- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

My son Jack; his Thai wife, Umarin; and their 16-month-old daughter, Samantha Marlene, live in London. When I visit, we never go to restaurants because Um is a chef, temporarily retired to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years.

Imagine that, having your own personal Thai chef. With my granddaughter cuddled on my lap, I like to watch Um cook dinner.

One of my favorite dishes is also one of the easiest to make: poached chicken slices draped over a mound of flavorful jasmine rice. Then fresh ginger-soy sauce speckled with chopped cilantro is ladled over all.

“Every country has a version of chicken and rice,” says Um, who speaks five languages. “The Spanish have their paella and the Cubans have arroz con pollo. A Thai version is called ‘khao man ok kai.’

“This one-dish meal is so popular in Thailand, many cafes specialize in it, and it is eaten at both lunch and dinner, but the dish is almost never found outside the country, even in American Thai restaurants. Maybe people think it is too simple to offer.”

Maybe they do, but they are missing out on a surprisingly good meal.

“This is one of the first dishes I learned to make,” my daughter-in-law says. She comes from a large family in which everyone had a job to do. When she was 8 or 9, her job was to cook rice for the family. Since rice is served at almost every meal and with almost every dish, this was something of a responsibility. Often it was served with chicken.

“To put a chicken into a pot of water was an easy thing,” she says. “After 1 hours of simmering, the chicken was cooked.

The cooking liquid was now a flavorful broth to be served on the side. Then just before mealtime, I made the uncooked sauce and sliced some cucumbers for garnish. It’s more assembling than cooking, don’t you think?”

I call her dish “Thai pot au feu.” Traditionally, the surface of the broth is sprinkled with white pepper.

However, when I make this dish at home, I serve it as a first course, and I up the flavor with a few tablespoons of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and toss in a handful of frozen Chinese dumplings for a more substantial soup. For dessert, I like sliced mango.

Thai chicken and rice with ginger cilantro sauce

1 chicken, about 3 pounds, preferably organic

2 cups rice, preferably jasmine

2 cloves garlic

2 sprigs cilantro

1 large cucumber, unpeeled and sliced

Ginger cilantro sauce (recipe follows)

Place a 3-pound chicken, breast side down in a large pot. Cover with cold water, slowly bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 1 hours or until tender.

Allow the chicken to cool in the broth. Reserve broth for rice, soup and ginger cilantro sauce.

To 2 cups rice in a large pot, add 5 cups of broth from the chicken, peeled and smashed garlic and cilantro.

Cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. While the rice cooks: Slice the chicken and the cucumbers. Make the sauce.

To serve, pack hot rice into small, deep soup bowls.

Turn out the mound of rice onto a plate and lay slices of warm poached chicken over the rice. At the table, each person ladles ginger cilantro sauce over his portion and takes a few slices of cucumber. Chicken broth sprinkled with white pepper is served in small bowls to sip along with the meal.

Makes about 4 servings.


cup Japanese soy sauce (Kikkoman brand, preferred)

cup grated fresh ginger root (about 3 fingers, peeled)

cup chicken broth from the chicken

cup freshly chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or 1 seeded and minced fresh jalapeno pepper

Combine soy sauce, ginger root, chicken broth, cilantro, sugar, vinegar and hot red pepper flakes or minced jalapeno in a small bowl. Makes about 1 cups.


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