Making spring rolls for dinner with my roommates! 
Look at those cute leopard print plates!

Making spring rolls for dinner with my roommates! 

Look at those cute leopard print plates!

For cooks out there, I promise you will love this basil chicken recipe!

    ”You don’t have to know the taste of your ingredients. You must listen to your              ingredients” ~Francis Trocellier from “Seven Fires” by Francis Mallmann

                               My Favorite (Thai) Basil Chicken Dish

Basil, garlic, and shallots are some of my favorite herbs. Lucky for me, they are the key ingredients to this Basil Chicken dish.

This famous Thai dish certainly became a new American favorite, so much that Cook’s magazine spent time experimenting with it in their kitchen. I cannot recall any details of the article since I read it in a library months ago. However, I would like to suggest one tip that Cook’s magazine didn’t offer for stir-fry lovers out there: invest on a non-stick flat bottom wok.

I purchased my first decent wok from a college grocery store for $18 and it was worth every penny. The bottom fits well on my cheap electric stove, the heat travels evenly, and it is so easy to clean!

Also get a couple of wooden spatulas along with the wok. Plastic will eventually melt (unless you spend a ridiculous amount of money on a good brand)! Metal ones will scratch the bottom of the wok and there would be no point in having a non-stick pan after all.

To begin prepping ingredients, I minced the chicken thighs with a cleaver but you will get an even better texture if you grind it with a food processor. Ground turkey, pork, and beef or fresh (peeled and deveined) shrimps are other great options.

I’m not picky with basil; I use whatever is available in the market. They all taste pretty darn good to me! If desired, you can add extra vegetables such as string beans, bell peppers, and broccoli. Make sure to not put too many extra vegetables because they can easily overcrowd the wok and overpower the taste of basil leaves. Don’t forget to adjust the spice according to your tolerance!

Get these ingredients:

1 lb minced chicken thigh
1/2 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 head minced shallot (can be substituted with red onions but it won’t be as delish)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons chopped bird eyes chili or jalapeño  
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/3 cup thinly sliced bell peppers, I recommend using yellow, red, or orange bell peppers
1/3 cup thinly sliced chopped white onions
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons of water


Combine fish sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Set up the wok on a medium-high heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, (please no fuming hot oil, we don’t want the herbs to burn) add garlic, shallots, and chili.Stir the herbs continuously for about 15 seconds then add the chicken. Allow the chicken to cook for a minute or two then add the sauce that was mixed earlier. Keep your eyes on the wok and keep stirring. When chicken thigh looks cooked ( it turns into a white-ish color), add the vegetables and cook for about one more minute. The yellow bell peppers and onions do not take more than a minute to cook so make sure you time it right so they won’t be overcooked. I personally enjoy my vegetables a little crunchy so sometimes I even cook it for about 30 seconds.  Add some water to increase the sauce’s volume. Once the meat and the vegetables are well done, turn off your stove, then lightly tossed in the basil leaves.
I’m in favor of eating this dish with a nice warm jasmine rice!
All literary works and photos are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or appropriately mention of the source

Pad See-ew I made for breakfast and lunch!


Dinner Lab Nola

This Dinner Lab Christmas edition was made at Cambria Martinelli’s house. Please follow me here and twitter! www.lalitamangotree.tumblr
.com & Twitter #lalitamangotree. 

The dinner was for 4.0 Schools Organization found by Matt Candler.

Photos are taken by Amanda Thomas from Humid Beings

Dinner Lab was mentioned in
Where Y’At 

Thank you for your support!

Food quotes to think about

Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. ~Mark Twain

If music be the food of love, play on. ~William Shakespeare

A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. ~Benjamin Franklin

The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit. And I think that’s what’s happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal. ~Michelle Obama

We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun. ~George Orwell

My weaknesses have always been food and men - in that order. ~Dolly Parton


Grilled Shrimp Salad: Essential Thai Herbs with New Orleans Shrimp

Finally, I have time to put this recipe together-Thank you Labor Day! Sorry guys, full time job is not giving me much time to keep up with my blog. However, I attempt to explore local New Orleans ingredients and share them with you guys as much as possible. This salad is my all-time favorite; the Thai name for it is Laab (aks larb and laap). Usually I make Laab salad with beef, chicken, or pork. This time shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico was an appealing option. Also, thank you to my roommate, Laura Slotkoff who helped me take the pictures of this dish!


