Thai Red Curry Shrimp with Snap Peas
This dish is best prepared just before serving so the snap peas retain their crisp texture. The colors of the dish (orange-red curry, green snap peas, white rice and pink shrimp) makes for a restaurant-quality presentation. This fast recipe is great for a weeknight dinner. The amount of heat in this curry may be adjusted by increasing the amount of curry paste.
Curries are eaten in combination with rice, long-grained jasmine rice in central and southern Thailand and sticky rice in northern Thailand, or with noodles such as khanom chin (fermented rice noodles).
1 pound 21/ 25 shrimp, peeled and deveined (10 shrimp per person)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons red curry paste, either commercial or homemade (recipe follows)
1 (13 1/2-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup reduced sodium chicken or fish stock
2 cups sugar snap peas, stringed if necessary
1 fresh chile (such as red jalapeno or serrano), thinly sliced on the diagonal
5 Thai (kaffir) lime leaves, center vein removed and cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla; Tra Chang Gold Label is good)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
5 Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
Lime wedges, for serving
Steamed rice or cooked noodles, for serving
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
Heat the oil in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan or a wok over medium heat until a bit of curry paste sizzles when added to the pan. Add the curry paste and cook, pressing and stirring to soften the paste and mix it in with the oil, until fragrant, about two minutes.
Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, for five minutes.
Increase the heat to medium high and let the curry sauce come to a low boil. Add the shrimp, sugar snap peas, chile and half of the lime leaves; stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp begin to curl and turn pink, about two minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar and salt; stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the basil along with the remaining lime leaves. Allow the flavors to blend for five minutes. Serve with rice or noodles, pickled onions and lime wedges. Garnish with cilantro.
Yield: 2 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Red Curry Paste
12 dry Thai chile peppers, seeded and soaked in warm water until softened
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped garlic
3 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves and tops removed, minced
3 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh galangal (or substitute fresh ginger)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons Kaffir lime zest
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
In a skillet, dry roast the coriander and peppercorns over low heat until fragrant, about three minutes. Remove and let cool. Grind in a spice grinder.
Return the pan to medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until the shallot softens, about three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid, and roughly chop.
In a blender or food processor, combine all the remaining ingredients with 1/4 cup of the reserved soaking liquid. Process to make a smooth paste, scraping down the sides several times and adding more liquid, one tablespoon at a time, as needed.
Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. The paste will keep refrigerated for up to one month.
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Penang acar (also called achar) is a vegetable dish that is served at any special occasion in Penang, a state in Malaysia. It is a pickle dish that has to be cooked. As with most spicy dish, Penang acar tastes better when the pickle is left overnight to allow all the spice ingredients to blend. It will keep up to four weeks in the refrigerator and makes a great accompaniment to any Indonesian meal.
Prepare rempah (chile paste):
2 shallots, peeled and chopped (about four tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (about two teaspoons)
2 (five-inch) stalks lemongrass (about five tablespoons)
3 candlenuts (or macadamia)
1 (one-inch) piece galangal, peeled and chopped (about two tablespoons)
For the Acar:
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 medium carrot, peeled
4 shallots, peeled (about eight tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, peeled (about two teaspoons)
2 green and red chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
1 (one-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (about one tablespoon)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 cup sliced radish
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Mix all the chile paste ingredients in a blender or small food processor and process until smooth.
Slice the cucumber in half and into 1/4-inch pieces. Cut the carrot into two-inch strips. Dice the shallots and garlic into quarters. Slice the green, red chiles and ginger into thin strips.
Put the carrot and cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt. Let the vegetables drain excess moisture for one hour. Rinse the vegetables that have been salted and drain.
Combine the chiles, ginger and mustard seed. Add the turmeric, sugar and vinegar.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chile paste and fry until fragrant. Add the drained vegetables and radish; stir-fry for five minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture blend for one hour.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.
Yield: 4 servings as a side dish
Heat Scale: Medium