Tag Archives: Thai food

Hom Big-Jon: Thai Inspired Hoppin’ John

31 Dec

Black eyed peas for good luck in 2011.

This year I’m making a couple of traditionally inspired dishes for New Years Eve.  The first dish is called Hom Big-Jon, a play on Southern Style Hoppin’ John.  It’s supposed to have a penny somewhere in it for the lucky person who finds it in his bowl, but I can never bring myself to add one.  Hoppin’ John is a very traditional Southern New Years dish and like everything else, it’s been transformed by my life here.  Most obvious is the Thai influence on the dish (see the ingredients).  And Thai folks apparently like nicknames: “Hom” means “pleasant aroma” and a “Big-Jon” is a “big, big man who lies at the bottom of a disused mineshaft” according to a fellow named Boonie who lives in Thailand.  So this Hoppin’ John landed himself at the bottom of a disused mineshaft (or Fairbanks in my case) and let me tell you, Hom Big-Jon smells delicious.

Hom Big-Jon

  • 3 cans of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 of a red, yellow, and orange pepper, diced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 of a red onion
  • 1 finger of ginger, minced
  • a handful of cilantro, destemmed and partially chopped
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of Marukan citrus marinade (or the juice of 1 lime)
  • 1 cup of seasoned gourmet rice vinegar (Marukan)
  • 1 tsp salt

Let this sit overnight if you can. The flavors really mellow and sing after it marinates. Actually, if it sits for two or three days, it’s pure genius, or so the Hot Boyfriend tells me, but he might be biased. Wait, no. It’s genius.

I'm hoping for more color in my Snow White World.

The other dish is Plain Ol’ Beet Greens, which hopefully represents more money in the new year, and I pick beet greens because the red stems remind me of passion, a thing I always want in my life.  But, there is another reason why I’m cooking this dish—I really shouldn’t eat the Hom Big-Jon.  The rice vinegar is loaded with sugar and, well… I have a confession: I don’t eat sugar or flour.  Ever.  OK, I’ve slipped up here and there in very small amounts, but for the most part I studiously avoid those two things.  The recipes you see here that use either of those ingredients are things I cook for my family and friends; I never eat them myself.  I rely on others to tell me if a dish is good or not.  If my son’s eyes light up and he asks for more of the Danish Grandmother’s Sugar Cookies, then I know the recipe is worth something.

I stopped eating sugar and flour almost 4 years ago when I was diagnosed with something called Polycystic Ovarian Disease.  Once I changed my diet, the ugly symptoms that go with this disease virtually disappeared. It’s no coincidence that my obsession with food began around the same time; I’d always been a food connoisseur of sorts, but it took on a life of its own when I began to cook all of my own food. Processed food is just out of the question on this kind of diet, so I had to start cooking every day and I had to be very creative about it. And I refuse to call my foodways “Low-Carb” or “Gluten Free”—I have a maniacal distaste for those monikers.  Good food is good food and I just happen to eat the kind with no sugar or flour.

OK, so another confession: those “slip ups” I mentioned earlier tend to occur in close succession between November and December.  I may have had some stuffing at Thanksgiving.  And mashed potatoes.  And over Christmas I may or may not have eaten the Danish Grandmother’s Foodgasm Inducing Super Ham Balls (which had more than one ingredient I’m supposed to stay away from). But of course, you can bank on the fact that every New Year’s Resolution tends to involve being more conscientious about what I put in my mouth.  Which means that my recipe for Plain Ol’ Beet Greens is legal fare.

Big green leaves for money (I'm spending mine on plane tickets) and red stems for passion.

Plain Ol’ Beet Greens

  • fresh greens from 6-8 large beets, remove the larger part of the stems
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 pieces of bacon and drippings
  • 1/3 of a sweet Vidalia onion

Rinse the beet greens and remove the woody stems. Chop the greens in to bite size pieces and in a large pot, combine the greens, water, and vinegar.

In a frying pan, cook the bacon and remove it once it’s done.  There should be 2-3 tablespoons of drippings left.  I usually have some extra in the fridge, but that’s my Southern upbringing at work.

Saute the onions, and once the greens are dark and limp, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and add them to the saute pan.  If you want, chop up the bacon and add it to the greens.  Sometimes I’ve already eaten the bacon while the onions are sauteing.

Eat it until your wallet grows fat, or until you do from all the bacon grease.

Also, use the remaining vinegar and water to cook the beets.  Delicious.  More so if you let it reduce before serving.

You Can’t Go Home Again: Part III in a Series on Thai Food in Fairbanks

21 Dec

Thai cuisine is so popular here, we even have drive thrus!

Thai food is not only Fairbanks’ favorite cuisine, it’s also turning out to be a theme in this blog.  Thai flavors are as ubiquitous as snow, so it’s no mere coincidence that when folks leave this place, they are sentimental about many things and Thai food usually ranks in the top 5.  My friend, writer and gastronome Alison Singer, recently sent this piece to me:

“Alaska is always in my thoughts. Always somewhere there on the horizon, along that furthest downward arcing of the horizon, where the sun meets the land, or the sky meets the water. And sometimes in winter, when I look up at a clear sky, flashes of the aurora appear in the periphery of my vision, but when I turn my eyes it is gone. And then I remember I’m not in Alaska anymore.

