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7 Authentic Thai Recipes Any Home Cook Can Master

If you crave the taste of authentic Thai recipes, try creating these restaurant-quality Thai dishes from Leela Punyaratabandhu.

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Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Pad Thai with Shrimp

Serves 2

4 ounces dried rice sticks, 3 millimeters (about 1/8 inch) wide

3 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar, or 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, homemade or store-bought

2 tablespoons fish sauce

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large shallot, about 1 ounce, minced

2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped preserved radish (optional)

6 ounces extra-firm tofu (use the firmest one you can find), cut into matchsticks 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide and thick

2 tablespoons shell-on small dried shrimp (optional)

8 ounces large raw shrimp in the shell, peeled and deveined

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 Chinese chives or green parts of 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 ounces mung bean sprouts (about 2 cups)

Table Condiments and Seasonings:
1 lime, cut into wedges

Granulated sugar

Fish sauce

Red chile powder

1/3 to 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts

Immerse the noodles in room-temperature water to cover for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft enough to wind around your fingers without breaking. Drain and cut into 6-inch lengths with kitchen shears. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or a 14-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the drained noodles and stir until the noodles are coated with the oil and have become more pliable but not yet cooked through, about 1 minute. Add the prepared sauce and stir-fry for 1 minute to coat the noodles with the sauce.

Push the noodles to one side of the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the empty side of the pan, and add the shallot, garlic, radish, tofu, and dried shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute on their side of the pan while the noodles are cooking in the sauce on the other side. Add the fresh shrimp to the shallot side of the pan and stir-fry until the shrimp are half cooked, about 1 minute. Stir the noodles around once while still keeping them on their side of the pan.

Make a well in the center of the pan, add the eggs to the well, and scramble and shred them with the tip of the spatula until the egg bits are cooked through, about 1 minute.

By this time all the moisture should have evaporated, the noodles should have become softened, and the shrimp should have been completely cooked. Do a strand check to see if the noodles are soft enough. If all of the moisture has evaporated and the noodles are still undercooked, add a little water as needed.

Once everything is ready, remove the pan from the heat. Fold in the chives and half of the bean sprouts and let the residual heat wilt them.

Plate the noodles and serve with the remaining bean sprouts and the table condiments and seasonings for adding as desired.

2 / 7
Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Crispy Wings with Three-Flavored Sauce

Serves 2 or 3

Wing Ingredients:
1-1/2 pounds chicken wings, tips removed and separated into drumettes and flats

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 cup rice flour or all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Three-flavored Sauce Ingredients:

10 fresh bird’s eye chiles, or 2 fresh Thai long chiles

5 large cloves garlic

1 large shallot, about 1 ounce

3 cilantro roots, or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup packed grated palm sugar, or 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup tamarind pulp, homemade (see sidebar) or store-bought

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

To marinate the chicken, combine the chicken, oyster sauce, and fish sauce in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 to 5 hours or up to overnight.

To make the sauce, in a food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, shallot, and cilantro roots and pulse into a coarse paste with bits the size of a match head. Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the paste and fry just until fragrant about 1 minute. Add the palm sugar, granulated sugar, water, fish sauce, and tamarind pulp and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until reduced to about 3/4 cup. This will take about 5 to 8 minutes.Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Let cool completely. Spread the flour on a plate. One at a time, coat the chicken pieces with the flour, shaking off the excess.

Arrange the coated pieces, not touching, on a baking sheet and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. This resting period is important because it allows the coating to absorb the moisture on the chicken and form a crust, which will become
very crunchy when the chicken is fried.

To fry the chicken, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches into a wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer and heat to 300°F. To test if the oil is ready without a thermometer, stick an unvarnished wooden chopstick into the oil; when the oil is hot enough, tiny bubbles will slowly rise from the tip of the chopstick. If you see a steady stream of bubbles rise up rapidly, lower the heat a bit. Line another baking sheet with paper towels and place it near the stove.

Add the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary, so as not to crowd the wok) to the hot oil and fry, turning the pieces as needed for even browning, until deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the pieces to the towel-lined baking sheet.

Put the fried chicken into the sauce bowl and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the chicken on a large platter, sprinkle the cilantro over the top, and serve immediately.

