Thursday, January 18, 2007

Exploring Thai Recipes

One of the highlights on this week's menu is Thai food on Wednesday. I got this Thai recipe book from the library that really put me into the mood of cooking Thai food. Building on what I have on hand, I decided to make a Sweet and Sour Pork and Shrimp with Green Beans in Chilli Sauce.

In many ways, recipes from Southeast Asia share many similarities. Like the condiments they use. But here, I want to talk about Thai Food only. Most of the Thai recipes use soy sauce, lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, different kinds of curry pastes, tamarind and coconut milk. Fish sauce in particular, is the essence of Thai food (in my humble opinion, of course). It never fails to appear in any recipes. I guess they use it in the same way we use salt?

Because I wanted to get the flavor right, I followed the recipe religiously. Most of the time when I cook, I just eyeball everything. But not on this. I didn't want to mess with this and end up having yet another disappointing dinner. My effort was paid off when we finally sat down for dinner. Both dishes turned out great~

I am so proud that I made the sweet and sour sauce from scratch! Although it was not exactly my own recipe, but nevertheless, it's still better than using the ready mix sauce that who knows how much MSG is in there! And the aroma and bright colours of this dish lifted up my spirit on the cold gloomy night.

The Shrimp with Green Beans in Chilli Sauce was nice too. Except that it's kind of too spicy for both of us. I believe this can easily modified to suit our taste in the future. But I like the technique of stirfrying the curry paste before adding other ingredients, instead of diluting the paste first, like in other recipes. The heat of the pan helped the curry paste to release some of its flavour before it was mixed with the prawn and green beans. It would have been nicer if I have lime leaves and lime on hand. I am sure the dishes would taste more authentic that way. But for the time being, lemon juice is a good substitute.

With dishes like these, it's no surprise that we each had an extra bowl of rice.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Moo Preow Waan)

10 oz trimmed pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp tomato paste (or 2 tbsp of ketchup dissolved in 1 tbsp water)
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice (or white) vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 small onion, roughly chopped
1/3 medium red pepper, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm squares
1/2 small tomato, cut into 1 inch/ 2.5cm chunks
1.5 inches english cucumber, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm wedges
1 cup pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch/1 cm pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
pinch black pepper
strips of red pepper
fresh coriander leaves

Slice tenderloin into strips that are 1/4 inch/5mm thick, 2 inches/5cm long and about 1 inch/2.5cm wide. If you find it difficult to cut thinly through fresh meat, leave it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden slightly, then slice. Reserve.

In a small bowl mix together tomato paste, water, fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice and sugar and beat until blended. Reserve.

Heat oil in a wok (or a large frying pan) until it is just about to smoke. Add garlic and stirfry for 30 second. Immediately add reserved pork and stirfry for 2-3 minutes until all th pork has fried in the oil and is turning white. Add onion, red pepper, tomato, cucumber and pineapple as well as soy sauce and black pepper and stirfry for 2 minutes, unitl all the vegetables have begun to wilt.

Add reserve sauce (tomato paste etc, stirfry for 1-2 minutes until everything is integrated and shiny. Dissolve cornstarch in water, add to work and stirfry for less than a minute, until the sauce has thickened somewhat. Take off heat.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with black pepper. Top with stips o red pepper and coriander leaves. Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed rice.

serves 4.

Shrimps with Green Beans in Chili Sauce (Phad Prik Khing Goong)

4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
2 lime leaves, cut into quarters
1 cup water
16 large shrimps, shelled and deveined (10 oz/300g)
14 long green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2.5c.m pieces
1 tbsp sugar
strips of red pepper
fresh coriander leaves

Heat oil in the wok (or a large frying pan) on high heat until it is just about to smoke. Add the red curry paste and stir to dissolve for 30 seconds. Turn heat down to medium low and stir cook for another 30 seconds. Add lime leaves and stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat back to maximum and add 1/2 cup/ 125ml of the water and stir cook for 1 minute.

Add shrimps, green beans and sugar. Stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat down to medium heat, and add the rest of the water (1/2 cup / 125ml). Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimps are pink white and springy. Take off heat.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with red pepper strips and coriander leaves. Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed rice.

Serves 3 to 4.

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