by MPD, March 2011

Hi Sunshine,

A short philosophical digression from your crazy Dad … your mileage may vary.

It’s all Issac Newton’s fault. His formulation of a “clockwork universe” as a infinitely large machine that operated according to natural laws in absolute time, space, and motion provided the intellectual fodder for other elites in the Enlightenment to apply those same principles to societal issues. For surely, if one can explain the movements of the planets and stars mathematically, one can discover, by “rational” thought, similar mechanisms in other areas of human behavior – be they political, economic, or philosophic.

Alas, two problems arose – neither of which are admitted to by the practitioners of these disciplines. First, is the problem of scale. Sir Newton’s mathematics applied to very, very large systems (i.e. the Universe). While the scale of human endeavors is, by comparison, the proverbial “grain of sand on the beach”. Anomalies occurring on the scale of the Universe are totally subsumed by the primary effect and thus, mathematically, disappear. On the human level, those anomalies may actually predominate and overwhelm any mathematical model. The second problem has to do with the nature of systems of explanation.

For a system of explanation (say a school of economics) to be valid, it must satisfy two requirements. It must “explain” the phenomenon it seeks to model and it must be predictive. If it cannot predict, it is merely history. If it cannot explain, it is glorified roulette. To model and predict, you must know: all the important variables; the relative importance of those variables; how those variables interact; and, the starting conditions of your model. If this sounds like chemistry – there is a reason.

For the Social Sciences in particular (and I’d class the “dismal science” of Economics as one), despite centuries of rational thought and study, what the important variables “are” is still being debated and how they interact is pure conjecture. You can see this in the manifold competing “Schools” of each discipline and in the absolute failure of any “School” to predict significant events such as our current recession. There is no “Chicago School of Chemistry” in competition with a “Harvard School of Chemistry”.

I’ll offer my own conjecture that Social Sciences will never successfully model their associated systems. Not just because of our friend Gödel, but because, even on their limited non-Universe scale, the number of system variables and their interactions approach the infinite. To which I will add my own guess that many of these variables, like the protein shell of a virus, change unpredictably over time.

When I sorted this out – during my sophomore year I think – I found it very liberating. It reinforced my belief in free will (some of the Enlightenment philosophers would be happy) and I began to see the Social Sciences as fascinating artistic expressions of Man’s attempt to understand himself in terms of the cosmos. So I studied them as one would Impressionist or Cubist painters – no one would argue that the works of either artistic school represent an objective reality, but each captures a fascinating dimension of that reality.

For what its worth …

LYD

Thursday Thoughts – 9/24/15

  1. Got my Nando’s sauces in the mail. Thank you Nando’s <3. The peri peri saga continues...
  2. Started a new, fun “tradition” this week! Happy Hump Days (with Hunt). We’ve decided that we’re going to set aside about an hour every Wednesday to do something special together, even if small (like a long walk)! Just to be able to put away and turn off everything else, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a nice way (after all this time, and now with us living together and seeing each other all the time) to continue treating our relationship as something really special to us. Don’t forget folks – if you love, love openly, often, and well! Plus Ann Arbor has really awesome happy hour specials hehe. This week we went and indulged on half off glasses of wine and sushi rolls. Will never, ever say no to sushi rolls. Or wine.
  3. These potato latke waffles by smitten kitchen were fun to make, and reminded me of the winter markets in Europe! And I love smitten kitchen.
  4. I’ve been watching Criminal Minds again… ever since Netflix started relentlessly reminding me that Season 10 came out for streaming… HOOKED ALL OVER AGAIN. Matthew Gray Gubler is my #mcm on this Thursday, whatever. His twitter is my absolute favorite. Also, this show has started making me cry during episodes sometimes… don’t remember if it used to?? I JUST LOVE THESE CHARACTERS AND THEIR STORIES.
  5. Kroger pleased me this week! The one we shop at had a nice display of moon cakes, just in time for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend! Of course, I already have a beautiful box of moon cakes ready to eat, gifted from mama. Just need to gather some friends to share them with.
  6. Daydreaming about my next trip(s) already. Looking at California for next on my radar. One of my best friends in the whole world just moved there, and I can’t wait to visit.
  7. Am I the only person who isn’t super digging the Ryan Adams 1989 cover album?
  8. Starting my DSLR education! Sort of. Via WhatsApp and Snapchat directions haha. We’ll see how this goes… I’ll really try to make a greater effort at learning how to use this thing.
  9. Excellent reminder that I can’t not smile in photos. If you try to direct me to do ANYTHING else or make ANY other kind of expression, this is what might happen… (photo credit and direction by Sijia, June 2013)

