Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Dad’s Thai Toast: The Only Thai Toast Recipe You Need

I grew up in what was, at the time, a small Virginia town. My elementary school had no AC and it was awfully close to dairy farms. We used to get out early on "heat wave" days, presumably because the temperatures were unsafe but I think it was really because the teachers couldn’t choose between opening the window and smelling cow or leaving the windows closed and smelling student. 

My mom is Caucasian. My dad is Thai. The only other semi-Asian kid at my school was my sister.  An Asian restaurant opening in town was a major event.

I didn’t know these things though. I was a kid and your reality isn’t what you’re missing, it’s what's in front of you. 

For most of my early childhood, save for trips to D.C.’s Chinatown every few months or so, what I primarily knew of Thailand and Asian culture was what I learned at the kitchen table. On Sunday nights my dad would cook. Other dads were masters of the BBQ or specialized in a mean fried egg, mine was king of the wok.

He didn’t just serve a dish or two, he made a banquet that took hours to prepare. Carrots were julienned into matchsticks, bean sprouts mounded into piles. Metal chimed, oil sizzled.  Electricity pinged in the air.

Sunday night dinner was a family affair, and if you were lucky, you got an invite to partake of the crispy egg rolls or sautéed shrimp. One such Sunday night, my sister’s friend was there for dinner. My dad pulled a fish from the oven. It was still steaming, a fragrant mix of ginger and garlic giving tempo to the air.

As soon as the fish was placed on the table, my sister’s friend took one look at the fish –cooked Thai style with the head and tail still on - and visibly blanched. This was something of an accomplishment because she was the kind of girl whose freckles wore her translucent skin.  My dad noticed her discomfort and told her not to worry that he had an “American fish” coming too.

He pulled another fish from the oven, the primary difference between this one and the first being that this one was more simply seasoned. He set this fish down in front of her. The friend smiled weakly. It was clearly not the filet-o-fish she had been envisioning. You could tell her Sunday nights were going to be busy from now on.

I went to Thailand for the first time in middle school. When I got there my aunts and uncles were surprised that I could endlessly eat their spicy, pungent food. I may not speak much Thai, I don’t look all that Thai, and I certainly don’t think like a Thai – but my stomach is Thai. I’ll always be proud of that. 

My Dad's Thai Toast

6 pieces of white bread
6 oz of pork, chopped and finely mince
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 TB cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

The bread is best if left out for several hours so that it's a bit stale. Mince the pork finely. Add garlic, eggs, and cornstarch to the pork. Mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper generously. 

Heat your wok with oil. When the oil is hot, spread the pork mixture onto the bread. (Don't work ahead. Spreading the pork mixture onto the bread before you need it will cause the bread to get soggy.)  Add the first piece of bread, meat side up. After the meat is cooked (about 2 minutes), flip the bread and fry until golden brown. Remove the toast to paper towels, to drain. Be sure to work quickly or the bread will become oily. Repeat with remaining pieces. 

Cut the toast into four squares. Serve hot with cucumber relish and sweet chili sauce. 

Cucumber Relish 

1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 c white vinegar
3 TB sugar
pinch of salt

Mix ingredients. Refrigerate to marinate.

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” 

1 comment:

  1. What I would give for an invite to that Sunday night dinner! Some of my most cherished memories are sitting at your kitchen counter watching your dad cook, especially on egg roll night. I loved the Thai food but I really showed up for the family... and your mom's lectures.

    BTW Thai toast will be cooked in this house before sundown today.