Eat, drink and be merry Thai-style this Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching the party season is now in full swing. If you’re hosting a festive gathering and you fancy doing something a little different from the traditional turkey and tinsel, why not create a Thai themed Christmas party?

Take a look at these simple yet exciting canapés and cocktail ideas inspired by Thai cuisine. Impress your guests with some stylish snacks and raise a toast to the New Year with these exotic drinks.

Canapés

For that authentic Thai taste, try this recipe for spicy, fried pork balls – the perfect finger food!

• Moo Muan Sukhothai

MAKES 18–24
ó tbsp of white peppercorns
2 coriander roots
2 garlic cloves, peeled
A pinch of salt
250 g (8 oz) minced pork
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nampla)
3–4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp rice flour
Sriracha sauce, to serve

Use a pestle and mortar to pound the peppercorns, coriander roots, garlic and salt to a paste. Place the pork in a bowl and mix in the paste with your hands – really squish it about to get it evenly distributed. Add the fish sauce and mix well again. Heat a little oil in a small pan and fry a tiny piece of the mixture until cooked through. Taste to check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Lightly wet your hands, roll the pork into 18–24 balls and sprinkle them with the rice flour. Heat a wok or frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the oil, swirling it about a bit. When it is hot again, add the pork balls in small batches and fry for about 2 minutes, or until deep brown on the outside and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper for a few moments, then transfer to a plate and put a small bowl of Sriracha sauce on the side. Devour!

• Mini Laarp Lettuce Rolls

Spicy, tart and fragrant; these canapés are the ideal appetite-sharpener to have with drinks before dinner.

MAKES 24–30
500 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless lean duck, finely chopped or minced
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nampla)
3 tbsp lime juice
ó-1 tsp roasted chili powder
4 Thai shallots or 2 regular shallots, thinly sliced
1–2 tbsp ground toasted rice
A large handful of mint leaves, torn
1 lemon grass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, core thinly sliced (optional)
24–30 Baby Gem lettuce leaves
Lime wedges, to serve

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil over a medium heat and add the duck. Bring back to the boil, and cook the duck to your liking: it will take just a minute or so for it to be pink, a bit longer if you want it done through. Bear in mind that people sometimes eat this raw! Transfer the duck to a large bowl and add the fish sauce, lime juice, chili powder, shallots, ground rice, mint and lemon grass, if using. Mix well. Line a plate with Baby Gem lettuce leaves, spoon the laarp inside them and serve with lime wedges while still warm, if possible.

Note: You can buy ground toasted rice in Asian supermarkets or make your own. To make your own, take a large handful of uncooked sticky rice (or normal Thai jasmine rice, if necessary) and place it in a dry wok or frying pan over a low heat. Toast the rice, moving it all the time, until it smells nutty and has turned a dark golden brown. Grind it in a spice or coffee grinder, or in a pestle and mortar. Store in a jar and use as required.

Laarp Lettuce Cups

Cocktails

• Lime and Lemon Grass Spritzer

This fizzy, limey cocktail is the epitome of the word ‘refreshing’. Add some mint or basil sprigs to garnish, if you like.

SERVES 2
1 lemon grass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, core sliced, plus an extra stalk to garnish
60 ml (2 fl oz) fresh lime juice
30 ml (1 fl oz) sugar syrup
Chilled soda water, to top up

Divide the sliced lemon grass between 2 Collins glasses and muddle to release the oils. Fill the glasses with ice and pour in the lime juice and the sugar syrup. Top up with soda water, stir briefly and garnish with the remaining lemon grass stalk.

• Khun Sompong’s Thaijito

Khun Sompong Boonsri was the head barman at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s Bamboo Bar, for over 30 years. It is one of Bangkok’s classic watering holes, lubricating the great and the good (and the louche) since 1953. I’ve propped up its bar on rather too many occasions, alternating my order between my beloved Martini and this, Khun Sompong’s elegant variation on a Mojito. (The Bamboo Bar is very proud of the fact that not one, but two former James Bonds really rather like it. I’ll tell you which if you ask me nicely.)

2 tsp brown sugar
1 lemon grass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, core thickly sliced
ó lime, cut into quarters
2 x 1 cm (3/4 x 1/2 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely shredded
30 ml (1 fl oz) Mekhong Thai whisky
Chilled soda water, to top up
A piece of sugar cane, peeled, or a lemon grass stalk, to garnish

Put the sugar, lemon grass, lime and a good pinch of ginger strips into a shaker and muddle them together well. Pour in the Mekhong and stir. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler or Old Fashioned glass and top up with soda water. Garnish with a lemon grass stalk or, like Khun Sompong, with a stick of freshly peeled sugar cane, and serve with a straw if you like.

Note: Mekhong is often called a whisky. It’s not. It’s more akin to a rum made with cane sugar and rice. Officially, it’s labelled as a Thai spirit. If you can’t find it, take your pick of whisky or rum!

Thaijito

You can find even more party food inspiration in my latest book, Make Mine a Martini: 130 Cocktails & Canapés for Fabulous Parties.

Guest blogger: Kay Plunkett-Hogge