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Feb 20, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘thai food’

Short List: Thai Green Curry

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

With the laundry list of ingredients and imprecise quantities that go into green curry, it’s easy to see how Thai cooking is often considered art, not science. But while curry might be a forgiving recipe, consider me the princess and the pea. To distill curries’ true virtues, I kept two controls for my venture: a medium heat level and shrimp as my star. Yet not even these constants were free from criticism, with cocktail-sized crustaceans and pathetically weak or ulcer-inducing heat landing otherwise suitable suitors firmly on the “no” list. A faultless curry, not so thin as broth but not so creamy as buttermilk, must master the delicate balance of savory and sweet. There should also be an abundance and variety of good vegetables, but not too many – this isn’t a stir-fry – and not too few – a fork should still be required. And the color? Lima bean green. Here now, the swans.

— photo by Carmen Troesser

By the Book: The Meat Free Monday Cookbook’s Thai Vegetable Curry

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The more I cook, the more respect I have for the ingredients I’m working with. These days, I want my produce fresh, my dairy organic and my meat, well, I want less and less of it. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy a juicy rib-eye as much as the next carnivorous culinarian, but it’s more of a twice-a-year thing for me than twice a week. I want to know what the cow ate, that he was treated well and that he was killed in the most painless way possible. Same goes for my poultry and pigs. This feeling of accountability has shined a new light on all that vegetables can be. My boyfriend and I have even come to challenge ourselves to eat meat-free Monday through Friday. And much to our surprise, it’s been an extremely easy adjustment.

So I was ecstatic to see that former Beatle Paul McCartney and his family had teamed up with the Meat Free Monday campaign to release The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. Meatless Mondays is a movement that’s taken flight across the nation to alert people to the health and environmental benefits of focusing on vegetables a little more and meat a little less. (Sauce has even taken part in the movement, showing St. Louisans how easy it is to go sans meat one day a week.) For this book, I knew I wanted to make something hearty, the kind of dish that would show readers that sacrificing meat (no pun intended) doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor or, most importantly, that sense of satisfaction we all seek in a great meal.

Thai vegetable curry seemed like the perfect choice. The sweet lemongrass. The fiery chiles. The flurry of fresh vegetables. The things that make Thai food great are exactly what going meatless is all about.

And most of that held true as I worked my way through the recipe. Most Thai dishes start with some sort of curry paste. It’s a base for all those strong, wonderful flavors. This recipe called for making your own paste – a step I hadn’t seen before and was excited to try my hand at. The technique was simple: rinse, peel, chop, mince and pulse. There was no liquid, so the “paste” was more of a finely minced mixture, but the aroma was pungent and sharp.

The rest of the recipe was mostly a matter of mise en place – ie. much more mincing and chopping than actual cooking. Fine by me. Once I got to the cooking, however, I realized that the timing was a little off. Sauteeing thick chunks of eggplant, mushrooms and red peppers for 1 minute isn’t enough time to allow them to begin to become tender. They needed more like 5 minutes. The same should be said for the rest of the vegetables, added after the coconut milk is brought to a boil. Raw okra needs more than 5 minutes to simmer away in a bubbling broth to truly be its best. I gave it more like 7 or 8 minutes.

Once the sauteeing was over and the vegetables were indeed tender, the recipe finally called for seasoning – as the final step. It instructed to taste and add a dash of soy sauce or a teaspoon of brown sugar to taste. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to cut it. The broth was crying for more salt and more sweetness. Seven or eight dashes and three pinches of brown sugar later, and the broth was sweet and flavorful, with a touch of fire from the chiles. It was a wonderful way to enjoy vegetables. And as the new season brings with it cooler breezes and chillier nights, it’s sure to hit my dinner table again this fall somewhere between Monday and Friday.

Thai Vegetable Curry

For the Curry Paste:
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
2 green chiles, seeded and chopped
Zest of 1 lime
Small fresh bunch cilantro

1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 small eggplant, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
8 baby bella mushrooms, halved (or quartered if large)
14-oz. can coconut milk
6 okra, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces
8 baby corn, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces
5- to 6-oz. can bamboo shoots, drained
Handful sugar snap peas, cut in half on the diagonal
2 handfuls bean sprouts
Soy sauce
Soft light brown sugar to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves
Jasmine rice
Lime wedges

