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Enjoy a taste of Thai at home

The opportunity to experiment is one of the things that draws many people to cooking. Adding a personal touch to a favorite dish often delights home cooks. But altering recipes to suit personal taste is not the only fun part about experimenting in the kitchen. Trying your hand at international cuisine without having to pay restaurant prices is another great way to bring new life to your dinner table. The following recipe for "Beef With Ginger and Black Mushrooms" from Katie Chin's "Everyday Thai Cooking" (Tuttle) is ideal for those men and women who want to bring a taste of homemade Thai food into their homes.

Beef With Ginger and Black Mushrooms

Serves 2

8    medium, dried black mushrooms

10    ounces beef tenderloin or top sirloin, sliced diagonally across the grain in 1/4-inch slices

1/2    teaspoon all-purpose cornstarch

1/4    teaspoon white pepper

1    teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, divided

2    teaspoons soy sauce, divided

1    garlic clove, minced

1    tablespoon minced galangal or fresh ginger

1    fresh hot red or green chili, preferably Thai (deseeded if you prefer less heat), finely sliced

2    teaspoons fish sauce (nam pla)

1    teaspoon oyster sauce

1    teaspoon palm or brown sugar

Thai or Italian basil leaves, cut into thin shreds/threads for garnish

1. Soak the mushrooms in warm water until soft, about 30 minutes. Rinse in warm water and drain. Remove and discard stems and cut the caps in 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Toss the beef with the all-purpose cornstarch, pepper, 1 teaspoon oil, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Cover for 10 minutes at room temperature.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until the beef is brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.

4. Heat the remaining oil in the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, garlangal and chili to the wok or skillet and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved beef, reserved mushrooms, fish sauce, oyster sauce, palm sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.