by Alicia Lieu
Recipe at the end of this post.
There is some notion out there that Labor Day is the cutoff date for wearing white and that it is supposed to usher in Fall. It is not unusual, however, to see people who are not fashion minded wearing white all year round and for Labor Day to be hot and muggy. As much as I like a good scoop of trendy gelato on the Lower East Side, ice cream from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, overpriced frozen novelty treats at Central Park, or good old fashioned shaved ice from a cart on the beach, the best thing to eat in hot weather is actually spicy food.
The entire week of Labor was hot and muggy. It was the perfect weather for having Thai food. Thai restaurants are abundant and plentiful in Manhattan. It is rare however, to find a truly authentic Thai experience in the city. The overuse of sugar and lack of spiciness disappointed me time and time again. The borough of Queens, however, is a food lover’s paradise, with neighborhoods of enclaves of immigrants from all parts of the world. Woodside has been made known by Yelp and all the people who trek out to SriPraPhai for Thai food. My two favorite Thai restaurants, however, do not have that many reviews on Yelp, but I actually prefer it that way.Ayada Thai has garnered quite a bit of attention from the media but it still manages to stay excellent in service and quality.
Thailand’s Center Point is actually my top pick for Thai. It is a tiny restaurant that doubles as a grocery store and seems like it is family run. The waitresses are very friendly and the cooking is superb. It is what I would imagine home cooked Thai food to be. And the words, “Cash only” annoy some people but it lets me know that the restaurant is truly affordable. Some people would label these restaurants as “cheap eats” but to the starving artist, it means, literally, affordable.
The spice meter has to also be adjusted depending on whether you are eating in Manhattan or Queens. In Manhattan, they ask you if you would like your spice level at mild, medium, or spicy. I always order it spicy but it still ends up having only a tiny bit of kick to it. In Queens, the level gets set two full steps higher.
At Thailand Center Point, I usually have to order medium so that my head doesn’t explode, and at Ayada, I have not yet had the courage to order extra spicy. Spicy has always given me the perfect kick that I’m looking for. I dare not go higher than that in Queens. In hot weather, the sweating and blowing of your nose actually makes you feel like you are flushing toxins out of your body. And with the subway platforms being so hot that they double as saunas, you can actually feel cleansed at the end of the day, especially after a nice, long, hot shower. And if my girlfriends and I add in some screen time with Patrick Swayze, then I can honestly say, “I’ve had the Thai of my life.”
Whenever I bring green curry for lunch, all of my coworkers go crazy. “What are you eating, Alicia? It smells amazing!” Thanks to a can of green curry paste that is easily obtained at the Asian grocery store, making green curry at home is completely simple and it tastes amazing. I like it with chicken or duck, but you can use any protein that you’d like. Shrimp, beef, pork, or tofu.
Green Curry Chicken
1 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced
10 Thai eggplants (quartered)
¼ cup bamboo shoots (sliced)
¼ cup green beans (in 1 inch pieces)
1 can green curry paste
2 cans coconut milk
Optional: fish sauce
1. Combine green curry paste and coconut milk in a large pan and bring to a boil.
2. Add chicken and boil for 5 minutes.
3. Add in the vegetables and continue to cook 5-8 minutes until chicken is done and vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of fish sauce (optional).
4. Remove from heat and serve over Jasmine rice.