Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Thai X'ing - Shaw, DC

Thai X’ing - the not-so-secret secret Thai place you definitely want to check out.  The restaurant is located in a row house on Florida Avenue tucked away behind grape-vine covered trellises.  Unless you’re looking for it, you could easily pass it by.  Until recently, the only way to get a reservation was to call and call and call and hope they would return your increasingly more desperate messages.  Then, as of a few days ago, when I was trying to retrieve my wallet that I inadvertently dropped on the floor the night I ate there, an email address popped up on their site (and they responded within an hour!).  However, their website seems to change on an almost daily basis, so don't be surprised if only a phone number is available.  Not sure what’s up with that, but here is the site (www.thaix-ing.com) - do your best to get a reservation and try it, it is totally worth the time and trouble.

Here’s the deal:  This isn’t a fancy place.  You’re basically sitting in someone’s house as a few servers scurry around bringing you plates of food and walkie-talkie messages to the kitchen.  As far as I know, they only serve water, so bring your own alcohol if you prefer.  Some nights are vegetarian and some nights have meat.  There is never a menu.  When I went, we had a group of 4 people and received 9 dishes, including a whole fish and it was more than we could eat.  Here’s a rundown of what we were served:

-     1) Tom Yum Soup with mushrooms and some other random veggies.  The broth was slightly creamy and quite spicy, with coconut milk and lemongrass. Awesome.

-      2) Seaweed salad –ummm, no clue what was in this other than some weird squishy seaweed and some ginger mixed in.  Weird, but still tasty.

      3) Fish cakes.  This was the one major downfall of the meal in my opinion.  At first I was excited - who doesn't love a good little fried snack?  But then after one bite my excitement fizzled.  Imagine the texture of overcooked fake chicken nuggets...now add salt and fish flavoring.  Eww, not my cup of tea.

        4) Green papaya salad.  So good - light, refreshing, and the perfect flavor to get that fish taste out of my mouth!  The papaya was julienned with some other veggies - green onion, tomatoes, etc.  The dressing was tangy, spicy and slightly sweet.  There was definitely some lime juice at play here.  Yum.

-         5)  Green beans with tofu.  I would call this a green bean salad as I thought that's what we were told, but after a good old-fashioned critiquing of this post by one of my dining companions, I am changing the name to   "green beans with tofu" as he insists it was not a salad, but was meant to go over the rice.  I don't even remember the tofu in it (but I did have a rather large glass of wine pre-dinner).  Call it what you will, there was some sort of spicy sauce on the beans, definitely involving some chilis...it was quite good.

-       6) Pumpkin curry.  Several chunks of nicely roasted pumpkin swimming in a spicy coconut curry sauce.   WOW.  Deeelish!

-          7) Noodles with tofu.  This tasted a lot like pad thai, but not as dry as pad thai often is.  A little nutty, a little vinegary.  Not quite as exotic as the other dishes, but still very flavorful.

-         8) Fish.  No idea what kind of fish this was.  Sort of the shape of flounder, but the tail wasn’t shaped like a flounder tail.  At any rate, it was a flaky white fish and I am a flaky white fish kind of girl, so I loved it.  The peppery tangy dipping sauce on the side was good, but holy moley – so spicy!

The after picture...
-        9)  Finally – mango with sticky rice.  The mango was perfectly ripe.  The rice was perfectly sticky.  If you are a fan of this dessert, this is a really good version of it.  I am just starting to get on the coconut/coconut milk bandwagon and still only like it in savory dishes with some spice.  My dining companions happily crushed this one without me though.

In addition to all of this, you are given a large bowl of white rice to sop up all of the amazing sauces.  I think I could pour that pumpkin curry sauce on anything and it would be good.  

Bottom line – try Thai X’ing.  It’s family run, authentic and an experience.  At $30-$40 it is well worth your money. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baking GALS Round 14 - Pumpkin Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

Oh my f*#&ing god.  That was almost what I entitled this post…seriously.  Alas, I maintained my cool – barely.  It’s been a long time since I tried out a new recipe and was totally blown away.  I don’t know if it’s that this combo of flavors really just works, or if they were just hitting the spot for me today or very likely a combo of the two, but this recipe should definitely go on your “must make” list. (Come on, I can’t be the only one who has one of those right?!) 

I’ve known for a while that orange and cardamom are a great combination.  The floral scent/taste of cardamom just fits with sweet floral oranges.  My mom makes Scandinavian orange cardamom bread at Christmas, often per my insistent request.  It’s considered a sweet bread, but it has just a hint of sweetness to it.  Toast it up, add a little butter and (here we go again), oh my f*#&ing god, it’s so good.  I’ll have to attempt to make that myself someday, but for now I’ll leave it as a mom specialty.  Anyway, back to this cake.

I like to try to make something seasonal for the guys so they can really get a taste of home, especially in the fall since fall flavors are so rich and warm.  How can you not feel cozy, even if just for a second, when eating some apple pie or pumpkin bread or butternut squash ravioli – yum.  I saw the name of this recipe and was intrigued.  However, as you can tell by the pictures I didn’t make this in bundt cake form.  I’ve only sent one cake overseas and it was tricky to pack.  It was probably tricky to share as well, so I thought I’d stick with something easier in both departments, hence the muffins.  Be jealous people, these are awesome – and fellas, eat your hearts out!

**Note**  Cardamom is my “secret spice”.  I like to slip it into random recipes (even once in chocolate chip cookies!).  It is used a lot in both Indian cooking as well as Scandinavian.  Considering my parents lived in India for several years and my mom’s family is Norwegian, I grew up with her using it quite a bit.  I made an apple pie for someone this past weekend, and after deliberating with my mom about whether it would work with apples or not, I decided to chance it and throw some in.  The verdict?  Well, I was told the pie was “mindblowing”.  ‘Nuff said – thank you cardamom!



Cake Ingredients

2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup White Whole Wheat Flour (I use King Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup flavorless oil such as safflower or canola
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1 cup plain yogurt

Glaze Ingredients

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk (I omitted this)
4 teaspoons fresh orange juice


Note: You’ll want to bake this on a lower rack in your oven so be sure to set that up before you preheat it.  If you make muffins, bake on the middle rack.

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease and flour your Bundt pan well and set aside. (Use muffin papers or grease muffin pans)
3. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon and set aside.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars. Add the oil and beat for about a minute.
5. Beat in each egg separately until combined.
6. Add the pumpkin puree, orange zest and juice and mix on medium speed until well combined. There should be no lumps from the pumpkin left.
7. With your mixer on low, alternate adding the yogurt and the flour mixture scraping down the bowl periodically. Mix until just combined.
8. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, evening out the top of the cake.
9. Bake in your preheated oven for about 75 minutes. I suggest you check it after 60 minutes for doneness (ovens vary) to make sure the top isn’t over browning. You can put a piece of foil over it and let it continue baking. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached. *For mini muffins, bake 10-12 min. For regular muffins, bake 14-17 min.
10. Allow it to cool about an hour before removing it from the pan, then let it cool completely before adding the glaze.

Recipe adapted from www.knitstamatic.wordpress.com