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Rich, Spicy, and Refreshing Thai Classics

Satay is one of the most-loved Thai dishes this side of the Pacific—coming in a close second behind Pad Thai. And why not? Who doesn’t love marinated beef, chicken, or pork, skewered and licked by flames until charred around the edges? Of course, no satay would be complete without spicy peanut dipping sauce—perhaps even more ubiquitous in this country than the dish it was meant to accompany.

To balance out the spices, creamy coconut milk, and peanuts in the Satay, we recommend a refreshing foil: Green Papaya Salad. Slightly crispier than carrot or jicama (though each is a good substitute), shredded green papaya is delectable when marinated in a fish-sauce-dried-chile-vinegar dressing. Mix with farmer’s-market-fresh green beans, diced tomato, chopped cilantro, basil, mint, crushed peanuts, and garnish with lime wedges.

Though we find this combination quite filling, you may wish to serve these with rice alongside. A delicious trick for those who can’t get enough coconut-richness: substitute coconut milk for all or part of the water used to cook the rice (jasmine would be best).

Need a nice beverage to accompany this summertime feast? The sweet-spicy-salty-sour balance of flavors common to most Thai dishes pairs wonderfully with nice, assertive whites. We sat down with a chilled bottle of bright, citrus-scented 2012 Carneros Chardonnay made by our cousins at Rombauer Vineyards. The combination brought out subtle nuances in both the wine and the dish.


Chicken Satay with Green Papaya Salad
4 main-course servings


For heartier portions, serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Chicken Satay
about 16 skewers

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour before putting over fire.

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth:
     1⁄2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
     1⁄3 cup minced shallots
     2 tablespoons brown sugar
     2 tablespoons soy sauce
     1 tablespoon minced garlic
     1 teaspoon ground cumin
     1 teaspoon ground coriander
Place in a shallow dish or bowl. Cut into ½-inch strips:
     2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Add the chicken to the marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (overnight is fine).
While the chicken marinates, attend to the Peanut Dipping Sauce and Green Papaya Salad (see below).
Prepare a medium-hot grill fire or preheat the broiler. Thread the chicken pieces, including the tenders, onto 16 skewers. Grill or broil, turning once, just until cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Peanut Dipping Sauce
About 2 cups

We usually add extra fish sauce, but it’s an acquired taste… add to your own liking or substitute soy sauce.

Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat:
     2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Add and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 1 minute:
     4 garlic cloves, minced
     1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
     1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Add and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 4 minutes:
     1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
     1/2 cup water
     1⁄2 cup chunky peanut butter, preferably unsweetened
     2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
     2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
     1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or to taste
     (3 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts)
Remove from the heat and serve warm with the chicken skewers. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Green Papaya Salad
4 servings

You may substitute shredded carrots or jicama for the green papaya.

Combine in large bowl:
     2 1⁄2 cups shredded peeled green papaya
     1 cup green beans, quartered lengthwise
     2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into strips
     2 tablespoons fish sauce
     2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
     1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
     1 tablespoon chopped basil
     1 tablespoon chopped mint
     1⁄2 teaspoon minced garlic
     1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Toss with the papaya mixture. Sprinkle with, if desired:
     (Crushed peanuts)
Serve with:
     Lime wedges

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