With the release of her latest cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites, Jaden Hair once again shows us why she’s one of the top dogs in the world of food blogging with her recipe for Thai Lettuce Wraps.
Food blog author Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen is like Wonder Woman. She’s a food columnist, television chef (ABC’s Recipe Rehab, Daytime Show), cookbook author (The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites), and a wife and mom to two little boys, Andrew and Nathan.
If all that weren’t enough, she helps run “the homestead,”—a five-acre plot she and her family occupy. It’s fully equipped with a small fruit orchard, a pond with tilapia and blue gill, and a chicken coop with ten plucky residents. Their latest endeavor? A homemade aquaponic herb and vegetable garden (growing vegetables and plants over water).
It’s a juggling act but one that Hair seems to have managed with ease. She’s driven, but her priority is her family and she puts their health and happiness at the forefront.
I first discovered Jaden thanks to my husband. While trolloping among the www for Asian inspired recipes, he discovered Steamy Kitchen. In fact, he was a follower of her blog well before I even had a nugget of a thought of creating a food blog myself. Or a magazine that features food bloggers. You could say his discovery pretty much set us on this tract of foodie crushes.
In fact, my very first recipe on the blog? One of Jaden’s.
You could say I have a soft spot for this oh so very talented lady.
Jaden was born in Hong Kong, where she spent her early years. Exposed to a vibrant food culture there, she enjoyed shopping with her relatives at live seafood markets and sitting down to daily family dinners. She fondly recalls going to lunch with her Gong Gong (grandfather) and eating roast pork with rice or going for dim sum. Her family later relocated to Nebraska and Jaden learned to cook by watching her mother attempt American recipes acquired from their neighbors.
She started her blog in 2007 and her mom worked closely with her to translate her personal recipes from Chinese to English. After about six months of blogging, she attracted a solid fan base and started gaining attention from the press. Still going strong today, Steamy Kitchen—once a hobby—has evolved into a full-fledged job and family affair, with Jaden’s husband Scott working as the site’s web developer. It has been listed as one of the “eight very best food blogs,” by Forbes, and one of the “25 top food blogs,” by The Daily Meal.
And now this blogger turned cookbook author has another recipe resource to put on the shelf with recipes and food photography all thanks to Jaden.
You won’t find gloppy, sugar-laden dishes like General Tso’s Chicken in Jaden’s newest cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites. She describes it as being geared to inspire cooks to “think outside the takeout box.” The book is chock full of simple, fresh, healthy Asian recipes, such as Indonesian Gado Gado Lettuce Wraps and Miso Cod.
We caught up with Jaden and chatted about her new book, her sources of inspiration, and the one cooking tool she can’t live without! Thank you Jaden for being a foodie crush to so many of us.
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Fresh, Vibrant Cooking
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Oooh what a fun question. I’d love to be Daniel of Perennial Plate for just one week! Travel the world and create fun videos.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
I love following the adventures over at Serious Eats, get my fill of eye candy at Pinterest and discuss food blogging issues at Food Blogging Friends Facebook Group.
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
My silicone tipped tongs!!
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
Anything sweet and baked….currently, it’s Snickerdoodle Cookies.
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
My parents are visiting! Last night, Mom made Tofu with Preserved Radish, Vegetable Soup with Papaya and Lemongrass Pork. My house smells like a Chinese mama’s house!
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you:
I am an obsessed with fiber! I knit, crochet, spin yarn, weave and embroider.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
My mama’s recipes.
9. You’re known not only as great recipe developer and a much respected blogger, but also as a dedicated mother and wife. What are your tips to keeping the work/life balance in check for other food bloggers and general busy parents everywhere?
Having a “Family Motto” that represents the spirit of your family. Ours is Magical Moments (here’s a video!) As a busy parent, it’s easy to forget what’s most important and to lose sight of why you do the things you do. At least 3 times a day, I always ask myself, “How can I create a magical moment for someone right now?” which instantly snaps me back into a spirit of generosity, graciousness and thankfulness.
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
Embracing failure…it just means I’m several steps closer to the right answer!
And here’s how to win a copy of Jaden’s latest cookbook, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites.
Please read the complete rules of how to enter found in the form below.
And now, let’s dig into that recipe!
One of my favorite recipes from the cookbook is Jaden’s version of Thai Larb Chicken Lettuce Wraps. After two trips to Thailand, I am a devout Thai recipe eater and maker. I can’t get enough and Larb is one of my all time favorite recipes because of its fresh flavors and simple ingredients. I order it nearly every time we go out to eat, but now I’m devouring it at home too. Thanks to Jaden.
This recipe is incredibly easy and comes together in just 20 minutes or so. Perfect for summertime eats. The addition of thai basil or mint is key to its fresh flavors, and spiked with lime it is seriously one of the best things you’ll ever put into your mouth.
A few notes about the recipe:
I like to use ground chicken thighs. More fat, more flavor. There’s no added fat in the recipe so you can go ahead and give yourself a pass.
This recipe calls for cilantro and mint, but basil would be super tasty too. Standard basil is always good, but Thai basil is THE BEST! More licorice in flavor, it’s pungent bite is a classic thai complement to the salty flavor of the fish sauce. And don’t be getting all bashful about fish sauce. It’s simply salty. No fish bones or stuff like that and you don’t have to like fish to eat fish sauce either. If you just can’t wrap your head around the fish sauce, substitute it with 2 parts regular sodium soy sauce and 1 part lime juice, which would make a great vegetarian option if you subbed the chicken for extra firm tofu.
Ground peanuts or marcona almonds are a great sprinkle to the individual wraps if you’re into adding a little crunch. And we kinda like a bit of Hoisin sauce added to each of the wraps too. Like ketchup on a burger.
While Jaden’s original recipe calls for iceberg lettuce leaves, I prefer the smoother envelope that butter lettuce provides. I get a two pack at Costco and we make extra so there’s sure to be leftovers.
And speaking of leftovers, the chicken Larb is crazy good in scrambled eggs the next morning, aka my husband at the helm of the breakfast bandwagon again. Seriously. Try it in a tortilla. You can thank me later.
Thai Lettuce Wraps
- 1 1 /2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 pound ground chicken breast I prefer thighs
- 1 4 ounce can water chestnuts chopped
- 2 shallots diced
- 1/4 red onion diced
- 1 clove garlic very finely minced
- Minced fresh chiles Jalapeño or Fresno (amount is up to your level of spiciness)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 head butter lettuce leaves separated into cups
- 1 handful of cilantro and/or mint cut into chiffonade
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil and add the chicken. Use your spatula to break up the meat and spread out over the surface of the pan. cook until browned, about 3 minutes.
Push the ground chicken to one side of the pan and swirl in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. To the oil, add the shallots, red onion, garlic and fresh chiles and sauté the aromatics until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and soy sauce.
Serve with lettuce cups and herbs.
Thank you again Jaden, and best of luck on the giveaway.
Additional reporting thanks to Hayley of Tip Toes in the Kitchen.
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