Tom Kha Recipe

Like the other recipes, this is a merging of the best recipes I could find, along with a lot of trial and error. With the right ingredients it’s one of my favorites! Serve over rice.

  • Box of good quality chicken stock – about 4 cups
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup/can
  • A few stalks of lemongrass
  • Galangal – fresh – 20 1/4″ slices – be careful cutting!
  • Garlic -two or three cloves – I crush with a garlic press but you can chop it up fine
  • Nam Prik Pao, Chili Paste, or Curry paste -a tablespoon or two (optional and not traditional)
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves – about 10
  • Chopped green onion – white part small, green part longer chunks
  • Thai chilis – For about 3 stars I cut a few in half lengthwise and seed, and then about 3 chopped with seeds.
  • Fish sauce – about 1 tbsp (The saltiness can vary a lot across brands, so start with less always.)
  • A lime, maybe two.
  • Palm Sugar – 1 tbsp. Also fine to use regular sugar
  • Cilantro leaves – I chop a standard bunch and use most of it
  • Several cups of mushrooms – whatever you like, or a mix. Never Shitaki
  • Meat:
    • Tom Kah Gai: One to two large chicken breasts chopped into thin strips
    • Tom Kha Goong: Prawns
    • Tom Kha Talay: Mixed seafood
    • Or just make it veggie

To prepare the lemongrass, use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches) and discard the woody grass part of it including the outside of the 6-inch part. Cut it in half lengthwise. With the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Also slice the galangal. Sometimes I use a food processor for that – it’s hard and easy to cut yourself.

Put the chicken stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the galangal, lemongrass, half the sugar, about 1 tsp of the fish sauce, and lime leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes or a longer as you prepare the rest. I often leave it for about half an hour. For a richer taste, you can add some extra chicken stock and then boil longer to let it reduce down. I also chop up the cillantro here and add the finely chopped stem parts to this.

In a frying pan, heat a little oil and fry the chilies, garlic, curry paste (optional), and scallion, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Don’t burn it, just heat it. The curry paste is not traditional but it makes it a little richer in taste and color.  Add the fat (solid) part of the coconut milk spoon by spoon and Simmer until hot.

At this point I often remove at least most of the galangal and lemongrass from the liquid. It’s traditional to leave it in but it gets annoying picking out the inedible bits. I also squeeze the juice from the galangal with a lime press. Add the paste to the soup.

Once I added the coconut milk to the soup itself and it never combined – the fats floated on top like separated cream. I think it needs to get hot and mixed with other solids to form an emulsion before being mixed with the rest of the liquid.

Once that’s all hot, slowly add the rest of the coconut milk making sure it stays hot (and doesn’t separate). Add the meat/seafood and mushrooms and boil until just cooked. If I’m adding clams I do that here too. When you see chicken turning all white on the outside, it’s 90% done. If in doubt, slice your thickest piece. Make sure it boils before you taste it. Add more of the cillantro leaves. Then turn the heat way down and squeeze in the juice of a lime or two.

Let it simmer for at least 5 minutes, and then it’s taste test time. You still have leftover sugar, fish sauce, and limes. Those are the three you have to adjust carefully. It probably needs a little saltiness/richness so add a bit more fish sauce and retest. If you make it with seafood it will need less. Be careful with the fish sauce but also don’t be afraid – it’s key.Test for saltiness and sourness. You should get the earthy flavor of galangal, Some saltiness/fishness, sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime flavor, and some chilli in the background. I generally add a second or third lime here too. Keep sugar mainly for if you add too much lime or fish sauce – it’ll counteract/disguise either to some extent. Otherwise you don’t need it. You can try squeezing more juice from the galangal if it’s needed. And also add more chilis to make it spicier. Or chili paste if you want.

Serve and top with cilantro leaves. I serve with lots of rice so it’s almost a sauce.

Phad Thai Recipe

Seems so simple yet so subtle. The hardest thing I’ve made – most recipes are absurdly bad – ketchup, soy sauce… This one takes the insight and style from many different recipes. Mine’s gone from inedible to damn good. I offered to take Scout out tonight and she wanted this instead. It’s still a work in progress.

This makes two servings, multiply for more

Unlike most recipes, really don’t skip anything, it just doesn’t work.

  • about 8 oz tofu, chicken, whatever
  • 7 ounces 3mm rice noodles – a little less than half a pack
  • 2 TB oil
  • small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • about two garlic-clove size pieces of ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried shrimp – minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (don’t be scared, just do it)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar – mix with a little water
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce – adjust for spiciness
  • some black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
  • about 1/2 cup stock – chicken or veggie
  • about 1/2 cup rough chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime


  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 TB crushed peanuts
  • Some sliced scallion
  • Sliced Thai chilies

Soak the noodles in hot water for about 20 minutes
Brown the chicken or tofu
Cut 1/2 of the lime into nice slices

Heat oil and add the onion until it’s clear.
Add the garlic and cook a bit.
Add the minced ginger.
Split that in half in the pan and scramble half with the eggs, leave half as is.
Mix the chicken or tofu with the non-egg half.
Don’t have to worry about separating once the eggs are scrambled in.
Add the paprika, dried shrimp, Sriracha, tamarind, pepper, sugar. Stir it up
Turn the heat all the way up.
Add the noodles, a little stock, and stir.
It will get dry and the noodles will be too firm.
Let it brown just a bit, then add some stock and stir it around.
Repeat until it’s done – around 3 min. Noodles will be just right.
This part is an art – noodles a little browned and crispy in spots, yet moist.
Take it off the heat.
I mash the two chunks of ginger in a garlic press over it all.
Juice the lime half with a fork and scrape the pulp into it.
Add half the cilantro and stir it all up.

