February 18, 2010

Craving for Thai food

I had my first taste of Thai food when I lived in southern California and promptly fell in love with it! Its 'flavor profile' is quite similar to the Manadonese cuisine that I grew up eating and loving (and still do) with its prodigious use of chilies and sour/citrus components such as limes, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

There are plenty of great Thai restaurants throughout Los Angeles, but my favorites were the ever-popular Sanam Luang in Pomona (there's another one in North Hollywood) and its competition just a hop-and-skip away on the same street: Mix Bowl.

Both restaurants served delicious, yet thankfully inexpensive, Thai food — I lost count how many times I dined there or ordered 'to go/take-away' meals over the years. Their proximity to my workplace and church also made them the 'default' go-to places after music rehearsals and other church events (their late hours helped, too!).

Pad Ka Pao (or Pad Kra Pao, there are different spellings) was a dish I frequently ordered. Its primary ingredients are green beans and Thai basil (similar to kemangi in Indonesian. It's not the same basil used in Italian food!), sauteed with your choice of ground meat (beef, pork or chicken) with lots of garlic and chilies. Fish sauce and lime juice give the dish its salty and sour kicks. In the restaurants it's available 'over rice' or sauteed along with flat rice noodles (kwetiau). You could also order it with its traditional 'crowning glory': a sunny-side-up egg, its yolk still rich and creamy.

I never cooked Pad Ka Pao when I lived in L.A., there was no need! Sanam Luang or Mix Bowl was just a short drive away. But when I returned to Jakarta, where Thai restaurants are quite scarce (and they're more of a 'dining' destination here, not your down-to-earth neighborhood hang-out place), I decided to satisfy my craving for one of my favorite Thai dishes by cooking it myself. Plus, all the ingredients are easily available here.

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I'm not big on writing out recipes here (because I hardly ever measure out ingredients when I'm cooking). But if you want a recipe, here's one for Pad Krapow over at Chez Pim's food blog (she's a food blog pioneer based in San Francisco, she has her own cookbook and she's Thai, so you can trust her :).

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