1 lb fresh large shrimps; peeled and deveined

2 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

2 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemongrass, finely chopped

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted rice powder, see instruction below

1/4 teaspoon dried Thai chili flakes, toasted and finely grounded

Or 3 bird eyes chili, finely chopped


Toasted rice powder can be purchase at any Asian grocery store near you. It is typically used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Homemade toasted rice powder is also convenient to make ahead of time. It can be stored in a dry, cool place up to a year. On a dry pan, toast about 1/2 cup (or more) of raw jasmine rice grain on low heat. Swirl the pan occasionally until the grains turn light brown. By then, the toasty smell should roam all over your kitchen, meaning that you are doing a good job. In Thai food, 30% is judged based on the aroma one creates through cooking. Allow the rice to cool down for about 10 minutes before grinding. Grind the rice in a coffee grinder, food processor or with a mortar and pestle. I highly suggest using mortar and pestle if you have them to get that powdery texture.

 Prepare the shrimp by grilling or immerse them in hot water until cooked, the shrimp are cooked when they turn to a solid white color.

In a salad bowl, add sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Mix them until the sugar dissolved. Then add the shrimp and the remaining ingredients! You might want to hold off or add extra chili depending on your spice level. Now, do that salad-mixing move that you have been doing. Taste, fix (maybe more fish sauce, more lime, or more rice powder?), and serve!

Optional: Serve with fresh lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, tomato, radish, spinach or string beans. 


Check this out!
Grilled Shrimp Salad (from the Gulf). 
As I have already mentioned, I moved to New Orleans about a month ago. This was one of the first few dishes that I made with the shrimps from the gulf of Mexico. I’m looking forward to share this simple recipe with you soon! 

Check this out!

Grilled Shrimp Salad (from the Gulf). 

As I have already mentioned, I moved to New Orleans about a month ago. This was one of the first few dishes that I made with the shrimps from the gulf of Mexico. I’m looking forward to share this simple recipe with you soon! 


Who’s going to Berlin? Try Thai food there!

Wow, I haven’t been to Europe but this link makes me think Thai food in Europe must be better than the United States! It looks better than any Thai restaurant I have ever visited in the United States!

Somen Noodle Soup in Miso Broth with Seafood, Tofu, and Chives

Somen Noodle Soup in Miso Broth with Seafood, Tofu, and Chives
Last month, I started to use miso paste in my cooking and since then I can’t stop making miso soup! A few of my vegan friends also use miso paste as a new favorite ingredient in their salad dressings and for marinating vegetables and mushrooms for grilling.

This miso soup is slightly different from the one I made a month ago. I realized that miso paste is flavorful enough that there was no need for additional vegetables like celery and carrots. I just added soy sauce and enhanced the herbal flavor with some finely chopped chives, which have a delicious garlic-and-onion flavor. Chives is more flavorful than scallions, so use them sparingly.

I used seafood from a mixed seafood bag that I bought from Trader Joe’s — it has scallops, shrimp, and squid. The tofu was a good addition because of its soothing texture and it also goes well with the flavor of fermented beans. Even better, the seafood and tofu take about the same time to cook!

As I wrote in my earlier post, I used Cold Mountain red miso paste. I added about one tablespoon of miso paste per one cup of water. Since desired saltiness varies from person to person, I would suggest adding just a little miso paste and soy sauce at first, and adding to that as necessary. Additionally, feel free to try the soup with other vegetables and ingredients such as mushrooms, spinach, seaweed, sprouts, rice noodles, clear noodles, and scallions. 

I chose somen noodles because they’re so easy to cook. I didn’t have to soak them in water and they takes less time than pasta or rice noodles. Somen is usually used in noodle salads, but it brings a delicate touch to soup as well. Tip: don’t boil the somen noodles in the same pot as the soup broth because it will form a murky white color and starchy taste.

Keep in mind that this dish is a two-step process that should take you no more than 15 minutes. Make sure you set up the two pots of water at the same time, one for cooking the somen noodles and another for the soup broth. 

Makes 1 serving, takes 15 minutes
~3 oz. somen noodles, cooked and drained 
~9 cups water 
~4 tablespoon red miso paste~ 2x2 inches of tofu, cut into small pieces 
~1 cup mixed seafood; defrosted and cleaned 
~2 tablespoon soy sauce 
~1/2 tablespoon chives, chopped finely 
~1/4 tablespoon dried crushed chili peppers 
~1 head bok choy, cleaned and cut into small pieces

Start by setting up two pots of water on the stove, one for cooking the somen noodles with about 5 cups of water and another with four cups of water for soup broth

In the pot for the noodles, add a pinch of salt and put the lid on to speed the boiling process. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add the noodles, and bring them to a low simmer immediately. *Always cook somen (and soba) noodles over low heat after you bring the water to a boil. Somen are best when  cooked  slowly for a tenderly firm texture. If you cook the somen noodle in boiling water throughout in the same way you prepare pasta, your somen will be overcooked, sticky, and starchy.* Stir the noodle constantly, making sure that they do not stick together or to the bottom of the pot. After the noodles are cooked (about 6 minutes) pour cool water into the pot, then drain and set aside in a nice serving bowl. 

