Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thai week: Tom Yam Chili Paste and Red Curry Paste

Breakfast: Home-made granola with fruit

Lunch: Couscous feta salad with tomatoes

Dinner: Yam and avocado roll and suicide roll from the wicked Simon Sushi

Red Curry Paste at the front and Tom Yam Chili Paste at the  back
It’s a truth held to be self-evident that Thai food is fantastic – especially the stuff you buy from the street carts in Bangkok for about 4 pence – but if you’re a vegetarian it can be frustrating trying to find a good Thai restaurant. I recently found out that a favourite Thai place of mine in Toronto uses fish sauce in their “vegetarian” dishes; a problem that apparently many veggies face when eating this type of food. 

The good news is that Thai food is ridiculously easy and cheap to make at home, and 90% of Thai dishes, after you’ve done all the chopping and crushing and other types of prepping, should only take 15 minutes to cook.

I learned to cook some great Thai food in Bangkok at the May Kaidee cooking class and some of these recipes have been in regular rotation in my kitchen ever since. May is definitely a character, and is as likely to make you sing along while you cook as she is to take you to the local market and show you the best produce to buy. It’s thanks to May that this week is going to be Thai Week on this blog – 7 days of recipes all from the wicked little country of ladyboys and Sangsom.

I’m all about doing things from scratch where possible, so here are 2 pastes that you will need to make 2 recipes later in the week. They require a little arm work, so feel free to cheat if you like and buy them tinned, but I hope I managed to write that in the tone of voice that suggests that you should man up and make your own!

Tom Yam Chili Paste:
You’ll need:
            2 tbsp oil
            1 small onion, chopped
            3 cloves garlic, crushed
            1 tbsp cashew nuts, crushed
            1 tbsp sesame seeds
            1 tbsp chili flakes
            1 tbsp miso
            1 tsp sugar
            Juice of half a lime
            1 tbsp soy sauce

            Fry the onion and garlic in oil til browning
In a pestle and mortar (or if you’ve neglected to buy one yet, in a bowl with the bottom of a bottle of Bailey’s) crush together the cashews, sesame seeds, chili flakes, sugar, lime juice, miso and soy sauce
Add onion and garlic and crush til a paste is formed
Fry the resulting paste for 2 minutes

Red Curry Paste:
You’ll need:
            15-20 small red chilies, chopped
            1 small onion, chopped
            3 cloves garlic, chopped
            1 tbsp chopped lemongrass
            1 tbsp chopped galangal
            1 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
            1 tbsp ground coriander
            1 tbsp ground cumin
            Pummel all ingredients together until a paste is formed
            (feel free to add a teeny bit of oil if necessary)

Just a note about some ingredients: galangal is a type of Thai ginger, and if you can’t get hold of any, normal ginger can be used as a substitute. It may not taste the same but the flavours work with normal ginger just as well as galangal. Kaffir lime leaves, however, are more or less essential in these dishes. They are fairly easy to find; you’ll get them in any Chinatown from the grocery store, and in the UK most big supermarkets have them – Tesco is particularly good, and stocks them in the herbs and spices aisle. Lemongrass, too, is quite important and can be found in the same places.

Grab a big bag of kaffir lime leaves, a few limes, some galangal and a bunch of fresh coriander while you’re at the Asian store and you should be set for most of the dishes this week.

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