These fantastic and vibrant Thai recipes will satisfy all your cravings—without any of the guilt—by using fresh, healthy ingredients and subtle substitutions.
Food & Wine
January 06, 2014
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Thai Crab-and-Green-Mango Salad
To create completely satisfying dishes, Thai cooks aim for a mix of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors. In his salad, chef Laurent Tourondel achieves that alluring combination by tossing tart green mango with cucumbers, a myriad of fresh herbs, a vibrant Thai dressing and plenty of delicate, sweet crabmeat.
Instead of using high-calorie coconut milk, Sue Zemanick substitutes coconut water (the clear liquid inside young coconuts) and a touch of full-fat sour cream to add richness to this curry sauce. Lime juice and red curry paste contribute superb tanginess and flavor, too.
This vibrant catfish salad with mint, dill, cilantro and a spicy lime dressing is served with a bowl of raw vegetables to balance the searing heat. “You want a really deep char on the catfish skin,” says Johnny Monis, who recommends wild salmon as an alternative. “It’s one of my favorite dishes year-round, but it’s best once the weather lets you get the charcoal grill going.”
For this Thai classic, Andy Ricker uses a mortar and pestle to pound crunchy raw green beans with a piquant mix of chiles, garlic, fish sauce and lime juice. He then tosses in crisp strips of unripened papaya.
Garlicky, spicy and bright with lime, this noodle dish is both warming and energizing, according to Thai tradition. Just don't skimp on the lime wedges or cilantro: "The sour juice protects the respiratory system in the early spring," Su-Mei Yu says, "and cilantro helps when you're congested."
At Thai restaurants, Tom Mylan usually requests a double order of larb (or laab), an addictive appetizer of ground meat spiked with chiles, lime juice and fish sauce and served with lettuce leaves for wrapping.
Thai cooks typically serve meat already sliced so it's easier to eat. Here, Andy Ricker tosses pieces of soy-marinated flank steak with fresh mint, cilantro and roasted rice powder. The powder (a thickener in Thai curries) adds a fun crunch but is optional.