“You can eat spicy?”
I am still amused at how often I am asked this question by Thai people. If I had 10 THB for every time it happened I’d have … a whole lot of baht.
Yes, I can and do eat spicy often.
Usually in the US, I would get my spicy food fix in Mexican form. Many of Mexico and Thailand’s raw ingredients are identical: coconuts, bananas, pineapples, mangoes and abundant veggies are found in both countries’ cuisines. Concerning Thailand’s produce offerings, though, one thing has always niggled at me: an astonishing lack in variety of chile peppers.
Thailand basically has the bird’s eye chile, period. The bird’s eye comes on fast and furiously, delivering the kind of heat blast that makes it difficult to taste much else. Many an unsuspecting visitor has discovered this when ordering the innocuous-sounding Thai seafood salad, a favorite seaside dish. This salad looks as light and innocent as it sounds, yet tastes like fire, really, and not much else, except maybe garlic. Sometimes I taste garlic. Or if I’m lucky, I can maybe also catch a bit of celery.
So Thailand’s food is amazing, but I do miss the wondrous variety of chiles found in the Mexican kitchen. Chiles that may not be the same level of heat, but have interesting personalities in addition to some level of heat.
I miss the smokiness of chipotles – to this day, canned chipotles in adobo sauce are one of the few items that continues to score real estate in my suitcase on the return to Bangkok after trips back to the US. I long for the grassy bite of the jalapenos and serranos, the earthy guajillos. The easy Anchos. Pasillas. Habeneros.
So, it was with delight and, frankly, a bit of relief that I discovered a product here in Thailand that I never would have thought to purchase in the US: jalapeno powder.
It is now one of my new BFFs in the kitchen.
It is the perfect solution for adding a kick to so many dishes. And when a recipe actually calls for fresh jalapenos, this powder often works as a replacement.
Lately I have applied it to:
– My favorite broccoli cheese soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated
– Grilled cheese sandwiches with added broccoli, tomatoes or egg
– Egg salad
– Chicken salad
– Fresh herb dips for veggie sticks
Just add a teaspoon (or to your taste), to any typical dish made to serve 4 people.
This product has doubled my chile options in Bangkok. Yay!
The spicy chicken-avocado burgers, below, repeatedly cycles through my kitchen. The avocado bits are especially tasty when allowed to singe to the point where they get a little crispy. The recipe doubles or triples well. Uncooked chicken burgers can be frozen, to be taken out and grilled later, without a problem.
Spicy Chicken Avocado Burgers, adapted from this recipe on laughingspatula.com:
- 1 pound free-range organic ground chicken
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 avocado – cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup Panko, crushed crackers, almond meal or leftover cooked quinoa
- 1 tsp jalapeno powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine ground chicken, Panko crumbs or alternative as noted above, garlic, jalapeno powder, salt and pepper.
Carefully fold in avocado chunks so that they remain in tact as chunks.
Form into 4 patties
Heat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side until juices run clear or until you get a nice crispy edge to the chicken and avocados touching the grill. (They can also be pan-fired in a bit of your healthy fat of choice, like coconut oil.)