Thai-ing One On For Father’s Day

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - June 15, 2005
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James Berger Jr. of Saab Hawaii is a young father who always finds time for his children, Haley D’anna, who is 4 years old, and son, Mason Java Lee, who will celebrate his first birthday in August. Married to Helen, a former Mrs. Hawaii and Miss Thailand, this Punahou graduate spends countless hours at his Waialae Avenue showroom, but still has time to take his children on outings, volunteers in the community as a member of the Kaimuki Lions Club, and is a season sponsor for the Army Community Theatre. For relaxation, he enjoys reading, playing soccer and football, and collecting stamps.

James is also part of the Hawaii Coalition for Dads, which is sponsoring Father’s Day celebrations at Pearlridge Center and Windward Mall on June 18. Saab will be involved in these free events, offering safety tips for teenage drivers and information on how to safely install a baby seat in the car. James will also be giving away tickets to Cats and having face painting for the keiki at his booth.

James spent many years in Thailand where he met Helen, and they continue to enjoy Thai cooking at home. Here’s Helen’s recipe she’ll be preparing for James for Father’s Day when the family celebrates.

This recipe is dedicated to this active family, and a happy Father’s Day to all!

Galangal was known to the ancient Indians, and has been in the West since the Middle Ages.


A close relative of ginger, it is an important and popular ingredient in the foods of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand. Ground galangal is easier to work with than whole galangal and is commonly called for in recipes. The flavor is similar to ginger, but more flowery and intense.

Greater galangal is native to Java. It is widely used in Indonesia and Malaysia as a food flavoring and spice.

Lesser galangal is native to China, and is also grown in India and the rest of Southeast Asia. Although not used as frequently in Europe today, both galangals were formerly imported in great quantity as medicine and spice.

Galangel may be used like ginger, powdered, bruised or crushed. One slice of the root is equivalent to half a teaspoon of powder. The powders should be stored in airtight containers and used within a short space of time. Use small amounts when starting out. Its flavor combines with ginger and lemon grass in Thai cooking, and with white pepper and⁄or cayenne for seasoning fish, meat or poultry.

Galangal is an aromatic stimulant, and said to be carminative and stomachic. It is used against nausea, flatulence, rheumatism and enteritis. It also possesses tonic and antibacterial qualities and is used for these properties in veterinary and homeopathic medicine. In India it is used as a body deodorizer and halitosis remedy. Watch out — both galangals have been used in Europe and Asia as an aphrodisiac for centuries!

SPICY CHICKEN COCONUT
• 4 cups coconut milk (may use low or nonfat)
• 6 dried kaffir lime leaves (from Thai market)
• 3 pieces fresh or dried galangal (Thai market). NOTE: dried galangal must be soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons roasted chili paste or 1 teaspoon sliced fresh chili
• 1 tablespoon lemongrass, sliced into 1-inch pieces
• 6 chicken breast fillets or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 31⁄2 ounces champignons (mushrooms), fresh or canned are fine
• fresh coriander, mint or basil leaves, for garnish

In a saucepan, bring coconut milk to a boil. Add lime leaves, galangal, lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, roasted chili paste and lemongrass. Simmer for five minutes. Add chicken and champignons. Simmer for another five minutes. Taste to see if extra lemon juice, fish sauce or sugar are needed. If soup is too thick, add a little more coconut milk or water. Pour into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, mint or basil.

Serve with rice.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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