The vegetable sold as "morning glory" in stores like Silom is sometimes called "water spinach"—the leaves are slightly bitter, but taste absolutely perfect with a handful of burning red Thai chiles. The exact quantity of each ingredient in this dish is somewhat variable; I like to use approximately the proportions given here, but Sanamluang’s version is a little more salty and less spicy. I’m not sure where the name comes from, but perhaps the red chiles have something to do with it.
Popular throughout Southeast Asia, this garlic and chile based paste is used as a condiment that adds fire without greatly altering the taste of the dish. It is especially good stir-frys. This is a great recipe for using up any small chiles that are left at the end of the season. This paste will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator and it can also be frozen.
I don't know about you, but I like to nibble on sweet, salty, and tangy vegetable pickles with my meals. They help digest food and provide balance during the meal, especially when you are eating starchy foods like noodles. They also whet the appetite, which is probably why they are served the minute you sit down in many Asian restaurants. I call for kirby, Persian, or Japanese cucumbers, all of which are slender when compared to regular cucumbers. Kirby and Persian pickles are 4 to 5 inches long, while Japanese cucumbers are a couple of inches longer. The pickling liquid here is traditionally used for pickling sliced cucumber, carrots, and daikon, so feel free to try these vegetables as well. The amount of pickling liquid may look inadequate, but there will be enough because the cucumbers give up some of their natural water while sitting in the brine.
Groundnut or peanut soups and stews are extremely popular in the cooking Ghana and Mali in West Africa; in fact, some consider it to be the most popular of all Sunday meals. Chicken is usually the preferred meat, but we have found that a variety of meats and seafood are also used, including beef, lamb, smoked fish, and crabs.
"Holy" basil is widely available in Thai stores. The stems are purple and the leaves are pointed, distinguishing it from regular sweet basil. I actually prefer the flavor to "regular" basil—it’s slightly more bitter and fragrant, with a unique aroma. The basil doesn’t require much cooking, as too much heat makes it bitter and destroys the delicate flavor.
This vegetarian soup from India is so full flavored that you won’t miss the meat. I like to cook with lentils because unlike other beans, you don’t have to plan ahead to soak them overnight, and they cook quickly. This soup makes a great entree by reducing the amount of liquid, either pureeing the soup or not, and serving it over rice.