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Homemade Chili Oil: My All-Purpose Condiment

Homemade Chili Oil
Busy cooks know this: life is better and easier when you have a pantry full of things that keep for a long time without refrigeration and can be used in multiple ways at a moment’s notice. That is why this fragrant and fiery chili oil (not to be confused with nam prik pao) is always found in my pantry as well as the pantries* of my loved ones who are often gifted with a jar of it every now and then. We love it so.

Let’s be clear on one thing first, though: you’ll hardly ever see this condiment used in traditional Thai stir-fries, curries, soups, or salads. Even noodle shops in Thailand don’t usually have this available for you on the table as part of their seasoning caddy (on the other hand, you’ll see plain dried chili powder which is the norm). Chili oil is something you’ll most likely see at a Chinese restaurant. Continue Reading →

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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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Mon Dipping Sauce (น้ำปลามอญ) by Ong Bunjoon

Mon Dipping Sauce
I recently fell in love with a book. I’m still head over heels as I’m typing this sentence.

Long story short, I popped into a Kinokuniya during a quick layover in Bangkok early this summer in hopes of finding something tiny but texty and thrilling* to read on the 4-hour plane ride I’d catch later that evening. No more than 5 minutes later, I walked out with a copy of Khang Samrap Mon (ข้างสำรับมอญ)**, a pocketbook — still shrink-wrapped — with nothing that appealed to me on a quick glance other than the title and the author’s vaguely familiar name.

Not only was the book devoured in one sitting as planned, it was also constantly by my side as I was hopping from place to place in East and Southeast Asia in the following 3 months. All sorts of brutal acts like double- and triple-underlining, highlighting, dog-earing, excessive exclamation pointing, and ranty, monologic marginal-notating had been committed by me against the poor book. But in the process, I had learned so much about the culture and food of the ethnic Mon in Thailand. Continue Reading →

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