• Prepare the curry paste first. Place the shallots, garlic and ginger in a food processor. Add the lemongrass, chiles, lime zest and cilantro stalks (reserving the leaves) and pulse the mixture until finely chopped. You can also make this paste using a mortar and pestle if you prefer.
• Heat the sunflower oil in a large saute pan. Add the curry paste and cook over medium heat for 1 minute until the mixture smells fragrant.
• Add the eggplant, red pepper and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently until starting to become tender.
• Add the coconut milk to the pan with ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
• Add the okra, baby corn and bamboo shoots and continue to cook for 5 minutes or so until the veggies are tender.
• Finally add the sugar snap peas and bean sprouts and cook for another 30 seconds.
• Taste and add a dash of soy sauce or teaspoon of sugar if needed.
• Serve the curry in bowls garnished with cilantro leaves with jasmine rice and lime wedges.

Reprinted with permission from Kyle Books.

What’s your favorite meatless meal to put on the dinner table? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now we’d like to congratulate Frances whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner by Lisa Caponigri. We’d also like to congratulate Earen, whose comment on an earlier By the Book column has won him/her a copy of Cooking Without Borders by Anita Lo. Frances and Earen, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

Meatless Mondays: When a home-cooked meal just isn’t happening

Monday, December 19th, 2011

121611_curryWe know what you’re thinking – another vegetarian column, really? Just give us a minute. Meatless Mondays is a movement that’s building across the country, one built not around a hatred of meat or a stance against the way animals are treated but rather a love for vegetables – and the health benefits that come along with them. While the Meatless Monday concept hasn’t quite picked up in St. Louis yet, we’re here to show you just how easily it could. From meat-free recipes to make at home to dishes around town that let the veggies truly shine – welcome to Meatless Mondays, a new weekly online column.

I love a home-cooked meal as much as the next food-obsessed gal. Conceptualizing what I’ll cook, making the grocery list, walking to my local market and whipping up something that excites my taste buds – it’s a luxury I look forward to day in and day out. But on a dreary, rainy Monday after what seems like an endless workday when the sun has set long before I’ve even left the office? Call me lazy, but the allure of creating an exciting new dish from scratch is going, going … gone.

Thankfully, just a five-minute walk from my downtown office is Sen Thai Asian Bistro (aka the perfect Monday refuge). Sen’s silky smooth Kao-Soi curry with vegetables is my go-to item at this oft-visited eatery. The broth-style noodle bowl immediately warms me up, from the piping hot dish to the rich aromas that fill the table as soon it arrives. This is my kind of curry: filling an oversized bowl with a high sauce-to-stuff ratio.

The sauce is a yellow curry-coconut milk broth that’s sweet yet very savory. If you’re the type of person who likes to dump loads of red chile paste into your curry (like my boyfriend, who then sweats awkwardly across the table), go for it; I won’t judge you. But I won’t join you either – I think this curry is perfect all on its own, with an intoxicating blend of spices that leaves a kick on your tongue (the kind we all hope for in a Thai curry).

Don’t overlook the stuff in the bowl, either. Crispy egg noodles sit atop a mound of carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and baby corn. Stir up the dish before you dig into the veggies and let them soak up the luscious broth. Sure, the egg noodles sitting at the bottom of the bowl provide a little sustenance – but in my eyes (and stomach), they’re just another vehicle with which to sop up that succulent sauce.

At $12, this dish is not only a steal for the generous portion but the perfect medication for the Monday blues – no matter how low those temperatures dip.

Thai with a touch of soul at Sweet Basil

Friday, August 20th, 2010

082010_SoulFoodSix days a week, Sweet Basil Thai Café is a casual Thai restaurant on Pine Street, dishing up spring rolls, pad thai and other Southeast Asian delicacies. But on weekends, this downtown spot is transformed into a soul-food restaurant.

Star Ellis, a Sweet Basil employee, is using the eatery’s kitchen on its shuttered days to cook up fried chicken wings, baked chicken leg quarters, Parmesan-crusted chicken breasts, meatloaf, fried catfish nuggets and more. In August, she’s serving the homestyle meals as part of a dinner theatre package (the play, written by a local, is a family drama called Still Brothers) on Saturdays and Sundays. In September and October, it will be dinner only, served from 1:30 to 5 p.m. each Sunday (closed on Labor Day weekend).

The reasonably-priced entrees come with such soulful sides as macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and Caesar salad. Ellis also plans to offer slices of cake and pie for dessert. Her personal fave? “The catfish nuggets are seasoned so well, they just have a burst of flavor,” she said, “and people love them.”

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