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Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

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Also inspired from my trip to Charleston, these yummy little biscuits are the perfect quick fix for a bite of Southern comfort, or for when you have a little extra time in the morning and feel like treating yourself. Much fancier of a breakfast than milk and cereal, but without too much extra hassle!

The best part is, you can take the basic biscuit ingredients and add pretty much whatever you want to them to create whatever biscuit suits your mood. This morning, I chose to go savory with cheddar and chive, PLUS topped ‘em off with bacon and avocado slices!

Now, where’s my sweet tea?

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Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

  • Servings: half dozen biscuits
  • Time: 30 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour (I used half all purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely cubed cheddar
  • 1 tbsp chives (I used freeze dried, but fresh would be even better!)
  • 3 tbsp cold (or frozen) butter, finely cubed or grated
  • 1/3 cup milk + some additional as needed
  • optional: bacon, avocado slices, cracked black pepper
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and prepare a lightly greased baking sheet.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cheddar cubes, and chives.
  3. Cut in cold butter using your fingertips (I grated in frozen butter). Work butter in with the biscuit mix quickly to avoid it warming up too much. Texture should be crumbly.
  4. Pour in milk and knead the dough several times with your hands. Add small amounts of milk as necessary to just bring the dough together.
  5. Grab a small handful of dough and stretch and fold in half 4-5 times. This helps create layers in the biscuits. Shape the sides to create round biscuits and place on baking sheet. Repeat until dough is gone.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom and a toothpick or fork comes out clean.
  7. Optional: While baking, cook bacon and slice avocado
  8. Serve warm, and enjoy! I sliced my biscuits in half and added bacon, a slice of avocado, and some black pepper. Yumm.

Pickled Shrimp Toast

Gotta boast in this post… this toast with the most (inspired by Edmund’s Oast)… is just awesome.

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I ate at Edmund’s Oast the first night that I was in Charleston, and the place was so me! The menu features EO’s own house-brewed beers, artisanal and creative small plates, and beautiful charcuterie boards. I sat at the “chef’s counter” in front of a large, open kitchen, and it was so much fun to watch all the action of these chefs at work. Plus the best part – sitting at the chef’s counter entailed getting little presents from the chefs!

And the beers were great. I’m always a fan of craft home-brews, and was perfectly pleased with my Edmund’s Oast Olde Ale, a malty, caramel-y brown aged in a cognac barrel for 6 months. Also enjoyed their Farrago No 2, a blend of four distinct beers imparting notes of blackberry, orange, cocoa and oak!

But if the beers were good, the food was UNREAL… I treated myself to their cornbread with rich honey butter (yumm), and their “Pickled Shrimp, EVOO rye bread, aioli”. It was ridiculously delicious. Yelpers agree with me. And you definitely will too, after giving this adapted recipe a try!

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Now this recipe has a lot of ingredients… but when I decided that I was going to be making it, I realized that I pretty much already had EVERYTHING I needed at home! (Just needed to buy fennel, lemons, and rye bread.) If you’re like me and live with a fairly standardly well-stocked kitchen, the process is a breeze, and the final product is finger-licking good. If you’re not, you might be able to get away with skipping some of the herbs/spices or using substitutes. It’s worth it. Mmm as I type, already wanting more of that rye, sturdy and crisp, topped with a makeshift garlic aioli… the shrimp, plump and seasoned… the veggies, adding a nice crunch, some beautiful color, and a bright freshness… Enjoy!

