Authentic Thai Spice in Hell’s Kitchen

Pure Thai Cookhouse
766 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019

I love spicy food. It’s a fact of life, and I’m always on the hunt for a new dish to satisfy my heated cravings. For me though, even better than a dish that makes me sweat, is a plate of food that also brings flavor to the party.

Photo Mar 21, 6 57 43 PMPure Thai Cookhouse is a small, hole in the wall restaurant in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood styled after a historic Thai shophouse. Pure is the sister restaurant to Chef David Bank’s Land Thai Kitchen, located on the Upper West Side. While Land is also known for its spicy dishes and heat, it features more traditional Thai meals. Pure specializes in dishes found from Thai street vendors, as well as farm dishes or rural and market dishes throughout Thailand. The food at Pure is super authentic, and takes you on a culinary tour of the many regions of Thailand. While it only has about 20 seats, this place is packing people in for its bold flavors, great service and unique spin on Thai eats. This is a great place to take a date, some friends or even your parents for elevated Thai food.

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The Chicken Curry Puffs ($8) appetizer might have seemed to be pretty standard fare, but were anything but ordinary. The filling was made from moist caramelized chicken, earthy onions, and tender sweet potato. Although the sweet potato gave it a touch of sweetness, the filling was also flavored with warming spices that gave it a mild touch of heat. The chicken was aromatic, and had an almost creamy consistency from being braised and helped along from the potato starch. The puffs had a perfectly flaky crust, that was slightly chewy with crisp edges. The plate came with four good-sized pieces and garnished with a tangy cucumber relish. The relish not only cut through the heaviness of the dish, but also helped cool it down.

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The Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Dry Noodles ($11/$13 lunch/dinner) is a favorite of mine. The egg noodles are handmade from a secret, family recipe, and you can really taste the difference from those that come in a box. The noodles are dressed with a mild sauce flavored with fish sauce, palm sugar, rice wine vinegar and lime. It’s tangy, sweet, sour, salty and pungent.  The lump crab meat is flaky and delicate, and there’s a lot of it to soak up excess sauce. The pork was slight salty—in the best possible way—with a pleasant chewiness that makes it almost “chashu”-esque, similar to the delicate pork belly found in a bowl of ramen. The yu choy and scallions gave the bowl a wonderful crunch and textural contrast to the other soft components. The sauce is mild enough and the perfect vehicle to spice up with the chili and sauce garnish basket placed on the table. Be careful though, you don’t want to overwhelm the vibrant taste of the noodles with too much heat.

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If you’re in the mood for something more stir-fried or curry style, the Wok Chili Turmeric with Beef ($11/$13) is absolutely delicious. Flavored with kaffi­r lime leaves and thai chilis, the heat is very prevalent in this dish. I ordered it Thai spicy since I love it super-spicy and the beef can definitely handle the heat of the turmeric chili sauce. The asparagus and string beans provide a nice crunch, as well as a sense of freshness to the saucy plate. The chili marinade makes the beef very tender and keeps it from getting dry. The turmeric in the sauce gives it a lovely orange color, and a backbone of warmth. The side of rice is essential to this dish to not only sop up extra sauce, but also to take the edge of heat off of the dish. A generous portion of jasmine rice is included for no extra charge, but for an extra $1 you can get sticky rice. I like to use my fingers to grab pieces of rice and dip it into the excess sauce.

Photo Jun 19, 7 09 54 PMThere’s so many great dishes to choose from on the menu at Pure Thai Cookhouse to satisfy everyone–from a Thai spice novice to a expert noodle slurper. Make sure to check out Pure, and also its sister restaurant Land Thai Restaurant a couple of miles uptown for a meal that will make your face sweat and your taste buds tingle!

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Recipe: Asian Fusion Chicken Curry

This recipe was inspired by the delicious Chicken Rendang dish I had at Malaysia Grill recently. One of the cooking methods that made that dish so unique was the use of ground onions in the gravy. The onions gave an amazingly aromatic and deep flavor to the dish. In my spin on a chicken curry, shallots are roasted and pureed into a paste in order to impart a similar flavor profile. This curry also incorporates flavors from Thai and Indian cuisines. I chose to make it with chicken, but it would be delicious with beef, shrimp or even vegetarian. Some crispy tofu or eggplant would be nice options. It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve prepped, it really cooks quickly. You’ll love to eat this curry on a chilly day, or on any day of the year.

