Despite my love of fun, non-alcoholic beverages (kombucha, tea, lemonade, hibiscus coolers, etc., etc.), I’m always dropping the ball when it comes to making them for dinner parties. Folks usually only have one option: water.
But from now on, I’m going to try to up my drink game, big time. And this ginger, lemongrass and Thai basil sparkler is pretty much guaranteed to be paired with all future Southeast Asian meals.
The inspiration came from a ginger and mint lemonade that a friend once made (and for you local folks, his inspiration came from the drink at Govinda’s). But since I’m in Thai mode at the moment, my mind immediately translated it into something with Asian flavors. The lemon morphed into lemongrass and the mint got subbed out for spicy Thai basil. And the sparkling water? Well, I just like the bubbles.
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It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but here’s the lovechild of my two favorite syrups: ginger and lemongrass. The condiment shelves in my fridge are generally stuffed to the gills, and so I’m considering the consolidation of two bottles into one to be a step in the right direction. I’m not sure why I didn’t take the leap years ago.
The syrup is surprisingly versatile… drizzle some into your tea, lemonade, or use it in place of simple syrup in your favorite cocktail to give it some Asian flair (a ginger lemongrass mojito sounds pretty fab). It can also provide a base for one heck of a fantastic mocktail. Recipe is coming soon, but here’s a sneak peek.
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Back in my gluten-eating days, I lived near a great hole in the wall Thai restaurant. Literally, the place is a garage with a retractable door. Back then, each plate lunch or dinner cost less than $5, which meant than even an under-employed person like myself (I’d taken the summer off to surf… oh how I miss my carefree early 20s) could dine like a king.
While I loved trying new-to-me dishes like Thai crispy noodles, Tom Ka Gai soup, and Pad Kee Mao noodles, their green curry with chicken, eggplant and bamboo shoots (the #12!) was in high rotation. I loved the thick, rich and spicy curry sauce that coated the chicken and veggies and seeped into the accompanying rice. That curry also probably deserves most of the credit for building up my heat tolerance for spicy foods.
I haven’t been to that restaurant in years and years (they use a glutinous oyster sauce in just about everything), it was easy to recreate the dish at home with the help of some store bought curry paste. And although the paste alone will give you a perfectly decent curry, adding a couple extra items like fish sauce, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves and some Thai basil transforms it into restaurant-quality.
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Every so often I stumble upon a food blog post in which the author is trying to persuade his or her readers into “trying eggplant again”, with the underlying assumption that a lot of folks have tried eggplant and not liked it. Really? I guess I’ve always assumed that everybody was fully on board the eggplant train.
Granted the eggplant was likely well hidden under a heavy blanket of tomato sauce, bread crumbs and cheese, but I’m pretty sure that I fell for eggplant on my first try. I have a feeling that eggplant Parmesan was the gateway eggplant dish for many of us.
I think what I love most about eggplant is its versatility. It’s equally capable of stepping up to be star of the show as it is of fading into the background. In this quick and healthy Thai dish, eggplant is sauteed with red bell peppers in a spicy and sweet fish sauce-based sauce. A couple handfuls of Thai basil keeps the dish tasting fresh instead of heavy.
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