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Asian Side Kicks

September 05, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

When planning a summer grilling menu, you don't have to stick to the traditional American side dishes. The whole world loves barbecue, and there's no better place to seek inspiration than Asia.

Bruce Cost, an Asian food authority and author, proposed this summer menu. Shopping is the key here, he pointed out. You should find a Thai or Asian market, as the quality of the specific sauces and ingredients makes the difference.

As is typical of much Asian cooking, there is quite a bit of advance preparation work but, more important, all the cooking can be done in advance so there's no last-minute heat in the kitchen or at the barbecue.

The food should be served at room temperature, or more specifically with the chill removed, so the flavors are full.


This cucumber salad can be made in advance but keep the cucumbers and dressing separate until just before serving.

5 large cucumbers, peeled, split lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, about 6 cups

3 fresh red chiles, cut in very thin strips

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup Thai fish sauce

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon chile oil, or to taste

1/4 cup raw, peeled peanuts (lightly browned in a small amount of peanut oil), chopped

1/4 cup basil leaves, cut in thin strips

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Toss cucumbers with chiles and salt in colander. Set aside for 1 hour to drain.

Mix lemon juice, fish sauce and sugar in small bowl. Add chile oil.

Spread cucumbers in kitchen towel; lightly wring out to remove moisture.

Toss cucumbers with lemon juice mixture, peanuts, basil and cilantro leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

143 calories; 1,177 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 2.56 grams fiber.


1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large chicken breast halves

1 cup thin strips celery, blanched 10 seconds in boiling salted water, drained

3 fresh red chiles, cut in very thin strips

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled, cut in very thin strips

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon finely minced lemongrass

1/4 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon chile oil, or to taste

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Lightly salt both sides of chicken breasts. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Fill saute pan big enough to hold chicken in single layer with water. Bring to boil. When boiling, add chicken, meaty side down. Return to boil. Cover. Turn off heat. Let sit until thickest part of meat is cooked through (check by inserting point of sharp paring knife in center), about 20 minutes. Remove chicken from cooking liquid; set chicken aside to cool. Or, if preparing in advance, cool chicken in cooking liquid.

Remove meat in large chunks, discarding skin and bones. Gently pull meat apart, along grain, in 1 1/2 x 1/4-inch strips.

Combine chicken, celery, chiles, onion, ginger root, garlic and lemongrass. In small bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar. Add to chicken mixture. Add oil and toss until well coated. Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. Let sit briefly at room temperature before serving. Just before serving, stir in cilantro leaves.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

184 calories; 613 mg sodium; 57 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 0.18 gram fiber.


1 pound Chinese lo mein egg noodles

1/4 cup Asian sesame oil

2 cups shelled raw peanuts

1/3 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons minced ginger root

2 teaspoons minced garlic

6 serrano chiles, seeded if desired, minced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup light soy sauce

2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chile oil, or to taste

1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed tea

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside. Can be cooked few hours ahead and kept at room temperature, covered.

Blanch peanuts in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and immediately place on cloth towel. Cover with another towel and rub back and forth to remove as much skin as possible. Peanuts do not need to be completely peeled.

Heat peanut oil in 10-inch skillet until nearly smoking. Add peanuts. Cook over low heat until light golden, about 3 minutes, stirring very often. Use slotted spoon to transfer peanuts to paper towels. Blot peanuts with paper towels. Reserve oil.

Grind peanuts in food processor until mixture is coarse paste, adding some reserved oil if needed for consistency. Add ginger, garlic, chiles, salt, sugar, soy sauces and vinegar. Blend into smooth, thick paste, about 1 minute. Transfer to 1-quart bowl.

Add remaining sesame oil, chile oil and 1/2 cup tea to peanut mixture. Stir well. Consistency should be like heavy cream. Use more tea (or reserved oil) to adjust consistency. Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.

To serve, divide room temperature noodles among 6 to 8 plates. Top with sauce and cilantro leaves.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 8 servings contains about:

571 calories; 1,222 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 60 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 1.91 grams fiber.

* Annie Glass plates from Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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