Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why buy the coconut milk when you can get the Thai food delivered?

I took the plunge. I tried making Thai food.

It was OK. It was a fairly hefty amount of work with not as much pay-off as I would've liked, but despite the lackluster results, I'm still glad I gave it a go.

The challenge was this: I wanted to make a meal using what I had at home, but I didn't want it to be either a) pasta + stuff, or b) chicken + veggie + rice. Though there's absolutely nothing wrong with either of the preceding options, I wanted to push myself.

I knew I had 2 lbs. of frozen shrimp at home, so I visited Tastespotting (one of my favorite recipe sites) and searched for "shrimp." After sifting through 22 pages of results (yes, really) and recording my findings, I had in my possession a recipe for Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk from the blog *crispy waffle*.

1 hour and 4 pots later (including the one I used to make fresh boiled edamame, compliments of Boston Organics), I had a fairly good dish. It was a bit too sweet, a bit too salty, and a bit too plain, but it was a start. For anyone who wants to try this recipe, I would suggest adding a vegetable - celery, bell pepper (any color), baby corn, scallion, carrot, broccoli ... anything.

Asian cooking has always scared me, but at this point, I do have most of the basics in my cupboard and refrigerator: fish sauce, oyster sauce, Hoisin, rice wine vinegar, wok oil, sesame oil, hot sesame oil, dried Thai chiles, ginger, rice, garlic, etc. With a few more key ingredients on hand (first and foremost, Sriracha) and a couple more test-runs under my belt, I should be well on my way.

Oh ... and I need to buy a wok.

EDAMAME (modified recipe)

(photo from sweet fine day)

Cook fresh pods (or shelled beans) in boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain, spread over a folded paper towel on a plate, and let cool for a minute. Add plenty of salt.

Frozen edamame, in or out of the pod, have been lightly blanched and require less cooking. In most cases, you can simply follow the instructions on the package.


(photo from *crispy waffle*)

1-1/2 pounds shrimp with the heads on ***
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
2 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
6 to 7 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of any Asian-type vegetable (bell pepper, baby corn, water chestnut, etc.)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fish sauce
minced parsley or cilantro (for garnish)
cooked rice

*** To defrost frozen shrimp, I simply put them in a bowl in the sink and fill it with room temperature water. Give them a swirl and turn on the faucet for a few seconds every couple of minutes, and in no time (under 10 minutes, I would guess), you have gently (and thoroughly) thawed shrimp.

Skim about 2 tbs. of the cream off of the top of the coconut milk and set aside.

Remove the shells and heads from the shrimp and set in a medium saucepan. Pour the remaining coconut milk over it and add the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Check it -- the coconut milk should now be slightly pink. Drain the coconut milk through a strainer and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet to medium high. Add the coconut cream (and add a little vegetable oil if there is not enough oil at this point). Add the shrimp and crushed red pepper flakes and sautee for 2 minutes until the shrimp is nice and pink. Add the garlic and vegetables and stir-fry for another minute or so. Now add the coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer for another minute.

Remove the shrimp and vegetables to the serving dish. Continue simmering the coconut milk for a few more minutes, until it has thickened slightly (you can decide if you like it thicker or thinner at this point - if you like it thicker, just continue to simmer for a bit longer). Taste to see if it needs more salt (it probably won't!). Pour the coconut milk over the shrimp.

Garnish with the parsley or coriander and serve with steamed rice (I cooked mine with butter and sesame oil - err on the side of dry, not wet).

- M