It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything remotely interesting with chicken. Lately if I have it on hand, all I’ve been doing is cooking it up to use as easy protein on my spinach salads. I’ve even been neglecting old chicken standbys like my Goddess Chicken Salad or my Mexican Style Chicken Pasta Bake, and that’s just not right. Definitely time to jazz up old steadfast, stalwart chicken and turn it into something fun.
On my last “big” shopping trip, I picked up a flat of chicken thighs that happened to be on sale for a ridiculous $0.99/lb. Since I was at the store early, I had a lot of giant packages to sift through to find one I could A) carry home and B) actually afford, but when all was said & done, I ended up with 16 rather plump little chicken thighs for under $5 – an excellent buy, indeed!
I usually freeze 2-4 thighs in individual Ziploc bags so I can pull them out and use them as I need them, a great practice to get into whether you buy meat for one person or a family of four. Watching for good sales on things like pork, chicken and even seafood will help you save money at the register; taking the time to prep & store things once you get home helps you stretch out those awesome savings and save more time in the long run, since you don’t have to defrost an entire flat of chicken at once.
So last week I’d pulled out a couple of these smaller bundles from my freezer and automatically prepped them for my usual easy-protein-for-salad routine. I was just about throw it on the a giant bowl of spinach when I caught myself – this boring salad routine had to stop immediately! After a quick scan of the rest of my fridge’s contents and a bit of mental food math, I got to work.
I chose to go the “fusion” route and try something different with chicken tacos.. Standard chicken tacos, tasty as they may be, have been done a million times, so I was eager to make something new. Gleaning inspiration from Seattle’s Kaosamai Thai Restaurant’s chicken larb taco that I tried from their truck at last year’s IFBC, I decided to throw in some Thai inspired flavors to make my tacos more interesting: curry & coconut for the chicken, and a nice Thai cucumber relish (a side that is usually served with sa-tay and tod mun (fish cakes), this little pickled salad is incredibly addicting, it’s so good!). A little cabbage to keep with the street or beach side taco feel, and voila! My new favorite chicken taco was born.
Now, obviously this isn’t authentic Thai cooking; I’m missing about 75 ingredients and around 12 extra hours of cooking to make anything truly Thai (though it’s one of my goals to try my hand at the real thing). But one of the ways Poor Girl Eats so darned Well is by jazzing things up and trying some variety. Allowing the flavors & styles of different cultures’ cooking is a wonderful way to liven up your standard menu without having to become an actual pro at that style of cooking. And with so much variety in most stores now, recreating some of those flavors is easier than ever.
Speaking of easy, did I mention how easy these are to make? Aside from some chopping to make the cucumber relish, these only take around 15 minutes to prepare, making them perfect for busy weeknight meals. This recipe is also great for making use of any leftovers you may have: roasted chicken from last night’s dinner can turn into tonight’s Thai-inspired meal.
Curious where to find things like curry powder & coconut milk on the cheap? Hit up your local Asian food grocer. They will more than likely have the best prices and killer variety. If you don’t have one near your area, you can try a number of conventional stores. Trader Joe’s has a fairly decent coconut milk for around $2, and many larger chain stores carry it in their Asian food aisles (but they’re usually a lot more expensive, so use them as a last resort). Even places like Target carry more “exotic” ingredients now; I’ve seen coconut milk, fish sauce and a few spices there that will help you get your international foods pantry started.
Curry Chicken Tacos with Thai Cucumber Relish (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.25)
3 c cooked chicken, shredded or in strips
1/2 c coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t curry powder
1/4 t ground cumin
1/8 t ground ginger
1/4 t salt
Pinch of ground cayenne
Large pinch of sugar
8 corn tortillas
1 c shredded cabbage
For the relish:
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced and quartered
1/2 c thinly sliced red onion
1/3 c white vinegar
1/4 c sugar
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 Thai chili, deveined & seeded and finely chopped OR 2 t crushed red chiles
1/4 t salt
1. Prepare the relish by whisking together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium bowl until the sugar & salt have completely dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together until well combined. Cover & set aside.
2. Whisk together the coconut milk, curry, cumin, ginger & sugar in a small bowl. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and add the garlic. Cook over medium high heat until fragrant & lightly browned, then add the chicken & salt. Stir fry quickly for about a minute or so, then add the coconut curry mixture. Reduce heat to medium low & allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Heat the corn tortillas as you normally would. Assemble your tacos by sprinkling some shredded cabbage on each tortilla, then add a generous spoonful of chicken. Top with cucumber relish & a couple sprigs of cilantro, and enjoy!