On December 19th, Mary Prescott presents Tida—an interdisciplinary performance examining intergenerational cultural identity through the artist’s maternal lineage. Integrating music, dance, and word, Prescott investigates her mother’s undocumented Thai ancestry, her experience as a Southeast Asian immigrant raising biracial children in Midwest America, and the resulting impact of these histories on her, her daughters, and granddaughters.
“Tida is an exploration of my unknown personal history, which I have been researching through my maternal ancestry, and my Mom’s experience as a Thai immigrant who raised a biracial family in Minneapolis.
It comforts me, when I miss my Mom the most or when I just need relief from loneliness, to cook food that tastes like hers. Although by now she makes a lot of delicious American dishes, her superb Thai food is what has always stood out. It is home food, simple and delicious, and the flavors are uniquely hers. When I make it (although mine never tastes quite the same as hers), it still brings me back into her kitchen where I am together with family, cared for and content.
Since COVID prevents us from gathering in-person for the performance, I thought I would find a way for us to connect that is just as physical, sensory and special as sharing a space with one another. So, I invite you to make one of my Mom’s easiest and coziest recipes, Thai Rice Soup, to eat while you watch the show! It really is easy, and you might even already have many of the ingredients you’ll need in your kitchen. It is the taste of my home, my culture, and my comfort. And through this simple dish, we can share the experience of a performance and a meal together.”
Mary’s Mom’s Thai Rice Soup (aka Porridge)
Every year since I was little, I have awakened the day after Thanksgiving to a steaming hot bowl of what we in my family call porridge! Porridge is our version of a turkey and rice soup that my Mom makes with leftovers from the previous day’s Thanksgiving feast. What makes her version of this soup so special and unique are the Thai seasonings that she adds. This soup is a taste of my home, the flavors of my Mom’s cooking, of coziness and comfort!
Since turkey is something we usually only eat around winter holidays, I often make this soup with chicken instead. After roasting a whole bird, I separate and save any remaining meat from the bones, and use the carcass to make my own stock. I just simmer it in a crockpot with water, a couple carrots, stalks of celery, an onion, garlic and bay leaf overnight, then strain it in the morning. It’s all ready to go for porridge without any fuss! I like this method, because you use every part of the bird without wasting anything, and I feel that is a good way to honor the animal and the earth that gave us nourishment. If you don’t have homemade stock, you can use any store bought version that you have on hand.
This recipe is easily adaptable for vegetarians or vegans, with the exception of the fish sauce. I have seen vegan versions of fish sauce, but have never tried them, so can’t speak as to how well they mimic the real thing. You’ll have to try, and let me know!
Porridge is home food, meaning there are no real measurements for it. I’ll include approximations for how I make one serving, but please feel free to adjust anything to your own liking and quantity! There’s lots of room for improvisation!
Prep time: 5 minutes (use rice and chicken or turkey that have already been cooked!)
Cook time: 5-10 minutes
Total time: 10-15 minutes
Servings: 1 – 2 (easily adjusts to serve more… just multiply all quantities by number of servings)
1 c. cooked white rice (I use white jasmine rice… that is the standard in Thai households, but any white rice will do.)
2 c. chicken or turkey stock
⅓ c. chopped carrot
¾ c. cooked chicken or turkey, cubed
½ T fresh ginger, julienned
Pinch of salt (not too much, as the sauce we will add later is also quite salty!)
A few twists of freshly ground pepper to taste
A few pieces of Thai pickled cabbage (I never have this in my kitchen, so I always leave it out, but my Mom loves adding this ingredient!)
1 T roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 T sliced scallions
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 T vegetable oil (avoid using olive oil as it interferes with the flavor profile of this dish)
A drizzle of toasted sesame oil
Fish sauce (An essential ingredient to practically all savory Thai dishes. If you don’t already have it in your kitchen, you should be able to find it fairly easily at most grocery stores or online. Note: soy sauce is not a good substitute for fish sauce… it’s a totally different taste!)
Juice from one lime (MUST be fresh squeezed!)
2 or 3 fresh Thai chilis, sliced (if you can’t find Thai chilis, you can substitute a fresh jalapeno or any other fresh hot pepper)
- Make the soup: In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the stock, rice, carrot, chicken, ginger, salt and pepper over medium-high heat until it reaches a gentle boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes, or until the carrots are cooked.
- Toast the garlic: While the soup is simmering, add vegetable oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring frequently. Keep an eye on this! The garlic will toast very quickly, in just a minute or two, and can burn easily if left for even a few seconds too long. As soon as the garlic starts to turn uniformly light brown, remove the pan from heat. It will continue to toast for a few moments after that. Set aside.
- Make the sauce! In a jar or small bowl, mix equal parts Thai fish sauce and freshly squeezed lime juice. Add Thai chilis or jalapeno.
- Put it all together: Ladle your soup into a bowl. Garnish with cilantro, scallions, toasted garlic (and the oil you toasted it in), and toasted sesame oil. Spoon a few spoonfuls of the fish sauce/lime juice concoction over your soup to taste. Add a lime wedge to squeeze over the entire dish if you like! Serve!
The sauce and fresh garnishes are really what make this soup so special and so flavorful! Also, once you have these ingredients in your fridge, you’ve got all the makings for another one of my favorite comfort foods, the Thai omelette. Okay… twist my arm, here’s the quick recipe for that: beat two eggs. Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a saute pan. When the oil is very hot (but not smoking), add the eggs, and then add sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and spinach (if you like spinach, which I do!). Flip like an all-star to cook the other side. Done! Serve over a bed of warm jasmine rice. Spoon that lime/fish sauce “sauce” over the top. Devour hungrily like you need comfort and you need it now!