Start the broth while waiting for the noodles to cook. Bring water to a boil and dissolve the miso paste and soy sauce. Add the tofu and seafood; then add bok choy. Taste and see if you need to add more miso paste or soy sauce. I found that just the soy sauce and miso paste did the job for me. Once everything is cooked, pour the broth on the somen noodles. Sprinkle some dried crushed chili peppers, and chives. Enjoy!

Berkeley Thai Temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram

This Thai Temple’s official name is Wat Mongkolratanaram, but people in Berkeley simply calls it “Berkeley Thai Temple” because its the only Thai temple in town. Every Sunday, the temple serves low priced Thai food to visitors. The setting is casual- it’s like going to any food festival where families and friends all tag along. For dining, there are tables arranged outdoors in the sun or under tents.

Berkeley Thai Temple is located right in the middle of a residential area. On Sunday, the temple attracts hundreds of people from towns away. Just over a year ago, the neighbors sued the temple because the visitors disturb peace in the neighborhood. It may help to imagine what it would be like to have no parking space in front of your own home and to be unable to sleep in on Sunday morning. 

For many Thais and Thai Americans, they bring their children to the temple to take classes on Thai language, dance, and music. Their parents go into the temple for other Buddhist rituals and ceremonies.

I mostly go to there for food. This weekend, I had a large bowl of beef noodle soup, two Thai iced teas, and kra nom krok or a coconut pudding. They have both meat and vegetarian options. When you get there, first exchange cash for tokens, a dollar for a token. Thai iced tea costs one token and most dishes cost six tokens. There are more than 20 varieties of dishes, such as Pad Thai, Yellow Curry, Ginger Chicken, Panang Curry, Mango Sticky Rice, Papaya Salad, Thai BBQ Chicken, and Pumpkin Stir Fry

How do they taste? I say it depends on the day.To be honest, I have been to this place over twenty times. Half of the time was really good, and another half was just okay. I have heard from a friend that people who make the food are volunteer cooks. There are recipes to follow, but I guess at the end it depends on who devotes more attention to the cooking process.

From my experience, the best time to get to this Thai temple is before 11am. The line gets really long after that; I’m talking about 50 to 100 people ahead of you. Parking spots will be hard to find but it’s not impossible. However, do not worry if you get there late, the lines usually go really fast.


(Coconut Pudding or Kranom Krok)

Wat Mongkolratanaram

1911 Russell Street

Berkeley, CA 


(510) 849-3419

Steamed Eggplant Sauté in Black Bean Sauce with Spring Green Onions and Garlic

Steamed Eggplant Sauté in Black Bean Sauce with Spring Green Onions and Garlic
The eggplant in this dish cost me a dollar. I got a bag of out-products eggplant from Berkeley Bowl, a supermarket in Berkeley, CA.  You can get this similar deal by start visiting local farmer markets and farms near you! You will be surprised how much fresh produce you can get for a few bucks. This dish is light; best to serve with something more flavorful, like a Thai curry.

3 long purple eggplant, diagonally cut into 1 inch thick pieces
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 stalk spring green onion, cut diagonally into small pieces
4 tablespoon black bean sauce
½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of black peppers
a pinch of sugar (optional)

Bring a steamer to rolling boil, steam the eggplant for about 10-15 minutes. Use a heatproof plate if you don’t own a steamer. Once the eggplant is tender, it will not hold its form very well; remove gently and set aside. Check if the eggplant is cooked by poking it with a fork. Cooked eggplant will change their color to faded purple and has a slight brown tone.
Meanwhile, prepare the seasoning sauce by mixing the black bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and black peppers in a small bowl.
Once the eggplant is ready, heat olive oil in medium low heat then add garlic. Maintain this heat consistently so that the garlic won’t burn, but still get cooked.  
Add the eggplant. Gently “fold” the eggplant into the sauce until well combined. As you will notice, steamed eggplant does not hold its shape, it will turn into a puree if stirs too often and too hard!  Add the green onions and let it simmer for about 2 more minutes. 

