Brian Freerksen, executive chef at Baleen, an Asian-influenced restaurant in Mission Bay, Calif., serves hot and sour seafood wonton soup made with fresh wontons stuffed with fish, ginger and garlic in a standard hot and sour base with mushrooms and green onions.
Vegetables also are abundant in Thai salads, which play a big part in Thai cuisine. Truong with Royal Siam makes his yum pla muk salad with sliced squid soaked in lime juice mixed with chili pepper, onion, tomato, cucumber, coriander and lettuce. His Thai salad includes lettuce, cucumber, tomato, bean sprouts and dried bean curd served with a peanut-based dressing.
Miang kum, a signature dish at Typhoon, features diced ginger, shallots, chilies, lime, shrimp, toasted coconut and peanuts served on a platter with spinach leaves. Diners usually combine a small amount of each of each item and wrap them in the spinach leaves.
FRUIT—A FRESH FINISH AND MORE
In Thai cuisine, fruit mainly is served as dessert. Fruit helps cleanse the palate after the spicy meal, Fong says. Mangoes, melons, grapes, pomelos and mangosteen are most popular.
Many Thai restaurants in the U.S., however, serve dessert to cater to the American sweet tooth. Fruit usually plays a major role in these dishes. Sutcharit serves a fresh mango custard when mangoes are in season for special groups and occasions.
Truong serves deep-fried banana crepes topped with honey and sesame seeds.
Freerksen with Baleen says he often uses star fruit as a garnish on a variety of desserts.
Additionally, fruit is used in salads, especially immature green fruit. Truong with Royal Siam offers a green papaya salad. He shreds unripe papaya and uses a mortar and pestle to bruise it just enough to pick up the seasonings. He adds intense hot and sour seasonings including ample chili and garlic. Sometimes he adds long beans, fish, shrimp, pickled crab or olives, he says.
A popular green mango salad features shredded unripe mango mixed with various sauces and fried fish, Loha-unchit says. “It has a natural tart flavor. “You don’t even have to use lime juice.”
Coconuts also are important in Thai cuisine. Thais often drink the coconut juice by inserting a straw straight into the shell of the young fruit, Fong says. They also grate, soak and strain the meat from the harder, more mature coconuts to make coconut milk. This milk is then used in a variety of dishes and especially as a base for sauces.