I pulled this from sfgate, sorry for the phoned in posting but I find this to be very useful.
I’ll list my recipe for Tom Yum soon, it’s my sick soup and I don’t want to jinx myself and talk about it whilst healthy 🙂
Thailand’s culinary culture is happily enjoyed alfresco – something we see less of in American Thai food. Food of any kind is thrown on a grill, from chiles, garlic and shallots – the basics for some curries – to meats. These are lightly salted, if at all, and sometimes marinated, leaving them easily accessible to all manner of sauces and dips.
Food: Satays in all the variations, beef, pork, chicken, lamb. Most meat proteins can be grilled over charcoal, from whole fish to chicken to beef that is intended for a salad, as in the beef salad recipe we include.
Wine: Pinot Gris, sweet Riesling or Chenin Blanc if there’s more fat and sugar in the marinade or sauce (like peanut sauce). Dry rosé also worked well here. A surprise winner was dry Lambrusco – with the tannin of red wine and the acidity and chill of white, it straddles two worlds.
Salads and herbs
Papaya, mango and banana blossom are all major ingredients in this group. Lime is also a major flavor component. When a protein such as beef or chicken is present, you’ll find perfumed herbs such as cilantro, mint, basil, lemongrass, magrut lime and galangal.
Food: Green papaya salad, beef salad, chicken or pork larb, green mango salad, green chile sauce, minced catfish salad. Tom yum and tom ka soups (if light on the canned coconut milk) also fit here, due to their use of lime juice and lemongrass or galangal.
Wine: Torrontes, which combines the aromatics of Viognier and the sharp edges of Sauvignon Blanc, was a runaway hit. Albarino, a similar wine, works well too – as do dry Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, though with less finesse. Riesling was a solid performer, the sweetness level matching the dish.
This was one of the few categories where Gewurztraminer worked, though not always – a bit of sweetness helped stave off occasional bitter notes in the wine. Some reds work, too: Lighter Tempranillo, Barbera, Beaujolais, St. Laurent and light Cabernet Franc with the beef salad, and a Chinon even went well with the chile sauce. Some sparkling wines will also work. In all cases, wines with high acid and herbal notes fit the bill.
Fish and fish sauce
Mouthfeel is a major factor in this group, especially with the use of fish sauce or shrimp paste either as ingredients or condiments. Their salty, sharp flavors require an even sharper acidity in wine, even a slightly Sherry-like note that works with the pointed anchovy flavors.
Food: Tod mun (fried fish cakes); fried and grilled fish, which usually are served with nam pla (fish sauce dip); anything else served with nam pla.
Wine: Dry aromatic whites such as Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Edelzwicker. A dry Sherry works well, as would the tangy wines of L’Etoile from France’s Jura region. With more fish sauce, dry wines seem the better match, including Alsatian-style Rieslings. When you add more sweetness, sweet Riesling and even sweet Chenin Blanc are better.
Sweet and sour
One of the most popular flavor combinations in Thai food largely borrows from Chinese tradition. In both food and wine, you need a balance of sweet and acid. Red wines can work, so long as they have a minimum of tannins.
Food: Pad Thai, northern Thai pork curry, tofu tod (deep-fried tofu with sweet-and-sour dip)
Wine: You want high sugar, high acid and a high level of fruit extract – dense, sweet and tart. Hence Riesling is the undisputed winner here, as are Scheurebe, Pinot Gris and other aromatic white wines, the sweetness level matched to the dish. Zinfandel is a good pick among reds, with its lingering sweetness – though be mindful of alcohol levels. Balanced Pinot Noir with just a hint of sweetness can work, too.
Soy sauce often plays a role here, and the combination of salt and fat begs for a lean, fresh wine to cut through and cleanse your palate. Fish sauce adds to the intense salty flavors.
Food: Stir-fried noodles, Thai fried rice.
Wine: A surprisingly versatile category. Dry Riesling, sparkling wine and even Sherry-like wines offset the fat and glutamate flavors. Sweeter wines work when there is sugar in the dish. So do lower-tannin red wines like Barbera and even Merlot. Purely herbaceous wines like Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc were too lean and clashed with the food.
Without canned coconut milk, some dishes in this group overlay with the herbal flavors of salads. With it, you’ll need more direct acidity and sweetness in your wine. Typical takeout curries, with lots of canned coconut milk and sugar, call for sweet, high-acid wines; late-harvest Rieslings are also in order. Curries with little or no coconut milk, especially those from Northern Thailand, often provide the most harmony with wine. (If you’re lucky enough to run into a curry made with fresh – or frozen – coconut milk, the range of wine options open up because fresh coconut is subtle and floral and not clingy in mouthfeel.)
Food: Red, green, yellow, Penang or Mussaman curries are usually made with coconut milk. Northern curries, including “jungle curries” and others called priao wan (sour-sweet) often do not. Complex satay dips often resemble curries, but include ground peanuts.
Wine: When coconut milk is present, as is typical with the sweet spices of Mussaman curry, more texture to the wine is important; you might turn to the richly nuanced white wines of Alsace or the Anderson Valley. Lotus of Siam’s Atcharawan adds another good rule of thumb: Look for wines from a cooler vintage with higher acidity (like 2002 or 2004 in Germany) to match the milk’s density.
Riesling works well across the board – the sweetness level depending on the sweetness of the dish. Fattier dishes can withstand a light red wine – Merlot or, again, Lambrusco. When more herbs and less sugar are present, as with jungle or green curries, consider the same wines that work for salads – including Torrontes, dry Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
Laarb (Grilled Beef Salad)
1/2 cup dry glutinous (sticky) rice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemongrass
4 slices galangal
4 magrut (kaffir) lime leaves
1 pound beef: filet mignon, loin or flank steak
4 to 5 tablespoons lime juice
3 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons roasted rice powder + more for garnish
1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar or palm sugar
2 tablespoons sliced green onion2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemongrass (tender part only)2 tablespoons sliced shallot
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
For the roasted rice powder: In a dry nonstick pan over medium heat, combine rice, lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves, and dry-fry, stirring, shaking and turning the rice and herbs, until the rice grains and herbs tu
rn dark brown and are fragrant, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then grind to a fine powder. The rice powder will keep in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for months.
For the salad: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill beef until medium rare to medium, about 4 minutes per side. If you don’t have a grill, fry the beef on both sides in a little oil. Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips. Place meat and juices in a bowl. Stir in the lime juice, and toss to coat the meat evenly. Add the fish sauce, cayenne, roasted rice powder and coconut sugar. Mix well. Add green onion, cilantro, lemongrass, shallot, mint leaves and sawtooth coriander or cilantro, and toss gently to mix.
Transfer to a serving plate lined with cabbage leaves.