All literary works and photos are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or appropriately mention of the source

Spicy and Sweet Pineapple Fried Rice with Zucchini, Cashew Nuts, Raisins, and a Sprinkle of Cinnamon.

Spicy and Sweet Pineapple Fried Rice with Zucchini, Cashew Nuts, Raisins, and a Sprinkle of Cinnamon.  
This fried rice is a perfect blend of fruity, savory, and spicy flavor. Toasted cashew nuts bring about crunchy and creamy texture; almond or pine nuts would be a perfect substitute. Choose your favorite dry fruit; I like using raisin and cranberry for their tangy flavor. Although this is a vegan recipe, don’t hesitate to add your favorite meat or seafood.

People have different preferences when it comes to pineapple. I prefer using a very ripe pineapple for this fried rice because it has more juice that would be absorbed by the rice and the texture is more chewable. This recipe makes 6 servings and takes about 1 hour to  prepare and make.

~4 cups cooked jasmine rice ~2 tablespoons vegetable oil ~3 bird eye chili, crushed  ~4 garlic cloves, crushed ~1 fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces (if you want, keep second half of the shell for decoration) ~2 stalks scallions, finely chopped ~1 zucchini, thinly sliced ~⅓ teaspoon cinnamon ~¼ cup dried cranberry ~⅓ cup roasted cashew nut ~¼ cup raisin  ~½  teaspoon cumin or curry powder ~3 tablespoons light or soy sauce ~3 tablespoons mushroom sauce  ~1 teaspoon sugar ~salt, for taste
(my fried rice under the golden sunset, so beautiful!)

Combine cumin, soy sauce, mushroom sauce, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and mix well. Heat oil in a wok and fry garlic and chili in medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add zucchini, dry fruits, cashew nuts, and pineapple, then add about 2 tablespoons of the seasonings, stir for about another 2 minutes (add meat before all these if you prefer). Adjust the stove to high heat, add the rice and stir it until well mixed. Make sure there are no clump. Add scallions  and sprinkle some cinnamon all over then cook until everything is hot, about 3 minutes.If you choose to serve with pineapple shell, make sure not to peel it! Cut it in half first and save at least a half of the shell. Carve the pineapple out of the shell carefully. To clean, rub the entire shell with your hand under running water. Use a spoon to scoop and scrape out any remaining fruit meat off the shell. Allow it to dry by placing the open side downward. You can also broil the shell for about 10 to 15 minutes to make it dryer and it would create a fruity burnt aroma. To save time, this step should be done right before making fried rice.

Serve it with a smile!

"Geng Hang Lea," a Baby Pork Ribs Curry with Homemade Curry Paste. A dish commonly serve in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Geng Hang Lea,  a Baby Pork Ribs Curry. A dish commonly serve in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

I’m a nomad. I don’t own a cookbook. A good friend gave me an “Asian” cookbook for my twentieth birthday, and I read through it in one night, sucked out as much knowledge as I could and then gave the book away (to a friend who would take good care of it).  For the past few years, I have relied on friends and libraries for cookbooks. It makes sense for my life right now, and keeps me on my toes - always learning new recipes and tweaking old ones.

That said, I found a(nother) great Thai cookbook by David Thompson called Thai Foodduring my last library visit. I skipped most of his introduction and turned right to the recipes I have been eager to learn. One of them is this Geng Hang Lea. I also want to try out his recipes for pickled dishes, Chinese chive cakes, and bitter melon soup. The recipe here is revised and adapted from Thompson’s. Geng Hang Lea is a very popular dish in the north of Thailand, especially Chaing Mai. I lived in Chiang Mai for about five years but never learned how to make this dish so I was very excited to finally try this recipe out!

Thompson calls for pork belly and pork ribs, but my local butcher shop only had pork ribs. I also reduced the portion of many ingredients he calls for, as I often only cook for a few of my friends. My recipe makes 6 servings.

This dish takes a lot of time because we’re making two curry pastes from scratch and there’s about two hours of cooking time on top of that. But don’t be discouraged! Its summer and if you love to cook, picking out a few new dishes to make when you have more time is rewarding! Everyone in my house love this dish and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to throw out the leftover sauce!