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Pickled Shrimp Toast

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 min prep, 24 hour inactive, 5 min assembly
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used a package of frozen shrimp)
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • lemon peels, grated from 2-3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  • large pinch allspice
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • rye bread slices
  • optional: fresh dill sprigs, or dried dill for garnish
Directions

  1. STEP ONE: POACHING In a large pot on high heat, combine the water, 1/4 salt, yellow onion, Old Bay seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium low and add the shrimp. Let shrimp cook about 3-4 minutes, then drain and remove the onion and bay leaves. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, slice each piece in two, lengthwise.
  2. STEP TWO: VEGGIE PREP In a large bowl, combine red onion, fennel, red bell pepper, celery and sprinkle the teaspoon of salt on top. Let sit in room temperature about 30 minutes, tossing the veggies several times. Rinse the veggies and return to the bowl.
  3. STEP THREE: PICKLING PREP To the veggie bowl, add the shrimp, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, lemon peels, EVOO, parsley leaves, allspice, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Tightly pack mixture into airtight jars (I used four mason jars) and top off each container with some of pickling juice. Leave in fridge for around 24 hours.
  4. STEP FOUR: ASSEMBLY AND SERVE Take shrimp mix out and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before you want to serve. Remove the lemon peels. Using olive oil, lightly heat rye bread slices in a pan until hot and crisp on both sides. I also threw in my minced garlic to cook them a bit. Mix garlic and mayonnaise (tada! quick and easy makeshift aioli). Top each slice of bread with mayo mixture and a generous portion of your pickled shrimp and veggies. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs, if you have them. Enjoy!

Thursday Thoughts – 9/17/15

  1. Tonight for dinner, we cooked and ate our second attempt at Peri Peri Chicken. THIS time properly with bird’s eye chili, a little bit less garlic, and a little bit more lemon. Second time was better than the first! Still, cannot wait to have my third time cooking peri peri chicken be with actual Nando’s sauces!!

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    Shoutout to Nando’s.
    My favorite chicken ever.
    Nando’s is the best.

  2. Tomorrow, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art (UMMA) is hosting an after hours event featuring the art of Tyree Guyton! He’s the creator behind Detroit’s Heidelberg Project, literal street art at its best with an inspirational message that never fails to spark discussion. The Heidelberg Project is near and dear to my heart because of a couple of visits in high school, and I’m excited to check out the UMMA event and show my support for an awesome artist and leader!
  3. Speaking of Detroit, I just watched this short documentary called “The Detroit Graduates” yesterday, which peers into the lives of five kids in their senior year of high school, and again a year and a half later. It was real. Just real people and their stories. It’s good.
  4. I caught up with someone I knew in high school the other day, and it was so nice. It’s got me really thinking about trying to organize some kind of reunion this holiday season. Everyone is scattered everywhere, and we’ve all grown so much and so differently, but people still come home to see their families during the holidays right?
  5. Relatedly and unrelatedly, I miss the days when we’d all just pick up our phones and call people randomly, maybe just because we didn’t have anything better to do, and talk, maybe for hours. Now I feel like if I were to do that, the person on the other line would definitely think that I’m super weird. Or probably just not pick up and text me back later. Sigh.
  6. Fall Ball is this weekend (the med school’s fall dance). I’m excited! Hunt missed out on going last year because he was in Chicago visiting me that weekend, so we decided we’re going to check it out and have a blast at this year’s. What to wear, what to wear…
  7. I’m thinking about getting back into tap dancing! Again! Kelly wants me to do a hip hop class with her (lol), but the dance studio that class is at ALSO offers tap. I am not good at hip hop and that’s going to be a disaster/hilarious when we go next week, but tap, I love tap!
  8. I’m doing miserably on my September reading list. The two books that I wanted to read are apparently REALLY popular(??) because there are like a million requests on the copies at the library and none available. Guess I’m skipping over them for now. But today I picked up “The Invention of Wings”, and I’m excited to read it after my trip to Charleston. “Sue Monk Kidd’s sweeping new novel is set [in early-nineteenth-century Charleston], and is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. The Invention of Wings follows their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years as both strive for lives of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement, and the uneasy ways of love. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at one of the most devastating wounds in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.”
  9. Apple things to make: apple pie, apple sauce, apple onion chutney (pork chops), apple gruyere caramelized onion bites, apple grilled cheese, apple bacon burgers, apple popovers, apple cinnamon pancakes, apple butter, apple slaw… READY FOR MY ANNUAL APPLE ORCHARD TRIP! Conveniently, the local Northwestern alum club is hosting at my FAVORITE orchard (Erwin’s). Will be thanking NU for the free cider and notes.
  10. Donald Trump saying “China” drinking game? “People from China, they love me!”

