There are two words that best describe Thai cooking: fresh and fragrant. One of the most popular Asian cuisines today, Thai food is known by its unique combinations of seasonings (usually hot and spicy) that complement the different flavors of the other ingredients.
This healthy recipe by Pete Evans adds a Thai-inspired twist to your usual chicken cakes, a simple dish loved by adults and children alike. Evans recommends serving this on a bed of fresh greens or with a side of fermented vegetables, to give you a balanced and flavorful meal.
Mouthwatering Thai Chicken Cakes Recipe
Preparation Time: 8 minutes Cooking Time: 12 minutes
- Approximately 1 pound chicken thigh fillets, cut into pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large handful of baby spinach leaves
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 Tbsp. coconut cream
- 1 tsp. finely grated ginger
- 4 iceberg lettuce leaves, trimmed into cups
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/2 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
- 1 small handful of cilantro
- 1 lime, halved
Serving Size: 4
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly grease an eight-cup muffin tin with coconut oil.
- Place the chicken, garlic, spinach, fish sauce, turmeric, coconut cream and ginger in a food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped.
- Spoon the chicken mixture evenly into the prepared tin, then bake for 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool slightly for 5 minutes before turning out. The chicken cakes will release a little bit of liquid when cooked, so drain off the liquid before you remove them from the tin.
- Arrange the lettuce cups on a large platter or serving plates. Place two chicken cakes inside each cup, along with some avocado, cucumber and cilantro, and squeeze over some lime juice.
Bring the Flavors of Asia Into Your Home With This Thai-Inspired Recipe
According to Sawadee.com, Thais avoid using animal proteins in big chunks because of their Buddhist background. Instead, meats are often shredded or cut into small pieces, hence, the need for chicken fillets for this recipe.1
Beware of the Pitfalls of CAFO Chicken
Make sure that you purchase high-quality, organic pastured chicken from a local farm, and not those raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This will allow you to maximize the health benefits you can get from this meal.
Not only are CAFO foods different from a nutritional standpoint, but they can also increase your risk of foodborne illnesses. Case in point: Between 2012 and 2013, salmonella outbreaks increased 39 percent, and were held responsible for 13,360 illnesses and 1,062 hospitalizations.
This bacteria strain also led to 14 food recalls and 16 deaths — making it the No. 1 culprit for outbreak-related deaths and illnesses.2 At least $3.7 billion is spent annually on medical costs for salmonella poisoning.3
While CAFOs promote the spread of these foodborne illnesses, livestock raised through traditional farming methods do not pose this risk. Animals in small, regenerative and diversified farms are raised in a sustainable way, which help keep diseases to a minimum, without the need to use antibiotics.
Remember that aside from choosing where to buy your chicken, how you prepare it matters as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit,4 which will help kill any bacteria in the meat. In addition, you should also use separate cutting board for meat and vegetables to avoid cross contamination.
What Else Makes This Recipe Stand Out?
The other ingredients that make up this healthy recipe are also topnotch not only for the flavors they bring, but for their impressive health benefits as well.
- Coconut cream is simply a richer and thicker version of coconut milk. You can usually buy it canned, but it can be made fresh at home by simmering four parts shredded coconut in one-part water.5
Both coconut cream and coconut milk are lactose-free, making them ideal for people with lactose intolerance.
Just like other coconut products, coconut milk and cream contain high amounts of healthy fats (at least 17 to 25 percent) in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are converted in your body to energy instead of being stored as fat. Lauric acid is also abundant in these coconut products, along with these nutrients:
- B vitamins (B1, B3, B5 and B6)
- Minerals such as magnesium, iron, selenium, calcium and phosphorus
- Vitamins C and E
- Spinach is abundant in flavonoids, which help prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, protecting you against free radical damage. This leafy green vegetable promotes good heart health, as it contains folate and magnesium, nutrients that are both essential for optimal cardiovascular function. Spinach can also help maintain optimal brain function.
Other standout nutrients in this vegetable include protein, zinc, fiber, niacin, vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, potassium, copper and manganese.
- Avocado not only complements this dish with its mildly sweet flavor, but loads it up with additional health benefits as well. Eating an avocado a day can actually have protective effects on your heart health and may help optimize your cholesterol levels.
One study demonstrates this: Among obese and overweight Americans, researchers found that those who consumed one avocado per day along with their moderate-fat diet had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels compared to those eating an average American diet.6
Herbs and Spices Play a Role in This Dish’s Health Benefits, Too
As mentioned above, Thai cuisine would not be what it is without the medley of herbs and spices that add fragrance, color and flavor to its dishes. Just take a look at the wholesome benefits you can get from these ingredients:
- Cilantro, an aromatic herb also known as Chinese parsley, has been long valued for its potential to improve digestive health. It’s also a treasure trove of flavonoids, phenolic acids and polyphenols, most notably quercetin and kaempferol, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ginger and turmeric both belong to the Zingiberaceae botanical family, and have been valued for their culinary and medicinal applications ever since the early times.
Turmeric is known for its active ingredient curcumin, which is believed to have over 150 therapeutic benefits, including moderating the effects of autoimmune diseases, providing cardiovascular protection and boosting your immunity. Studies7 even found that turmeric may help reverse cognitive decline and dementia.
Meanwhile, ginger is well-known not only for its warm and “zingy” essence, but also for its gingerol content, the oil that gives it its fragrance. This root crop is known for its potential to work against inflammation and diabetes, improve memory and alleviate nausea.
- Fish sauce, despite its pungent odor, has been long valued in Asian cuisine because of the depth of flavor it adds to dishes. It’s produced by fermenting whole fish using salt and water for 12 to 18 months. You should look beyond its exotic aroma, however, as high-quality fish sauce can offer potential benefits.
Researchers found that the fermentation process created protein hydrolysates, which can actually improve the ability of skeletal muscles to absorb free amino acids that are essential for building muscles, repairing tissues and stimulating the production of insulin in the body, reducing insulin resistance. Enzymes that can scavenge free radicals and support your immune system are also produced during the fermentation process.
Remember, however, to purchase only high-quality fish sauce produced through natural fermentation and which has had no additional chemicals added to it. Price is a good indicator, as cheaper fish sauces are typically adulterated with additives that can wreak havoc on your health.
Sources and References