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Exotic Twist

Asian food has long been one of my family’s favorites. Spending five months living in downtown Seattle 10 years ago sparked more interest.

Dim sum was every Saturday at Dragon Fish. Little dishes of joy we relied on to keep us focused on getting Stephen’s health back.

Thai food, curries and stir-frys, and jasmine rice are staples that are fresh fare at home. There are about 10 thai staples that are essential to Asian cooking.

Fish sauce is a pugent brine made from fermenting fish with salt. It should contain only anchovies, salt and water. Use it sparingly as it has over 1,000 mg of sodium per tablespoon.

Curry paste comes in red or green and can be found in most supermarkets. Both have notes of galangal, lemongrass and coriander root. Green is flavored with fresh green chilies and red with dried red chiles.

Unseasoned rice vinegar adds soruness to dressings and is an essential Thai ingredient. Many dipping sauces start with rice vinegar. Cider vinegar is a good substitute.

Coconut milk is used in curries and is made by rinsing the oils out of coconut flesh with warm water. Canned coconut milk is widely available.

Sticky rice is a staple in north and northest Thailand. Jasmine rice is grown throughout central Thailand. For whole-grain options try brown jasmine or black sticky rice.

Chiles both fresh and dried provide the heat in Thai food. Fresh cayenne chiles and bird chilies are common in stir-fries.

Black peppercorns were the origianl source of heat in Thai food before the arrival of chiles from the Americas in the 16th century. They are part of marinades for grilled meats.

Lime juice is a tart lift to grilled meats, salads and fried rice.

Lime leaves are often used in Thai cookng but are hard to find. A good substitute is freshly grated lime zest for curries and soups.

Shallots and garlic are chopped and added to hot oil as a flavoring. Shallots appear in a lot of Thai salads.

Fresh herbs are abundant in Thai foods. They include cilantro, mint, Thai basil and Vietnamese coriander. They add distinctive Thai flavors in everything from salads to curries and fried rice.

This Thai recipe is great because you can prep in the morning, and quickly cook the chicken after work.

Coconut-lime chicken with thai garnishes

2 packed Tablespoons grated lim zest, plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 limes)

2 Tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, finell ygrated

2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar

fine salt

1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds) cut into 10 pieces

cooked jasmine rice, shredded carrot, chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves, sliced shallot, and lime wedges for serving

1. In a large glass bowl, combine lime zest and juice, ginger, garlic, sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Slowly whisk in coconut milk until mixture is smooth.

Submerge chicken in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 475 F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and fit with a wire rack. Remove chicken from marinade and shake to remove excess. Arrange in a single layer on rack, skin side up. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve with suggested accompaniments.

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