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Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Chicken-Cashew Stir Fry

Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 yellow or white onion

3 green onions

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons thin soy sauce

2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) whole roasted cashews

3 dried Thai long chiles, seeded and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch wide pieces

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

Cut the chicken against the grain and on the diagonal (30- to 40-degree angle) into thin, bite-size pieces. Place the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle the cornstarch over it, and stir well, making sure each piece of chicken is coated with the cornstarch; set aside.

Cut the yellow onion through the stem end into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut the green onions crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Add the white parts to the yellow onion slices. Keep the green parts separate.

In a small bowl, stir together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and water, mixing well. Set aside.

Line 2 plates with paper towels and place them near the stove. Heat the oil in a large wok or a 14-inch skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cashews and fry, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the nuts to a towel-lined plate. Do your best to keep as much oil in the pan as possible, as we need to fry two more ingredients in it.

With the pan still over medium heat, add the chiles and fry, stirring constantly, until crisp, about 1 minute, taking care not to burn them. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the chiles to the cashew plate and set the plate aside.

Turn up the heat to high. When the oil is very hot, add half of the chicken, gently lowering each piece into the oil and leaving room between the pieces. After 1 to 2 minutes, one side of the chicken should feel firm when you touch it with the end of the spatula. This is your cue to flip the chicken pieces. Do not go by color, because the oil has taken on the color of the dried chiles and the chicken will look golden brown when it is still uncooked. Also, do not stir the chicken around, as you want each piece to develop a soft crust.

Once that has been achieved, using the slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the second towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining half of the chicken.

Discard nearly all of the oil in the pan, leaving only a thin film to coat the pan bottom, and return the pan to high heat. Immediately add the garlic, the yellow onion, and the white parts of the green onions and stir them around. When the onions have softened a bit, after about 1 minute, add the chicken to the pan along with the oyster sauce mixture (be sure to use a small rubber spatula to get every bit of the sauce out of the bowl) and stir everything around constantly. The sauce should evaporate quickly, without turning the coating of the chicken soft and gummy.

Immediately add the green parts of the green onions and the fried cashews and chiles and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.

At this point, everything should be heated through and the green onion tops should be wilted. Remove from the heat, transfer to a platter, and serve.

Note: It is imperative that you use either a large wok or a 14-inch skillet, unless you halve the recipe. At the frying stage, using a cooking vessel that is too small may not present a problem. But at the stir-frying stage when we want the liquid ingredients to form a glistening sauce quickly, fast evaporation is crucial. If at any point the chicken looks like it is taking its sweet time stewing gently in a bubbling sauce, either the pan is too small or the heat is too low.

Follow the instructions as closely as you can, and at any time that there appears to be a difference between your stove’s output and my stove’s output, use your instinct.

4 / 7
Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Curry Noodles with Chicken

Serves 4

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs (great) or breasts (okay)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup coconut cream (from the top of a can of coconut milk)

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 tablespoons kari (“yellow”) curry paste,

2 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar, or 1-1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1-1/2 cups coconut milk

3 cups sodium-free chicken stock

6 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide and thick

2 teaspoons curry powder

8 ounces mung bean sprouts (about 4 cups)

8 ounces dried rice sticks, 3 millimeters (about 1/8 inch) wide
1/4 cup finely chopped preserved radish (optional)

1/4 cup fried shallots (see sidebar)

1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts

2 hard- or medium-boiled eggs peeled and halved lengthwise

Table Seasonings:

2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges

Fish sauce

Granulated sugar

Red chile powder

Cut the chicken against the grain and on the diagonal into thin, bite-size pieces.
Cover and refrigerate until needed.

In a 1-gallon saucepan, combine the vegetable oil, coconut cream, and curry pastes, and stir over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir for about 1 minute, until the chicken is coated with the curry paste. Add the sugar, fish sauce, coconut milk, and stock, stir well, and bring to a very gentle boil. When the chicken is cooked through, after 3 to 4 minutes, stir in the tofu and curry powder, mixing well to distribute the curry powder evenly. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting; keep the curry warm.

Have ready 4 large individual serving bowls.

Half fill another 1-gallon saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the bean sprouts, stir, and then immediately fish the bean sprouts out of the water with a wire-mesh skimmer, shaking off the excess water. Divide the bean sprouts evenly among the bowls. While the water is still boiling, add the dried noodles, stir to submerge, and cook until they have softened through, about 15 minutes. Taste a strand to make sure they are ready. Drain the cooked noodles through a large colander placed in the sink and rinse off all starchy liquid that clings to them with running hot tap water. Shake off the water. Divide the noodles evenly among the bowls.

