The cuisine of Thailand is much like its markets — a riot of sensory overload, with fresh, bright flavors and contrasting textures coming at you. Thankfully, it’s not hard to re-create this combination of sweet, salty, umami, crunchy, brothy, and more. Glass noodles soak up the flavors of soy, oyster, and fish sauces in a stir-fry topped with peanuts and carrots for a colorful pad woon sen. For our khao tom, or rice soup, bright ginger and pungent soy sauce balance the richness of egg and savory pork meatballs. And tapioca makes a fantastic stand-in for our spin on khao niaow ma muang, or mango sticky rice.
Thai Stir-Fried Glass Noodles With Carrots and Roasted Peanuts (Pad Woon Sen)
Makes 4 servings
To prepare cellophane noodles for stir-frying, they need only to be soaked in room-temperature water for about 20 minutes; use this time to prep the other ingredients. As with all stir-fries, once cooking starts, the process goes quickly, so have your ingredients and equipment ready.
Be sure to cut the soaked noodles into shorter lengths using kitchen shears, so you don’t end up with a tangled nest in the pan.
4 ounces cellophane noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
2 teaspoons packed light or dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and ground white pepper
4 large eggs
6 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ small head green cabbage, cored and chopped (about 3 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
In a medium bowl, cover the noodles with about 2 inches of room-temperature water. Let stand until they are pliable but not fully softened, about 20 minutes. Drain, then use kitchen shears to snip them into shorter lengths; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and ½ teaspoon white pepper; set aside. In another small bowl, beat the eggs with ½ teaspoon each salt and white pepper.
When the noodles are ready, add 1½ teaspoons of the oil to a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high, and heat until barely smoking. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until just set, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate, then carefully wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Using the spatula, break the eggs into small pieces; set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the remaining 4½ teaspoons oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, carrots, and garlic, then cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Distribute the noodles in the pan and, using tongs, toss to combine with the vegetables. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook, tossing frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and toss. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the cilantro and peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.
Thai Rice Soup (Khao Tom)
Makes 4 servings
The soup is a sort of blank canvas for garnishes; the recipe calls for our favorites, but feel free to offer only those that appeal to you. The fried shallots, however, are a must.
Freshly cooked rice doesn’t work in this recipe because the grains will turn mushy. Rice that is cooked at least a day in advance, and then chilled, holds its shape better than rice that is cooked the same day. To chill just-cooked rice, mist a parchment-lined baking sheet with cooking spray and evenly spread the hot rice on it. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for at least one day or up to three days.
8 ounces ground pork
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided, plus extra to serve
2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, divided, plus extra to serve
1¾ teaspoons ground white pepper
3 tablespoons lard or refined coconut oil
5 large shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (2 cups)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 lemon grass stalks, trimmed to bottom 6 inches, dry outer leaves removed, smashed
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups cooked and chilled jasmine rice (see headnote)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 to 3 limes), plus lime wedges, to serve
Fried shallots, to serve (see following recipe)
Soft- or hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved, to serve
In a medium bowl, mix the pork, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the chili-garlic sauce, and ¾ teaspoon white pepper. Form the mixture into 20 meatballs (about 2 teaspoons each), rolling each between the palms of your hands. Place on a large plate.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the lard and heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon grass and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits, then reduce to medium heat and simmer uncovered until the flavors blend, about 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the lemon grass. Add the meatballs, stir gently to combine, and simmer over medium heat until they are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce, the remaining 1 teaspoon white pepper, the cilantro, and the lime juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with fried shallots, egg halves, chili-garlic sauce, and lime wedges.
Makes 1½ cups
A mandoline works well for slicing the shallots, but a sharp knife does the job, too. Fried shallots are a great garnish on soups, salads, fried rice, and noodle dishes. The oil leftover from frying the shallots is infused with flavor; use it for stir-frying, sautéing, and in salad dressings.
Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up once the shallots are added to the oil. Moderate heat, and frequent stirring, ensures the shallots brown evenly and without scorching.
1 cup grape-seed or other neutral oil
12 ounces shallots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
Line a large plate with a triple layer of paper towels. Place a mesh strainer over a heatproof medium bowl and set near the stove.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat to about 275 degrees; a slice of shallot dropped in the oil should sizzle immediately. Add the shallots and reduce to medium. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain immediately in the strainer and shake the strainer to remove excess oil.
Using tongs, transfer the shallots to the prepared plate, spreading them in an even layer. Let cool completely. Store the shallots and oil separately in airtight containers. The shallots will keep for up to 1 week at room temperature; the oil will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
Coconut-Tapioca Pudding With Mango
Makes 4 servings
This is a spin on mango sticky rice, a much-loved Thai dessert. The warm, sweet-salty, coconut-rich tapioca pudding perfectly complements the cool fruitiness of ripe mango. We prefer the texture and appearance of small pearl over instant tapioca, but it does take longer to cook. To be time-efficient, prep the mango while the tapioca pearls soak and toast the coconut while the pudding cools.
Don’t skip soaking the tapioca or cut short the soaking time. Without soaking, the pearls cook unevenly. And if soaked for less time, the pudding tends to cook up too firm and elastic.
1 14½-ounce can coconut milk
¼ cup small tapioca pearls
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup white sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ripe small mango, peeled, pitted, and finely diced
2 tablespoons shredded or wide-shaved unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
Set aside ¼ cup of the coconut milk in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining coconut milk and 2/3 cup water. Stir in the tapioca and let soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolk into the reserved coconut milk, then stir this mixture, along with the sugar and salt, into the tapioca mixture. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to simmer at the edges, about 8 minutes. Reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, until thickened and most of the tapioca pearls are completely translucent, 12 to 15 minutes.
Divide the pudding among serving bowls or glasses. Refrigerate until warm or completely cooled, as desired. Spoon the mango onto the puddings, dividing it evenly. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut.
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