Charleston, SC – grits, gators, gardens galore

DO: walk through the city market full of sweetgrass baskets and southern bites, relax at a beach (I went to Sullivan’s, which was really, really nice, but Folly’s is the place to go for more “fun”), stroll along east bay and the waterfront – gorgeous water on one side, gorgeous colorful houses and mansions on the other, white point gardens and the battery, Magnolia plantation and gardens
SEE: french quarter cobblestone streets and architecture, all these locations where they filmed The Notebook! – American Theater, King St, the intersection where they laid down in the street, Boone Hall, Calhoun Mansion… gators swimming and sunning!
EAT: Edmund’s Oast (awesome for craft beer lovers, and if you sit at the “chef’s counter”, they give you little presents!); Husk (homey feel, excellent southern comfort); The Ordinary (best. fresh. seafood. excellent rum cocktails); Magnolia’s (slightly more upscale, inventive); Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit for delicious and fresh biscuits on the go!
MISC: if you’re not from around the south… beware of mutant buggers! giant venomous spiders in the plantation gardens (as well as several species of venomous land and water snakes, although I didn’t see any of these), ridiculous mosquitos (got so many bites that I ended up taking antihistamines). know that much of the “tourist” experience is steeped in Charleston’s slave history.

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Thursday Thoughts – 9/10/15

  1. I know it’s been a good one and a half weeks since the MTV VMA’s, but Tori Kelly’s “Should’ve Been Us” performance is STILL giving me chills. Have followed her on Youtube since 2010; so happy she’s such a star now.
  2. When J.K. Rowling says it’s so, you KNOW it’s so… it’s officially the dawn of the Age of Hufflepuffs. I’ve never been a prouder Hufflepuff!!
  3. There’s a jazzy street performer on the Main St block by the lofty, and the other day he was sax-ing up a jazzy version of Blank Space and it was COOL. I love street performers, and it made me think of all my favorites in Chicago (tap dancer at Monroe red line, super soulful singer at Grand red line, British magician on the Michigan Ave bridge).
  4. I don’t understand DSLR cameras, can someone please teach me how to use them. Kelly and I went to Detroit on Labor Day and I thought, oh why not take this nice camera (it’s my mom’s), but then half the pictures turned out blurry/dark. Help.
  5. I am really bad at yoga. I would really, really love to love it (it’s so good for you! yoga bodies are so bomb!) but I’m so bad at it.
  6. I’m going to Charleston this weekend!! Very excited. I don’t know ANYTHING about it, but one night, about a year and a half ago, I had a dream that I moved to Charleston and was so very happy there… and ever since, I’ve really, really wanted to visit. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s one of the top wedding destinations in the states because it’s so charming and beautiful. I’ve also learned that it’s a major foodie hot spot. And I love food. And I’ve made reservations at Husk and Magnolia’s. Can’t wait to get my southern comfort food fix and share it with you guys!
  7. Speaking of trips, my mom and I are thinking about eschewing all Thanksgiving tradition this year, and road tripping it down to Nashville for the extra long holiday weekend! She’s really excited about it, and texted me a (Chinese) article about all the things we can do in Tennessee together. Like visit Elvis Presley’s home (lol).
  8. I’ve been re-reading the 101 Zen Stories from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and am reminded of why I loved it so much the first time around. I sometimes summarize my overall thought perspective by saying “I strive to carry my treasure house with me, and find all the strawberries along the way.” And here are the two stories from where this comes from –

    Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Base asked: “What do you seek?”
    “Enlightenment,” replied Daiju.
    “You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?” Base asked.
    Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”
    Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.”
    Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”

    […]

    Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
    A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
    Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

  9. This video of men trying out what labor pains feel like… is amazing and hilarious and everyone should watch it.

Made in Detroit

DO: walk the Riverwalk, shop at Eastern Market, Woodward Dream Cruise (annual)
SEE: ART (Detroit Institute of Art, Heidelberg Street, street art), “The Spirit of Detroit” statue, fist sculpture
EAT: Slow’s Bar BQ, Sala Thai, Fishbones, Mexicantown Mexican food

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PERI PERI CHICKEN (I miss Nando’s)

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to Nando’s, my fave
a haiku dedication
please send me some sauce?