Immediately ladle the curry over the noodles, dividing it evenly. Sprinkle each serving with an equal amount of the radish, fried shallots, cilantro, and peanuts. Top each serving with an egg half. Serve immediately with the limes, fish sauce, sugar, and red chile powder for adding as desired.

Fried Shallot and Shallot Oil Ingredients:
Makes 1/2 cup fried shallots and 3/4 cup shallot oil

4 shallots, about 1 ounce each, thinly sliced lengthwise

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Set a small fine-mesh strainer on top of a heatproof bowl and place both close to the stove. In a cold 6- or 8-inch skillet, combine the shallots and the oil and heat over medium heat. Stir the shallots around with a spatula to separate them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil becomes hot and starts sizzling, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally as the shallots around the edges of the pan tend to cook faster than those in the middle.

After 5 minutes, the shallots should be the color of honey (if not, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer). Immediately remove the skillet from the heat and pour the contents through the prepared strainer. Let both the crispy shallots and the oil cool completely before storing them in 2 separate airtight containers at room temperature. The crispy shallots keep for 3 weeks and the oil keeps for 2 months.

5 / 7
Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Spicy Vegetable Soup with Shrimp and Lemon Basil

Serves 4 to 6

8 ounces oyster or white button mushrooms

1 pound large shrimp in the shell, peeled and deveined

2 large shallots, about 1 ounce each

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

1 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)

4 cups sodium-free chicken stock, homemade or store-bought

8 ounces low-moisture winter squash or pumpkin (such as kabocha or Buttercup squash or Fairy Tale pumpkin), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 smooth-skinned chayote, halved, cored,and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound fresh baby corn, trimmed and halved on the diagonal, or 1 (14-ounce) can baby corn, drained, rinsed, and halved on the diagonal

1 luffa gourd, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, or 2 to 3 zucchini, about 1 pound total, halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise 1 inch thick

3 tablespoons fish sauce, or 1⁄4 cup if not using shrimp paste

1 cup loosely packed fresh lemon basil leaves

If using oyster mushrooms, separate them into individual pieces. If using white mushrooms, halve the small ones and quarter the bigger ones. Set aside.

Separate out one-fourth of the shrimp and keep the rest in the refrigerator for now. Half fill a 1-quart saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn opaque, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and transfer the shrimp to a blender. Add the shallots, white pepper, shrimp paste, and stock to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender into a 4-quart saucepan, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the pumpkin and chayote and cook for 3 minutes. Add the corn and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the luffa, mushrooms, and the reserved whole shrimp and continue cooking until the shrimp turn opaque and all the vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce and remove the pan from the heat.

Taste; add more fish sauce, if needed.

Stir in the basil, ladle into individual serving bowls, and serve piping hot.

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Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Pork in Spicy Dressing with Iced Broccoli Stems

Serves 4

1 pound lean pork loin or tenderloin or boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 teaspoons baking soda

12 ounces Chinese broccoli or regular broccoli stems

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon packed grated palm sugar, or 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

4 large cloves garlic, minced

3 fresh bird’s eye chiles, minced
8 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup crushed ice

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves (optional)

Cut the pork against the grain and on the diagonal (30- to 40-degree angle) into thin, bite-size pieces. Put the pork in a bowl, sprinkle the baking soda over the top, and mix well (this is best done with your hands). Cover and chill while you ready the other ingredients.

If using Chinese broccoli, test to see if the stems are tender enough to eat without peeling them. If they are, trim about 1 inch off the bottom of each stalk end and any leaf stems, leaving just the main stem, which will look like an asparagus spear but thicker. If they are not, trim them as directed and then lightly peel them with a vegetable peeler. If using stems of regular broccoli, peel off the fibrous skin with a vegetable peeler until the inner core is exposed. Cut the Chinese or regular broccoli stems into sticks 5 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. Arrange the stems on a plate, cover, and refrigerate.

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Erin Kunkel/Courtesy Ten Speed Press

Simple Thai Food

For more recipes, pick up Simple Thai Food here.

Reprinted with permission from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Erin Kunkel.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest