It's very nearly winter down south, which usually means I am craving roast beef, yorkshire pudding, and piles and piles of pasta covered with cheese. This year however, I've ditched the heavy European fare in favour of a winter of Thai food. Coconut, lime, ginger and lemongrass are my flavours of the season. Warming me to the core with chilli - not carbs - and enlivening my evenings with a new culinary challenge too (there is nothing worse than food boredom, my friends). Below are my two favourite Thai dishes. I've built up the recipes from bits and pieces that I have read online, and developed them through rather a lot of trial-and-error experimentation. If you'd like to embark on your own Thai adventure, I suggest you do the same - as David Thompson says, Thai food is all about intuition and interpretation.
Note: A few of the ingredients required here can be a little hard to come by, but don't let that deter you - tracking them down is half the fun! Black glutinous rice (otherwise called sweet black rice, Thai black rice, or even Indonesian black rice) can be tricky to find, even in the best of Asian grocery stores. Similarly, thick rice noodles can be hard to track down. The noodle fridge at my favourite Asian grocer is usually empty by five in the afternoon, probably because noodles are delicious and they walk off the shelves... so get in early folks. White pepper is a little known ingredient, but it's used extensively in Thai cuisine. Use whole peppercorns and grind them up yourself, the powdered stuff is rubbish...
Pad See Ew
What You Will Need:
- 1 large chicken breast
- 300g approx of firm tofu
- 500g of large, flat rice noodles
- 1 large bunch of pak choy
- 2 eggs
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp of black soy
- 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
- 1 level teaspoon of white pepper
For the Marinade:
- 3 tbsp of oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp of fish sauce
- 1 tbsp of light soy
- 1 tbsp of black soy (sweet soy)
- 1 small chilli, finely chopped
What you will need to do:
1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Thinly slice the chicken breast and dice the tofu into bite sized chunks, then add to the marinade, stir to coat everything, and refrigerate the lot until it's time to stir-fry.
2. Heat a little oil in a smallish frying pan. Beat the eggs together with a pinch of salt and add to the hot oil. Fry the eggy mixture til you've got yourself an omelette, then slice into strips and set aside. Turn the heat down on your frying pan, add a little water, and blanch the pak choy until it is vibrant green. Set this aside too.
3. When you're ready to stir fry, heat a little oil in a large wok. Add the garlic cloves and fry until
lightly browned. Add the chicken/tofu mixture and all of the marinade, then toss the lot until the chicken is cooked through and the tofu has charred slightly.
4. Now it's time to add your noodles! The noodles I use are each about two metres long, so I add them one at a time, snipping them into manageable lengths as I go. I'd suggest separating your noodles in this way even if they're not ludicrously long, as it stops them from sticking together in a sad little lump. Stir the lot until the noodles begin to char too.
5. Finally, add the eggy slices and pak choy. Drizzle in the extra soy and rice wine vinegar, and at the last minute, add the white pepper. Toss until warmed through and serve immediately with slices of lime on the side. Noodle perfection.
Black Rice Pudding
What you will need:
- 2 cups of black glutinous rice
- 1 400ml can of coconut milk (full fat is best!)
- 1/4 cup of caster sugar
- the juice of one lime
- Shredded coconut & sesame seeds, fresh fruit - whatever you'd like to top your pudding with!
What you will need to do:
1. Rinse your rice in cold water, then soak, although not necessarily according to packet instructions. Different brands of rice recommend differing soaking times; I would suggest four hours at a minimum, but the longer the better.
2. Once your rice has finished soaking, it's time to steam! I do this by bringing 2 to 3cm of water to the boil in a large pot. I place my rice in a metal colander, then rest the colander over the boiling water and cover the lot with a lid. (I plan to invest in a proper Thai steamer set, but my colander / pot method works well in the meantime.) Steam for 30 - 40 minutes.
3. While your rice is steaming, heat the coconut milk over a low heat. Stir through the sugar (1/4 of a cup is just a guide. Most recipes I have read call for more sugar, but I don't posses a sweet tooth so I don't use very much. Adjust to taste.) Squeeze in some lime juice, just enough to cut through the rich, sugary coconut milk. Toast a little shredded coconut and some sesame seeds too, or prepare any fruit you'd like to serve, and set aside.
4. Your rice is sufficiently steamed when the grains are soft, but not mushy. I like the grains to almost burst when chewed. Place your steamed rice in a bowl and stir through just enough of the coconut milk to create a thick, glossy purple porridge. Push the rice mixture into moulds and turn out into serving bowls to create delicious, purple pudding mounds. Pour a little of the extra coconut mixture around the pudding, and top with toasted coconut, sesame seeds, or fruit. Serve immediately.