The first time I ever tried Nando’s was while on vacation in London and I immediately fell in love. The spicy Portuguese style chicken is so tender and flavorful in a huge, make-your-eyes-water-and-your-tongue-tingle kind of way. In a GOOD way. I was hooked. I made sure to go back to Nando’s for a second chicken platter before my flight out. That was two years ago, and I’ve missed this chicken terribly, BUT THEN(!) – Nando’s decided to open restaurant locations in Chicago this summer! Best news ever. I subscribed to the emails, eagerly followed the golden cockerel hunt (for free Nando’s for a year!), and made sure to visit several times before…

I moved to Ann Arbor, MI last month. There is no Nando’s location anywhere in this state. And then, one day I saw a tweet by Nando’s and it totally derailed me. Definitely spent a good half an hour reading about and salivating (longingly) over each of their sauces on their website. Decided right then that I NEEDED my Peri Peri chicken fix immediately, AND SO here we have it… my attempt at making homemade Peri Peri chicken!

…without Nando’s sauces. Or even bird’s eye chili, aka the central ingredient to the magical Peri Peri sauce. Or a grill. But hey! It actually turned out to be a really, really delicious experiment! And SO easy! Doesn’t really taste quite like Nando’s, but the chicken came out tender and so flavorful, and my insatiable craving is satisfied… for now.

But for real, this recipe is actually so easy. The sauce takes less than 10 minutes to make, then the chicken is marinated in it (I’d recommend marinating up to 24 hours – that’s how long Nando’s marinates their chicken!). Then you just pop the chicken in the oven, or throw it on the grill! So. Easy.

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Peri Peri Chicken

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 10 min prep, 25 min cook
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • chicken (I used 8 thighs, other parts should work too!)
  • 8-10 bird’s eye chili (adjusted for spice level, I used serrano peppers as a sub)
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • large pinch salt
  • large pinch pepper
Directions

  1. Prep the peri peri sauce. Put all the ingredients except for the chicken in a blender and blend until smooth. Can adjust the amount of olive oil for a nice consistency.
  2. Use about a third of the sauce to marinate the chicken for a least a couple of hours. I slitted the chicken a little to really allow the marinade to get in there and add its flavor. I marinated for a full 24 hours.
  3. If you have a grill, use it! Otherwise, when you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken on a foiled and (lightly) oiled cooking pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the chicken out to baste with more sauce (about half of the remaining amount) and flip over. Let bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is browned and done on the inside.
  5. Drizzle the last bit of sauce on top (or serve on the side if it’s too spicy!) and enjoy!

Holy Kaprao!

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In August, I visited Thailand for a total of five days, and during that time, I ate kaprao a good three or four times. Fragrant, spicy spoonfuls of juicy ground pork, gooey fried egg and fresh basil. It’s addictive. It inevitably led to kaprao withdrawals back in Ann Arbor. Solution? Homemade kaprao in the lofty!

This dish is so fast and SO easy and SO delicious. Definitely going to be my go-to when I’m in need of a homemade Thai food fix.

Kaprao

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 15 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork (chicken would be good too!)
  • large handful basil leaves
  • 5-10 chilli peppers, finely chopped (we used local farmer’s market cayenne peppers)
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • large pinch sugar
  • 1 fried egg, cooked rice

*Note – soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar is the base sauce for many, many Thai dishes! Once armed with these ingredients, you’re prepped to be able to keep making yummy Thai food, particularly noodles.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a pan on high heat, then add garlic and chilli peppers (reserve a small amount for garnish) and stir for about 30 seconds.
    Wear an apron! Things get spattery :).
  2. Add ground pork and use a spatula to really smash the pork down into the oil, garlic, chillies. Break it up into small pieces.
  3. When the meat is almost done cooking, add the sauces and sugar (adjust amount to taste).
  4. Add the basil leaves, turn the heat off, and stir, letting the residual heat wilt the basil.
  5. Serve with warm rice (helps absorb some of the extra sauce and oil nom nom). Top with a fried egg and a sprinkle of fresh chillies. Squeeze of lime juice optional.

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