Thai Food Takes Time-No 30 Minute Meal Tonight

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One of the highlights of our Cape Cod trip was dinner at Bangkok Thai. Our hosts had never eaten Thai food before so we were happy to encourage them to try it out. I was inspired by the simpleness and the savory tastes so I decided to cook a Thai meal for my aged parents who came up for a two night visit yesterday. I set out to make Thai standards–the national dish, Pad Thai, and chicken satay, another stalwart of the region. I also wanted to cook some of my garden’s Japanese eggplant so I found a third recipe for thai eggplant to round it out.

Armed with a long list of ingredients, my next stop was the big Asian market in Hadley. There I got the essential yet esoteric items found in Thai cuisine: lemongrass, chiles, ginger, Japanese eggplant, shrimp paste, raw peanuts, rice stick noodles, bean sprouts–and I was surprised to already have rice vinegar, fish sauce, minced garlic so I didn’t have to restock the whole pantry.

Some $59 later, I was almost ready to start cooking–but needed to get the chicken and shrimp. By 1:45 I was ready to pull up the recipes on my laptop and get to work. I remembered that the distinct flavors that make Thai food what it is are consistently sweet and savory: brown sugar and fish sauce, plus lots of chiles and garlic to add pizzazz. But all of this takes a lot of time–no 30 minute meals were coming out today, I realized.

So I set to work with the food processor blending up a peanut sauce and began marinating the chicken and shrimp. By 3 pm I was no where near ready, after skewering a legion of chicken satays and had to start thinking about my charcoals. Satays are always cooked on charcoal, and have a coating of sauce that requires a few hours of refrigeration. I was glad I cancelled my work meeting, there was no way this was gonna be done without concentrated effort.

At 5 I lit the charcoal and assigned someone to take care of the satays. I had to get the pad thai going, which would be layered with the crunchy uncooked bean sprouts, sliced green onion and ground peanuts on top. By 6:30, it was all together–and the best thing someone said at dinner was that it tasted like the pad thai from a restaurant. Sweet!