This time of year, I talk a lot about The Vice Detox – a vicious trio of sugar, caffeine and alcohol that forms your liver’s biggest foodie foes.
On the addiction/sinfulness front, I’ve found that most people identify with 2 out of 3. Which is largely the case for me as well. Sugar is my top vice, followed by alcohol, with caffeine much closer to the bottom.
If I had to round out my vice trio with a fourth, I’d most definitely choose Thai Food. Thai takeout, to be exact.
Those who read The Wellness Project book have heard me wax poetic about this problem habit. And it’s certainly gotten better since I completed my Year of Health. But I still crave pad Thai and green chicken curry on the regular, even if I don’t cave in to actually ordering it.
The reason why I could never include this as part of an actual vice trio is not just because it mainly speaks to a certain type of New Yorker with too much access to food delivery apps. Rather, it’s because the vice-y-ness of Thai takeout mainly falls under my first prong: sugar.
In Thailand, instead of caddies of ketchup and mustard, every table at restaurants is outfitted with a tray (or lazy Susan) of condiments that include fish sauce, chili sauce, vinegar, and a whole bowl of table sugar. Every dish is composed around these basic flavors: salty, spicy, sour and sweet. In fact, most restaurant dishes in Thailand (especially pad Thai) downplay these flavors slightly to allow you to choose your own adventure with the condiments at your disposal.
When I was in high school, I spent a summer traveling around Thailand as part of a community service program, and my main culinary take-away was the sweet-savory brilliance of table sugar. I loved sprinkling it on top of my noodles and taking a forkful before it had a chance to fully dissolve, giving my mouthful a subtle crunch.
This was absolutely where my third vice started. I’m embarrassed to admit that it did not pre-date alcohol, but it did come before caffeine. Which perhaps explains the current rankings.
After arriving back Stateside, instead of being completely over rice noodles and ready for a burger, all I wanted to was to track down an authentic Thai restaurant in my neighborhood of New York City. To my dismay, most of the options I tried made their dishes saccharinely sweet, falling way out of balance with the spicy-sour spectrum. And there was no bowl of sugar to be had at the table, not that I would have wanted to add any.
That was my first indication as a fifteen-year-old of several food truths. First, that our taste buds in this country are seriously warped towards sugar and salt. Second, that restaurants add much more of these two ingredients to their meals than we realize. And finally, that sadly, my favorite Asian cuisines are the worst offenders.
I’m in remission from the take-out aspect of my That food addiction, thanks to two recent rounds of The Vice Detox as part of the 4 Weeks to Wellness Course, which meant pad Thai was off the table. But I have taken to making many of my favorite dishes at home without sugar, including many homemade versions of Thai green chicken curry.
I started the new year by scanning my pantry not just for hidden sugar, but also for garlic, shallot and onion to satisfy my new low FODMAP SIBO protocol. While Thai curry pastes are a surprising pass for the sugar barometer, sadly they include all these alliums.
Luckily, when it comes to Thai green curry, it is shockingly easy. My quick stir-fry version below might be lacking a few threads of authenticity (mainly the kefir lime), but it was incredibly satisfying on all other fronts.
If you’re not avoiding FODMAP’s, you can throw in a little garlic and shallot along with the jalapeno. But you hardly notice in the Thai green curry chicken recipe below.
I’ll be certainly keeping it in my repertoire, even once a few of my vices, in moderation, are allowed back in next month.
With health and hedonism,
p.s. If you want to join me for Vice Detox round 3, early bird spots are now available for the next session of 4 Weeks to Wellness! The price will go up soon, so get on it.
Quick Thai Green Curry Chicken
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 1 pound chicken breasts about 2 medium, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- 1 jalapeno deseeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- One 14.5 ounce can unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 cup green beans cut into 1-inch pieces optional
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- In a large nonstick skillet, melt the coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook until golden brown on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- To the pan, add the ginger, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and turmeric and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the salt, coconut milk, lime juice, red peppers and green beans (if using). Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced slightly and the broth is a vibrant greenish-yellow, 5 minutes.
- Off the heat, stir in the chicken. Allow the dish to cool slightly. Then garnish with the cilantro and serve alongside brown rice, sliced cucumbers, and extra limes.
Since chicken breasts don’t have much fat and, therefore, dry out more easily, I prefer to cube my chicken on the larger side so that they don’t overcook. To make your curry look like what you’d get in a Thai restaurant, thinly slice the breasts and poach them in the coconut milk mixture until cooked through, rather than searing first. To cut down on prep time, simply toss the jalapeño and ginger in a small food processor and pulse.