January is an odd month for food. After a few weeks of festivities around the holidays I’ve usually eaten my fill of decadent meals. Enough with the chocolate, with the gravy, with the rich stuffings and bread puddings. And along with my stomach, after the holidays my wallet is usually also going through a bit of a downsizing. Cheap, healthy food is certainly the order of the day.
But on the other hand I’m still a little worn out from cooking over the holidays, so I don’t really feel like an epic undertaking. And man, even if health and budget are concerns I’m still not going to suffer through eating something that tastes like cardboard. I want flavor, and freshness, and I want it now. I want.. Thai!
Gai Pad Krapow gets top marks in everything I’m looking for in a weeknight post-holiday dinner. The main ingredient is ground chicken, a healthier alternative to beef or pork. It’s amazingly simple to make, with most of the work being done chopping aromatics, and tastes delicious. Pair it with a bowl of rice for a heartier meal, or with a spicy cabbage salad for a lighter, lower-carb experience. You can change the exact nature of the sauces and peppers to create the flavor you want — I tend to go with a sweeter sauce to offset a really spicy salad.
Weeknight Gai Pad Krapow
a head of butter lettuce
a package of ground chicken
a big (big!) bunch of Thai basil
4-ish garlic cloves, finely chopped
roughly the same amount of ginger, finely chopped
a large shallot, finely chopped
hot peppers to taste, finely chopped (fresno peppers are my favorite)
sweet Thai chili sauce
salt and pepper
- Finely chop your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers.
- Chop the big stems off of your basil, but keep the leaves and little clusters whole.
- Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan on about medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, throw in your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers. Saute them until tender, about 3 minutes.
- Add the ground chicken to the pan.
- Once the chicken has a little sizzle on it, turn the pan down to medium-low and add the fish sauce (don’t be shy!), chili sauce, and salt and pepper.
- While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook all the way through, break the head of butter lettuce into a pile of full-sized leaves.
- Once the chicken is cooked, add all of the basil. Stir it in and cook until the basil is wilted and green, about 2 minutes.
You’re done! Go family style with a big bowl of chicken mixture and a plate of lettuce leaves for wrapping. Serve with rice or a spicy cabbage salad or both.
Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently super into Asian cuisines.