sight when I was a kid growing up in Bangkok was that of someone on a bike going around the neighborhood to deliver food packed in a container called “pinto.” And though our family never used this daily catering and food delivery service, we were familiar with how it worked. How could we not? Advertising pamphlets were put in our mailbox every week, tempting us with the prospect of having a home-style, multi-dish meal delivered fresh to our door every day. A full samrap on your dinner table without you having to lift a finger? I’m pretty sure that even though my mother never actually signed up for the service, she must have toyed with the idea from time to time, especially on days when work became too demanding. Continue Reading →

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Gingered Chicken Stew

Gingered Chicken Stew
You know what’s really great about being older? You become much better at seeing right through nonsense. You’ve got good not only at seeing that the emperor has no clothes on but also at being confident enough to say out loud that the dude’s naked. I don’t like the physical part of getting older. But, man, this part, I love.

Years ago when my nonsense detector wasn’t working as well as it is now, I used to think that anything worth your while must be difficult to obtain/attain, difficult to understand, difficult to emulate, long, fussy, complicated, convoluted, mysterious, or out of reach in some way. I’m so through with that kind of thinking; it’s childish and rooted in a lack of self-trust, and it had never served me well.

This change has affected all aspects of my life these days, including how I eat, how I cook, and which cookbooks I buy. I’ve noticed that the older I get, the easier it is for me to part with certain types of book and the more tightly I cling to certain types. I’ve come to treasure cookbooks that are simple, humble, approachable, and highly usable. It’s these cookbooks that have survived the annual pruning of my book collection year after year after year. Continue Reading →

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