Curry Ingredients:

~1 lb pork ribs ~2 tablespoon vegetable oil ~2 shallots, chopped ~1/2 cup ginger, shredded ~1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional) ~3 tablespoon palm sugar, dissolved in hot water ~4 tablespoon fish sauce ~4 tablespoon tamarind concentrate ~1 cup stock or water

Curry Paste:

~10 dried chile de arbol or Thai chili, soaked and seeded ~1 tablespoon galangai, chopped ~6 tablespoon red shallot, chopped ~6 tablespoon garlic, chopped ~6 tablespoon lemongrass, chopped ~2 tablespoon ginger, chopped ~2 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground ~1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground ~3 star anise, roasted and ground ~1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, roasted ~5 cloves, roasted and ground ~2 cardamom pods, roasted and seeds ground ~1 tablespoon red or yellow turmeric powder

Garlic and Ginger Paste:

~4 garlic cloves, peeled ~1/2 teaspoon salt ~4 tablespoon ginger, peeled

Make the curry paste first, and then make the garlic and ginger paste. Preferably using a pestle and mortar, grind all the ingredients together until they produce a nice aroma and pasty texture (as in the picture). To reduce labor and time, a food processor would give you a good paste but it does not bring out the same fragrance because the blades basically only “cut” the herbs. Sometimes, I like to do the “initial” grinding with a food processor and then use my mortar and pestle to “mush” out the flavor.

Cut the pork into smaller pieces between each bone. I had the butcher cut the ribs into three vertical pieces (see the picture below) and then I cut them into small bite size pieces at home. Cold-blanch the pork ribs twice. According to Thompson, the longer the pork takes to reach boiling temperature, the more oiliness and pungency will be cleaned off (and I found this really worked!)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger paste until golden. Add the curry paste and pork and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, ginger, shallots, peanuts, palm sugar, and a cup of water or stock. Do not add a lot of water! This curry is saucy but not soupy like green or red curry. Stir until all ingredients are mixed well. Let it simmer for about one to two hours and stir occasionally.

Serve with white rice, brown rice, sticky rice, or basmali rice. Have some fresh or steamed vegetables as a side dish. I suggest fresh slices of cucumber, lettuces, snap peas, bell peppers,cabbages, steamed string beans, and steamed eggplant. The paste is strong and flavorful, you can use the vegetables to balance the flavor. The flavor of this dish improve overnight! 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Stir-Fry Asparagus and Ground Beef in Spicy Basil Sauce


-1/2 lb ground beef

-1 bunch asparagus or about 3 cups, chopped into 1” pieces or julienned

-1 cup basil leaves 

-2 tablespoon bird eyes chili, jalapeños, or serraño, chopped finely

-2 tablespoon or about 5 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

-1/2 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

-2 tablespoon mushroom sauce or oyster sauce

-1 tablespoon light or dark soy sauce

-1 tablespoon fish sauce

-1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (optional) 


1) In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar together to be ready for the stir-fry. 

2) Heat the oil in medium heat in a wok or a skillet. Test the temperature of the oil by adding a tiny bit of garlic; the oil is ready when the garlic sizzles. Add the rest of the garlic and hot peppers and stir until fragrant.

3) Immediately add the beef before the garlic and the chili burn. Turn the heat to high. Add the sauces you previously mixed into the beef, it should take about 3 minutes until the beef is cooked.

4) Add the asparagus, stir-fry until it cooks, but keep it crispy.  Add the basil at the end and cook it lightly until wilted. Serve it on top of some warm jasmine rice or brown rice. 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Salmon Bath in Peanut-y Red Curry Sauce and Bell Peppers

Hello! As promised, I’m back with a recipe for the salmon dish that I made about three weeks ago. Because salmon tastes good by itself, I was worried that adding too much flavor to it would ruin the experience of eating it. It turned out that the flavor of the red curry paste and the peanut butter did not overwhelmed the flavor of the salmon. In fact, you will taste all of the three flavors as they melted away in your mount. 


-1 piece salmon fillet

-1/2 tablespoon canola, vegetable, olive oil

-1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, shake the can before use

-1/2 cup bell peppers, thinly sliced

-1 tablespoon red curry paste

-1 tablespoon peanut butter

-1/3 tablespoon fish sauce

-1 tablespoon minced cilantro

- a wedge of lime

Cooking Instruction:

1) In a pan, warm canola or vegetable oil over medium heat, then add the curry paste. Stir until it fragrants. 

2) Once they are fragrant, add the coconut milk and peanut butter. Stir until they mix well and wait until the fat (which looks like oil from peanut butter, coconut milk, and canola oil) to settles on the surface. The fat should look like orange oily dots on the surface.

3) Add all the flavors and the salmon! Simmer the salmon in the sauce until cooked.