When I think about cheese, which I do daily, I think about Alaska, and I think about Alaska when I do dishes, and I think about Alaska when I bake cookies. I think about a day spent with a good friend, a day in which we learned what a KitchenAid mixer is capable of, and what it isn’t (multiple loaves of sun-dried tomato bread). On that day, in another small cabin with no plumbing, we made a feast of cookies and treats: cashew brittle, pumpkin rolls, meringues, sun-dried tomato bread, and many other things that I can no longer recall. Perhaps more than I have ever cooked in one session since. Perhaps.

Alaska is where I attribute the beginning of my food obsession. And I wasn’t obsessed with food in Alaska, and so it seems strange, even to myself that I see Alaska as the beginning. Something about the water though. I lived in a little cabin with no plumbing, and so I did the dishes with a thin trickle of cold water, after I had let the dogs lick off the important bits. And I had a boyfriend who was always happy to spend money at Thai restaurants. So between the water and the boyfriend, I didn’t cook that much.  But still.

I never made this dish in Alaska, but it is Thai, and nowhere have I eaten more Thai food than in Fairbanks.

Pad Kee Mao, from the kitchen of Alison Singer

Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)

  • 1 14-ounce package wide rice stick noodles
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped (or, you know, more. Because it’s garlic).
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh Thai chiles (or not, depending on your spice desire)
  • Some meat. Or tofu. Like a couple chopped chicken breasts, or a half package of drained, chopped extra-firm tofu (my preference, and I’m not a vegetarian).
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/8 cup black soy sauce (if you don’t have this available, just toss in a tablespoon of molasses).
  • 1/8 cup Golden Mountain sauce (can use regular soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges (or diced – you know, however big you want them)
  • 1 green bell peppers, cut into strips (or red pepper, if you’re like me and don’t like green)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular fresh basil)

A note on ingredients: My best advice as a wannabe chef is to not limit yourself to what the recipe says. You think mushrooms sound good in this? Hell yeah they do! And shiitake are awesome in it. And you think garnishing with scallions sounds good? It is.


Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently. (Or follow directions on the package.) Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok (if you don’t have a wok you can use a sauté pan with almost as good results) over medium-high heat.

Add garlic and Thai chiles; saute 30 seconds.

Add chicken and next 4 ingredients and saute until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. If you use tofu, you might want to fry tofu before and add it at this phase. Add noodles, tomatoes, and bell peppers; toss to coat. Transfer to large platter, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve.”

Alison Singer hates writing things about herself. Like biographies. But in the spirit of things, she lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where she spends most of her time thinking about food, cooking food, and eating food. And drinking. And playing with dogs. And playing outside. And occasionally going to school. And she loves it all. Especially the eating.

Cabin Curry: How to Avoid the Outhouse at -25F.

19 Dec

The outhouse at the Kitchen Vixen's cabin.

Thai Curry, Round 2: Last night I visited my friend, a well known (but paradoxically private) poet who will henceforth be known as the Kitchen Vixen.  The Vixen lives, like many people in Fairbanks, in a cabin with no running water and an outhouse.  I love cooking with her in the cabin because, although there is no water, there is a phenomenal collection of cookbooks, old issues of Gastronomica, and plenty of Le Creuset cookware.  I brought over some of my booty from the Asian Market in the hopes that I could make another Thai curry, and that, this time, it would not send my American intestinal tract to the outhouse.  Especially since it was -25°F last night.

Yellow curry in a delightful bowl from the Tanana Valley Farmer's Market.

Here’s the recipe we managed to throw together:

Yellow Thai Curry with White Shrimp and Green Beans

  • 15-20 peeled, raw white shrimp
  • 1 small, finely julienned ginger root
  • 3-4 keffir lime leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 large handful of fresh green beans, ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large lobe of shallot, julienned
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp of yellow curry paste (I used Mae Ploy brand)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp Marukan seasoned gourmet rice vinegar

1. Get the peanut oil extremely hot (peanut oil is preferred both for taste and because it has a high smoking temperature, which means you can get it super hot before it begins to smoke and subsequently catches your cabin on fire).

Slightly more than caramelized? Maybe.

2. Add vegetable ingredients except for a smidge of the ginger and 1 or 2 of the lime leaves.  Turn the heat down when the ingredients begin to caramelize.

3. Add 1/2 the coconut milk, curry paste, and the peeled shrimp.

4. Let it simmer while you throw another log on the fire.

Chop wood. Drink wine.

5. Add the rest of the coconut milk, ginger, and lime leaves.

6.  Serve over rice, or, if you forgot to bring the rice (like I did) eat it as is.





Caveats: First of all, let me say that this recipe is good, but I’m not going to claim it’s genius. I have a lot to learn about the proportions and cooking order of Thai ingredients.  Also, I’m the kind of cook who thinks cooking from recipes is The Man trying to stifle my creativity; therefore, I have to learn the hard way sometimes.  And that often means making food that can be improved upon. By all means, if you have suggestions for this recipe, fire away.

In other news: It turns out the Hot Boyfriend couldn’t get home for Christmas, which means I will have company for Christmas.  He’s hoping I will cook his grandmother’s  Ham Balls, which I will share with you so long as I don’t utterly destroy a cherished family meal because I refuse to follow directions.

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