Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Global cuisine - Thai

[One of two fish curries served with brown rice and lime]

It has certainly been a wee while since I've posted anything up here. Lots to do lately, with deadlines and projects coming to a head. And spring too, seems to be bursting forth with no holding back. Despite our busy schedule, we have been keeping to our national food adventures. After our foray into French cuisine we wandered back East to try some Thai. Stephen had been wanting to try making Phad Thai, so we bought some rice noodles, some limes and some bean sprouts and got stuck in.

We began with something we were rather comfortable with - curry. Before taking on this experiment I never fully realized the huge differences in curries. I knew that several different nations made curries, but I was never fully appreciative of their unique qualities. Indian curries (well, the Westernized versions anyhow), for example, have quite deep, warming flavours, with cumin, fenugreek, and coriander (along with many others). While Thai curries tend to be more fresh and clean tasting. These are usually based around fresh ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, chilies and ginger. Our first couple of meals were fish curries, and despite using the same fish, we were able to make vastly different curries formed around these basic ingredients (along with fish sauce, sugar and coconut cream).

I must admit the Phad Thai we eventually made was a bit of a let down as it lacked enough sauce to make it really flavourful. But this was most likely the fault of the cooks rather than the recipe. We moved onto what was probably my favorite dish - spicy longbeans with(out) salty eggs. The latter subtraction was due to the 3 weeks needed to actually make the salty eggs. But it was pretty tasty even without. And finished the week with prawns with chili and basil.

[Prawns with chili and basil - tasty, tasty]

A rather tasty week, full of fresh flavours. It was lovely and light after the warm heaviness of french cuisine. One of the lessons we took away from the Thai week, was the mathematics of taste in a Thai curry. Too salty - add sugar, too sweet - add fish sauce, and too sweet and salty - add lime juice. Worked every time!

Spicy longbeans with(out) salty eggs

I have adapted this from the original and not included the salty egg bit, but you can find the full recipe in Bhumichitr, V. (2005) Vatch's Thai Kitchen. Ryland, Peters & Small, London.

Peanut or sunflower oil
180g ready-fried beancurd, finely sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Red Curry paste (see below)
250g Chinese longbeans (or green beans), chopped into 2.5cm lengths
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground roasted peanuts
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in wok on high heat. Add beancurd and fry until golden brown. Remove from wok and drain on paper towel covered plate.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok, add garlic and fry until golden brown. Stir in the curry paste. Add beans, soy sauce, stock, sugar, peanuts, lime leaves and fried beancurd. Stir-fry until the beans are done to your taste.

3. Serve and enjoy.

Red Curry Paste

Grind the following ingredients into a paste in a large mortar and pestle.

8 long red dried chilies, deseeded and chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
3 coriander roots, chopped (I didn't have any - it still tasted good)
1 teaspoon chopped kaffir lime skin, or finely chopped lime leaves
3 cm fresh galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt

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