The fact that I'm posting this recipe is kind of crazy on a couple of levels: first, the fact that I would ever *enjoy* food like this would have seemed impossible if you knew me even as recently as college. I went on a mission trip to Mongolia in 2003, and as part of our short-term missions preparation class, we went to a Chinese buffet. I dreaded the trip. I thought I hated Chinese food. I did discover that Asian food in Asia is vastly different and better than an American Chinese buffet, and to my surprise, I enjoyed the food we ate in Mongolia. Well, I enjoyed the Chinese food we ate there, anyway. The mutton burgers, not so much.
Then there's the craziness that I would ever attempt to cook something like this. Cilantro? What's a shallot? Chili paste? FISH sauce?! When I got married, I was just about as inept in the kitchen as a girl can be. Seriously clueless. And hated it. So really, the fact that I would look at a recipe for Thai chicken tacos, think it looked appealing enough to tear out of a magazine, and then successfully create it is almost on the level of a miracle. By the grace of God, I have come a long, long way in the last seven years.
Steve and I don't eat out very often, but more and more when we do, we're choosing Asian food. It's the one thing I can't really recreate at home. Most other things you'd order at a restaurant, we eat at home and enjoy homemade as well or better. But until now I haven't had much luck at anything Asian except chicken lettuce wraps (we make a mean knockoff of P.F. Chang's famous appetizer).
After the first round of this, Steve declared it the most authentic Asian food I've ever made, on the level of those lettuce wraps we so love. Later in the evening he said our house smelled like The Smiling Elephant (the Thai restaurant in Nashville we discovered in March and love). That was a compliment, for the record :)
Bonus: Almost everything can be done ahead, meaning moms of littles or working women don't have to do anything at the witching hour except saute the chicken for five minutes or so. And it's just as good leftover for lunch the next day.
Thai Chicken Tacos
[adapted from Better Homes & Gardens]
1 lime, halved
1 lb. chicken breast, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce
2 t. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional--I omitted)
1/2-1 tsp. chili paste or hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 T oil
1 recipe Tangy Asian Cabbage Slaw (below)
Juice half of one lime into a bowl. Slice remaining half into wedges and set aside. Add cilantro, shallot, garlic, sauces and spices to the lime juice. Mix in chicken. Cover and refrigerate one hour or overnight.
Cook chicken mixture in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat five minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
To serve, fill tortillas with chicken and cabbage slaw. Serve with remaining slaw and lime wedges. Serves 4.
Tangy Asian Cabbage Slaw
1 T rice vinegar
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 t. grated fresh ginger, or 1/4-1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. honey
1/2 c. cilantro
1 lb. cabbage and carrots, chopped as fine or as coarse as you prefer (or 1 16-oz pkg cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw)
1/4 c. chopped peanuts (or sunflower seeds, or 1-2 T sesame seeds)
salt to taste
Whisk first six ingredients together to form dressing. Combine cilantro, carrots and cabbage and seeds/peanuts. Mix in dressing. Salt to taste.
Note 2/5/14 - I have been doubling this slaw recipe. The chicken is SO flavorful that we tend to prefer a high ratio of slaw to chicken, meaning we always run out of leftover slaw before the chicken is all gone. I'd recommend at least using half again this much slaw, if not doubling. But my husband is a cabbage-aholic, so your mileage may vary :)