IMG_1553Ingredients:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, chopped into medium sized chunks

3 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 heaping spoonfuls of hot chili oil

2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of dried shrimp – this might seem like a weird ingredient, but it’s very prevalent in Asian dishes. It also gives a great umami flavor

3 small or 2 large limes

2 tablespoons of palm sugar (if you don’t have any palm sugar, then brown sugar or even white sugar is fine as a substitute)

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of peanut oil

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 medium shallots

2 medium (or 1 extra large) russet potatoes (you want a good starchy potato to help thicken the curry and stand up to the cooking process)

2 teaspoons of Garam Masala

2 teaspoons of curry powder

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/2 cup of water

1.5 teaspoons of freeze-dried cilantro

1/2 of a 4oz jar of green curry paste (Thai kitchen is a good brand)

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1 can of coconut milk

2-3 Thai green chilies, minced (jalapeños are a good substitute) — this is an optional ingredient, but really helps being a nice beat to the dish

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To make the marinade:

  1. Chop the lemongrass into 1-2 inch long pieces and place into a plastic Ziploc bag (about gallon size)–Make sure the lemongrass isn’t cut too small since you’ll have to take it out before cooking.
  2. Add the rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 shallot roughly chopped, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the dried shrimp.
  3. Place the chicken, cut into chunks, along with the rest of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag with a strong zipper. Trust me, you’ll need the good kind, unless you want marinade all over your counter or the inside of your refrigerator. FullSizeRender-4
  4. Toss the cut lime into the bag as well since the zest will help flavor the chicken. You can also add some fresh ginger to this marinade if you want to turn this into a chicken stir-fry style dish. After marinating the chicken, sauté it with some broccoli or peppers or snow peas in a hot wok and serve over rice. Yum!
  5. Marinade for 30 minutes minimum, and up to 1 day in the fridge.
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade

To Make the Roasted Potatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces lengthwise again. Cut the long quarters into medium-large chunks. Don’t worry if all of the pieces aren’t the same size, your dish will look rustic and let people know that it’s homemade.
  3. Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet.
  4. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried cilantro. If you don’t have dried cilantro, then cumin would be tasty and would give the potatoes a smoky taste.FullSizeRender-8
  5. Toss to coat all of the potatoes with the oil and spices.
  6. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want them be crisp and light brown on the outside, but be careful to not let them get too dark. These don’t require a lot of babysitting.
Potatoes out of the oven
Potatoes out of the oven

To Make the Shallot Paste:

  1. Peel the shallots (there will be 2 bulbs in each skin).
  2. If the shallot is large then cut the bulbs in half, if not then place it whole onto a baking sheet.
  3. Season the shallots with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil
  4. Put the shallots into the oven about 10 minutes after the potatoes.
  5. Once you’ve taken the shallots out of the oven, allow them to cool a bit.
  6. Put the shallots into a blender with the curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, and remaining teaspoon of oil.
  7. Pulse while adding water until it comes together into a loose paste.FullSizeRender-12
  8. The potatoes and shallot paste could both be made ahead of time, just make sure to refrigerate.

To Make the Curry:

  1. Add remaining peanut oil to a wokIMG_1563
  2. Heat your wok on medium to medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking
  3. Add curry paste to the wok along with the zest of 1/2 a lime and minced Thai chilies, and heat through (1-2 minutes)FullSizeRender-5
  4. Add the shallot paste to the wok. You’ll be able to smell the aromas of Garam Masala and curry powder after cooking for a few minutes.FullSizeRender-9
  5. Add the coconut milk to the wok as well as the remaining sugar.FullSizeRender-13
  6. Let the sauce come up to a simmer and taste. You can add more fish sauce to taste.
  7. Once the sauce is simmering steadily, it’s time to add the chicken. Remember to pick the lemongrass and limes out of the marinade bag. The lemongrass is inedible in this form and has done its job in flavoring the dish. Also, drain most all of the marinade out of the bag.FullSizeRender-3
  8. Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then add the roasted potatoes.FullSizeRender-1
  9. Now is the fun part. Stir the wok around and let it go on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low – medium in order to give the chicken time to cook in the sauce and the potatoes do lost their crispy exterior and absorb some sauce. Use this time to get a drink, or wash the chili off of your hands.FullSizeRender-6
  10. After it starts simmering again, squeeze half of a lime into the wok and keep simmering. Save the remaining lime half.
  11. When the curry has reduced and has thickened up, so that sticks heavily to your spoon, then it’s done.

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    Doesn’t that look delicious?
  12. Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt or raita would be delicious to help cool down the palate as well.
A Taste for the Chef
A Taste for the Chef

There’s a deep Indian-spiced, curry flavor to the dish, with an escalating heat from the Thai chilies—no bite though, rather it’s a kind of heat that rests on the back of your tongue. You also taste the warming flavors of curry, garam masala and ginger, as well as an earthiness from the roasted shallots.

The chicken almost braises in the curry sauce, and doesn’t get chewy while cooking in the sauce. The potatoes also have a great mouth feel; they absorb some of the sauce, and the starchiness of the potatoes helps thicken up the gravy. The lemongrass complements the lime throughout the dish, and gives it a subtle citrus flavor, which helps cut across the heaviness of the dish itself. The dried shrimp rehydrates in the marinade as well as the curry, and much of it melts. The leftover pieces become chewy and add a nice fishiness to round out the flavor profile. Rice or naan is a great vehicle to scoop up the thick curry sauce, although the dish is filling enough to eat on its own. It’s so good you may lick your plate clean!