We recently met up with some foodie friends for a meal at Wildebeest, some of whom are from the eastern exotic lands of Plymouth. Now that might not sound very exotic if you know Plymouth, but these friends came bearing gifts from even further east; namely Thailand. This was a really lovely surprise, and over the course of the next week we experimented with quite a few dishes based around these ingredients; Thai red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, pea aubergines, and krachai. Of these, we had never used the pea aubergines or the krachai before, so were quite excited to see what we could come up with.
A quick internet search gave us some ideas for the kind of dishes that would suit. For example, krachai is commonly used in stir fries and fish dishes, so searching our stores we found a suitable replacement for the fish in a tin of 'mock abalone' from a Chinese supermarket. The rest of the ingredients would go perfectly in a coconut curry, so that's what we made. There were enough chillies to make a few bottles of Thai red chilli sauce as well. On the plate below we have mock abalone and krachai stir fry with noodles, green thai coconut curry with pea aubergines, and brown basmati rice.
In the making of these dishes we managed to learn a few new things, which is always good. Some of these things I (Phil) really should know already; like I learnt again that if you are de-seeding and chopping 25 hot red chillies it is a good idea to wear gloves! I didn't, and for the next three days I had a weird 'heat sensitivity' in the fingers of my left hand. So much so that even lukewarm water felt hot and painful to my 'chilli injured' fingers, and I couldn't even hold a mug of tea by the handle, as it felt like the heat from it was burning my hand! Lesson learnt, again. We both learnt that pea aubergines have a very bitter taste when you first bite into them, which quickly mellows into a nicer more perfumed taste (not sure we'd be rushing out to buy them though). We learnt that we really like krachai, which is kind of like ginger, but not. It went really well with the mock abalone in the stir fry. Gorgeous!
Krachai and 'Abalone' Stir Fry
For this I fried an onion in some peanut oil until starting to brown. While this was frying I washed and chopped 3 'fingers' of the krachai finely. I then broke it down further with a small amount of water in a pestle and mortar. I chopped one red chilli and a few mushrooms and added them to the onion, stir fried for a minute or so and then added the krachai and 'juice'. Then came the sliced red pepper and broccoli, and the contents of the tin of mock abalone, plus a dash of good quality (Clearspring) shoyu soya sauce. I let this simmer down for a few minutes while I cooked some quality quick noodles, and then added them in to the dish, and mixed them in well to pick up all the flavours.
Green Thai Coconut Curry with Pea Aubergines
I started by frying a small onion in coconut oil, and then adding slices of galangal (I used a whole root), 2 finely chopped red chillies, and one stalk of finely sliced lemongrass. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. I then added a tablespoon of Nam Jai vegetarian tom yum paste. This is the best one we have found, containing no MSG or other dodgy ingredients. After frying this for a minute or so I added some sliced red pepper and a chopped sweet potato. I can't remember where but I heard once that if you add potato, sweet potato or squash to dishes with coconut milk, the starch from these prevents the coconut milk from curdling. It seems to work. This was stirred for a minute, and then I added a tin of coconut milk and a dash of shoyu soya sauce and simmered it for 10 minutes. I then added some chopped broccoli and simmered for a further 5 minutes. This was finished with some coriander leaf.
Brown basmati rice
Really, do you need to know how to cook it? Okay, it seems that some people struggle with rice (Scooby included for some reason!). Here's what I do with all the different varieties I cook. I start by washing/rinsing well in the pan with plenty of water. At least three rinses. Then it's a simple equation of 1 cup rice to 2 cups water (1 cup of dry rice should be enough for 2 people). After you have drained the last of the rinse water, add 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt, and bring it up to a rolling boil. Once it's boiling turn it right down, nearly as low as your cooker will go, and still be 'on'. Cover with a lid. For white basmati it takes 10-12 mins, 30 mins for brown basmati, and 45 mins for short grain brown rice. After this cooking time, just have a peek at the bottom of the pan. It should be dry, with no liquid left. Leave it alone for another 5 minutes with the lid on, and then serve. If it's not right after that, it's your fault... you did something wrong!