Serve each plate with the garnish ingredients:

A quarter cup or so of peanut butter is a crowd-pleaser when mixed in with the noodles – makes it richer and just a little peanuty. Not the real recipe but people like it, especially the kids.

Chicken Adobo Recipe

An amazing dish like nothing else.  The vinegar creates some strange reaction with the chicken that works magic. This is Philippines style with coconut milk, but you can leave that out to make it a healthier.

  • 1 can (cup) coconut milk
  • ¼ cup soy sauce. I tried sweet soy once, don’t do that.
  • 1½ cup rice or white vinegar (not cheap distilled)
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed a bit. Easier if you smash first, then peel.
  • Some whole, some sliced Thai (or other) chilis – 10 thai chilies with seeds is around 2-3 stars. It would also be fine with other chilies like Jalapenos.
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 pounds chicken thighs

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large, nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic freezer bag. Add the chicken and make sure it’s all covered up. Refrigerate overnight or at least for a few hours.

2. Place everything into a large lidded pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, around 30 minutes. Skim the excess fat and floating solids as it accumulates on top.

3.Remove the chicken pieces, leaving the sauce in the pot. Raise heat under the pot to medium and reduce the sauce until it achieves almost the consistency of cream, about 10 minutes, maybe more. I browned it up once by reducing too fast – it wasn’t bad but also wasn’t right.

4. At the same time, place the chicken on a BBQ or under the broiler 5 to 7 minutes, until the skin begins to caramelize. For extra credit, cook first on the non-skin side, then put on a little more sauce and crispy-up the skin side.

Serve with rice, and the sauce poured over the chicken. Use about the same amount as you would gravy and then people can add more if they want.

Serves 4-8 depending on appetites.

Note – don’t substitute chicken breasts – they don’t soak up the sauce. I get them with bone and skin which gives the most flavor, but you can edit that.

You can use pork or other meat, but I haven’t tried that. The chicken is too good!

Mexican style

same procedure

(haven’t made this yet)

  • 8 guajillo chiles, dried
  • 8 ancho chiles,dried
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • jalapenos, seeded and diced – depending on hotness

Exhausted thoughts from Startup Weekend for Education

18 hour days, 4 hours of sleep. No coherent posts but some thoughts while it’s close.

I have a strong tendency to be drawn towards complicated problems. If it’s simple I don’t feel like it has merit. So I think of things that are unique and make them more unique by adding details that add complication. That can be useful. But what gets people’s attention is really, no really, staggeringly simple ideas that resonate. No matter that 47 companies out there are doing almost the same thing. If you care, and you want to focus on one little area, you can gather a lot of support.

Success is all about the team. Not just having strong players, but people that share the vision and largely share how the vision will be pursued. I don’t think it’s possible to align a non-aligned team. You can be authoritative and deprecate those that don’t align, but that squashes creativity and turns excited people into workers. Or you can be collaborate and sacrifice alignment for inclusion, but that produces mediocrity. What works is to actually create a team that is aligned on both vision on execution. Personality and relationships are first, everything else is second.

It’s amazing what can be thrown together in a weekend. I’m still undecided as to whether that’s a good or bad thing. The diversity of choices on the web is both inspiring and overwhelming. Having a leading source for something can be as useful as it is constricting.

The weekend was surprisingly random. The good things were fortunate accidents, and the challenges were equally unexpected.

A favorite moment was seeing a young biology student/researcher present his team, his idea, and the web site the team did to implement it. He called it the best weekend of his life! In the first hour of the weekend I had met him – just what you’d expect from an introverted, Korean biology student. He said he had an idea but wasn’t going to pitch it as it was too small. He told it to me, and I encouraged him throughout the evening to do it. I’m sure he would have anyway, but it was cool to see it happen!

Another favorite moment was having our “viral” marketing business plan completely taken apart by one of the mentors. I had “book learned” everything he said, but hadn’t taken it to heart. Reading it is one thing. Having it happen to something you’ve been working on for the last 24 hours is another. Having skin in the game is *the* differentiating aspect of Startup Weekend.

But the best part was working with the team and seeing it come together. We didn’t get everything done, but it was a lot of fun trying. It was an inspiring group of people!

When you have piles of money, everything you say is brilliant. You may be brilliant, but money hides many flaws.

Venture Capitalists are like gamblers after Vegas trips. You hear a whole lot when they have a big win. Otherwise it’s mostly about the buffet.

A 19 year old can be as influential as an experienced person. It’s exciting and I have no problem with that. It’s great that anyone can contribute to the very limit of their ability, whatever their age. Different perspectives are an asset. If I can make as much as a young Facebook star I’ll be fine 🙂

Startup food sucks.

Rails is a cult

Python is a practical alternative between PHP and a real programming language. I’m going to learn it, plus Django.

I sleep now.