I know I haven't been participating regularly, work and life distracts, but I had such a good dinner tonight I wanted to share:
I call this "Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk with Holy Basil Leaves" (you could Google that and get my website) but I shortcuted my basic recipe (skipped the "from scratch" curry paste recipe and used Mae Ploy (a fantastic Thai brand!) Panang curry sauce paste instead, and then added various fresh and refrigerator ingredients to "amp" it up. (Panang, red, etc. any of the varieties would have worked.)
Actually the recipe name is a misnomer, I use coconut cream, not coconut milk. The cream is the thick topping left when you process coconut milk, often present as a thick layer on the top of a can of coconut milk, but even better when you buy the cream because it is the essence!
Not to bore you but I mentioned the 5 weeks I spent cooking nothing but Thai recipes from my favorite Thai cookbooks, excepting a few days where I dined out with friends at the usual American restaurants. This was a very formative period of my amateur chef life where I acquired an instinctual understanding of "dash and splash" cooking for Thai cuisine. Leave off the measuring spoons and cups, to truly learn any cuisine you have to understand it at an instinctual level.
So tonight I (oddly) decided to saute my shrimp in ghee (an Indian ingredient) but I had some sitting around and it seemed fitting to saute tiger shrimp -- 12/16 per lb. -- in. Departing from my website recipe I chopped some Thai chilis (watch it, 4-6 of them did it for me) and after I sauteed my shrimp I began the continued prep by sauteing the chilis and quickly added a slosh of coconut cream and the the Mae Ploy Panang curry paste. It would have been good to saute some diced red onion or scallops before hitting it with the coconut cream but alas. (I also added some crushed/chopped lemongrass. Hit it with a mallet until you pulverize it, then chop or scissor it into your mixture.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had prepared a slew of Thai basil ("holy basil" -- see my website) and gailan (kai lan, gai lan, a broccoli relative in the Brassica family, and one of my favorite vegetables. But of course I like broccoli, gailan is mostly leaves and few tops where broccoli is mostly tops and few leaves. In the eating, gailan is more like eating spinach that tastes like broccoli. I consider myself fortunate when I find flowering gailan because it is a happy medium between te two! You prepare it just like spinach, boil then strain. You reserve the Thai basil after manicuring it, for later addition to your recipe.
Meanwhile I had splashed some nam pla
(fish sauce) and curry paste (do not EVER taste it out of the jar!) and grated some lime rind into the curry sauce mixture, as I stirred and added more coconut cream as required to keep the right consistency.
Meanwhile, back at the other ranch, my Thai Jasmine rice was cooking away! Things were beginning to synergize! I added the reserved shrimp back to the coconut milk curry mix, stirred the boiling gailan, checked the steaming Jasmine rice. It looked like we were headed for a showdown and we were!
In the end I drained the gailan through a strainer (just like spinach) and spooned it onto a heated plate. (My mom taught me you never serve on anything but heated dishes.) In a strange Americanism I slopped some margarine on it like I was eating spinach, served a huge amount of Jasmine rice on top.
And then the critical
step: You MUST add the Thai basil (pre-chopped) to the shrimp and curry mixture IMMEDIATELY before serving! Trust me you do not want limp Thai basil, and cooking it will only degrade it. Serve it as soon as you get the shrimp (or other chicken, beef, pork, etc.) and curry paste plus coconut milk mixed with the Thai basil.
Well enough food porn. It came out great! (Or I wouldn't be posting.) I served my curried shrimp in coconut cream over gailan with Jasmine rice with a nice Chardonnay wine, and the end result was delicious!
I am a rather harsh judge of Thai restaurants even though we have plenty here in Los Angeles (we have a large Asian cultural presence). Regrettably I hate to be egotistical but this was equally good or better than most Thai restaurants and I have one, possibly two that cook comparable food. But alas, it is sometimes worth trading "almost as good" for a credit card swipe than all the prep work. It took me almost 2 hours to put my dinner together!
So all in all it was good to get back to my Thai roots (remember that 5 weeks? I'm just your typical American white guy except an amateur chef, no Thai in me at all) but I was very pleased to discover that when I go to the effort to get the right ingredients that I can still cook a great Thai dinner!
Too bad my desire to eat NOW always wins out over my desire to shoot pictures... It really looked good when I served it.