Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bowl Food: Thai

Dinner time is sacred, to me at least. I attribute this to the way we grew up and spent so much time at the dinner table. In our family, like most I'm sure, we sat together for meals. Dinner time however, being the only meal of the day when everyone was surely home from work or school could not be missed. All seven of us would sit and eat our dinner course by course. We'd start with soup and nobody could go on to the next course unless each one was done with their soup. If you just had one serving and I wanted to go for seconds or thirds, you and everyone would have to wait for me to finish before starting on the main dishes that followed. Once in a while, someone would get impatient about another taking long but more often, these "waiting periods" were the most enjoyable moments at the dinner table. These were the moments when lively family conversation would happen. Sometimes it would be two people conversing, other times three or four or more. It was so much fun growing up at the dinner table like this. I'm sure it is one of the things that brought us so close to each other that to this day no matter how scattered we are all over the globe, we still want to and manage to keep the lively conversations going - dinner time or not.
I'm thankful that our parents (unbeknownst to us back then) designed dinner time as family bonding time. It is something I want to continue with my own unit. So for now, our unit of two (not seven) looks forward to meal time not just for the food but for the bonding as well. More often than not, we'll sit at the table for dinner, say grace and chat endlessly over our meal. BUT, we do make exceptions. Mr. P. works really long hours so on some days, he'd rather stay on the couch from the time he gets home until the time he showers and goes to sleep. On nights like these, I make sure to prepare something that can be eaten easily with one hand holding the bowl of food and the other hand holding just ONE utensil. We'll cozy up on the couch, put on one of the shows we follow and happily eat our bowl food. It may not be the ideal scenario for building closeness if and when we have our own kids but for just the two of us, it definitely works. It feels like quality time and dinner time all rolled into one.

Bowl food night last week was Thai inspired: Satay Style Chicken over rice with sauteed vegetables on the side.

Satay Style Chicken (for 2)
This recipe was adapted from here. Marinate 3-4 chicken thigh fillets overnight in equal parts (as per original recipe, it's 2 tablespoons each) of:
-lime juice
-fish sauce
-soy sauce
-curry powder
In addition, I put in about 1 teaspoon of Sriracha sauce into the mix and seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper prior to marinating. I just think that despite the marinade, this step ensures a tasty piece of chicken. I for the life of me, cannot stand under-seasoned chicken. Cut the thighs into strips before marinating to further enhance flavour absorption of each piece.

The ideal way of cooking this is to grill the chicken if you have a barbecue grill. Since we don't I just placed the chicken pieces on a baking rack over a cookie sheet and grilled them in the oven. I put the outer leaves and unusable parts of two lemongrass stalks on the baking sheet, beneath the chicken, for added fragrance and flavour while grilling. Preheat the oven to 180C. Since the chicken had been cut into strips, it only took about 10-15 minutes in the oven. It came out really juicy and tender. For the real satay effect, you can skewer your chicken, but for this meal, it had to be bowl food.
Of course, chicken satay is not chicken satay without the peanut sauce. Here's how I modified the original recipe:

Peanut Sauce
1T ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 red chili, minced
3T ground lemongrass
3T chopped cilantro
1T ground turmeric
1/2 tomato, diced
4T peanuts
1/8 c rice bran oil and a dash of sesame oil
1/8 c soy sauce
1/8 c mirin
2T sugar
1/8 c coconut milk
1/8 c peanut butter
Heat the oil in a saute pan and add in the ginger, garlic, chili, lemongrass, cilantro and turmeric. Heat over med-low heat until very fragrant. Add the tomato, peanuts and a dash of sesame oil. Continue to heat for about 3 more minutes, until tomato softens. Stir in the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, coconut milk and peanut butter. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5-7 minutes until it thickens. Stir pretty constantly so that nothing burns. Remove from heat and use a stick blender to crush the peanuts and process the mixture into a thick and slightly chunky consistency. Serve hot with the chicken over rice.

He was happy so I too was happy. It was exactly what he needed after a long day at work. We'll definitely do this again.


  1. cute ming! i love this entry! and yes it is so true, everything you said about how it was so ingrained in us that it has become the most natural thing to continue.

  2. Now how do I stop Vince from watching tv and inhaling his food at dinnertime? Seriously. Help!

    Love this one!

  3. Sometimes P inhales his food too. But what matters to me is that he hangs out at the table to chat while I finish my food slowly. hehe!