Something unique happens twice every day during rush hour on Bangkok’s public train system (BTS). At exactly 8am and 6pm the national anthem begins to play and people stop walking to listen and show respect. No matter how fast you are moving, when the music plays, you stop, and you listen.
It’s such an impressive sight that when my sisters were visiting last summer, they joined in my morning commute on more than one occasion. We’d park ourselves in the BTS station at 7:55 and wait for the music that freezes everyone in their tracks.
When I first moved here, it felt like a battle of will for me to join in this practice. I’m in a rush, how can I stop!? But I’ve learned to appreciate it. It’s hot here. A minute break never hurts.
And when the music ends, we all start right back up in the myriad of directions we are headed. It felt a bit like that instant when the anthem ends and I begin speed-walking again when Frank and I returned from vacation, and were thrown back into work mid-week. I was headed in a particular direction before we left, and I was moving fast.
Just as the vacation shook me a bit out of my routine, the break from cooking gave me reason to change direction a bit in my cooking. Our dinner routine has been streamlined since we returned – for simplicity sake (not to mention to make up for the indulgences of the beach). We’ve wanted quick, healthy, delicious meals. I wanted to savor the vacation for a bit longer and enjoy good food at home.
I love the flavor of these lettuce wraps – a simple peanut sauce with a bit of spice, but there’s something addictive about the contrast of crisp lettuce, saucy chicken, and crunchy peanuts. You can adjust the spice in any direction you prefer – the sauce is delicious with any amount of heat.
It’s easy to gain momentum and keep moving in a particular direction. But a change of pace is always a good thing.
Pausing to listen to a song, or say, to sit on the beach and read the Hunger Games for a few days can make all the difference.
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- 1 Tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 Tablespoon Sriracha (reduce if you prefer less spice)
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sunflower or vegetable oil
- 16oz. (460g.) chicken, finely chopped
- 12 large outer leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce
- ⅓ cup toasted peanuts
- 6 Thai chilis, thinly sliced (optional – these can be spicy!)
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce (sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, honey, peanut butter, coconut milk, Sriracha, and cornstarch). Whisk until evenly combined (some small lumps of peanut butter may remain).
- Heat a large wok or sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil (it should shimmer). Carefully add the chicken to the pan and cook, stirring continuously until the chicken begins to brown on the outside, 3-4 minutes. Add the prepared sauce to the pan all at once. Cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Serve immediately with the lettuce leaves, peanuts, chilis, and lime wedges on the side. Spoon about ¼ cup of chicken mixture, peanuts, and chilis on top of each lettuce leaf and squeeze a lime wedge over the top just before eating.