The Chile Sauce for You

Ever since I spent a grad school semester in Vietnam, I’ve had a particular odeur. That’s because I routinely keep a supply of homemade chile sauce in the fridge. It’s not authentically Vietnamese per se, but it brings together all the necessary condiments of a good Vietnamese meal. It’s very simple and a snap to…Continue readingThe Chile Sauce for You

Hello World!

Hello, world! And welcome to my first posting. Here I am in Chiang Mai, that ancient Lanna city of lore, one of the most “renowned” tourist destinations in Asia. But today, it’s nothin’ but hot and ugly, already 90 degrees in the shade. The other day, my flip-flops melted in the sun. It’s that sweltering…Continue readingHello World!

ASK ME! frying oil

• Is peanut oil the best oil to use for stir fry? Peanut oil is good for wok cooking and stir-frying, but it actually isn’t used in traditional Thai food and many other Southeast Asian cuisines. Palm oil, coconut oil, pork fat and soy oil (increasingly so, because it’s healthier) are all used for frying…Continue readingASK ME! frying oil

ASK ME! tofu taste

• What does tofu taste like? That all depends on the type of tofu and what you do with it. Tofu tends to take on the flavors of the dish, and the cooking method changes things dramatically. I had one of the most remarkable tofus recently in Singapore at a Nonya (Chinese-Malay cuisine) restaurant. The…Continue readingASK ME! tofu taste

ASK ME! firm tofu

• My tofu never cooks right–it just crumbles up and turns into sludge. How do I get it to firm up? I’ve had the same problem with tofu in the US, where you simply can’t find the amazing tofu varieties that are available in Asia. Make sure you buy the firmest variety available. Let it…Continue readingASK ME! firm tofu


• Does Thai food use MSG like Chinese food does? Often, yes. And when they do, they use lots of it, especially in street food. If you don’t want it, be sure to wave your hands at the cook before she dumps a few tablespoons into your soup, papaya salad, whatever. I once ordered all-natural…Continue readingASK ME! MSG

ASK ME! fish sauce

• Fish sauce. Can’t live with it, can’t cook without it. Love the taste of a bit in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but need a substitute to cook with. Any suggestions? – A Reader, California Are you out of your mind? You can substitute soy sauce (many true vegetarian restaurants in Southeast Asia use it)…Continue readingASK ME! fish sauce

ASK ME! Thai ingredients

• What staples should I keep in the cupboard to make a decent Thai dish? Obviously not all of these go into every dish, but these are some of the handiest ingredients to have on hand for those times when you get the urge to cook Thai: In the cupboard: Fish sauce, dried rice noodles,…Continue readingASK ME! Thai ingredients

ASK ME! restaurants near airports

• What are some good low- to mid-range priced restaurants near the Bangkok/Phnom Penh/Ho Chi Minh City airport(s)? I’ll be staying at a hotel near the airport and don’t want to be limited to the hotel restaurant. Good luck. Asian airports are notoriously far from anything interesting (take Kuala Lumpur: 75 km from the city!…Continue readingASK ME! restaurants near airports

ASK ME! chili heat

• At a Thai restaurant, what can I order besides beer to relieve my mouth of some of the heat in the dishes? Yogurt and raita are usually not on the menu. – A Reader, California Your mouth is burning because of substances in the chilies called capsaicinoids. They are not soluble in water, so…Continue readingASK ME! chili heat