In the third month of our isolation, I grew heartily sick of my cooking. Because I live in a 3-generation household, we decided not to take the risk of any takeout or delivery (except for groceries). That means I’ve been cooking every single day. There is no meal I have eaten that has not been cooked by moi. That was never a problem in the past because we did takeout every week, sometimes ate lunch at our neighborhood Korean resto, or ordered in pizza. It became a huge problem a couple of weeks ago. I stopped being able to eat my own food. I was so sick of it! And I assure you I’m a pretty decent cook. Then I realized I was fed up, not of my cooking, but of the cuisine.
Indian cuisine is very varied. Every state has its own style and specialties. I make both North and South Indian dishes (mostly vegetarian) using rice, wheat, lentils, pulses, vegetables, paneer, spices, yogurt and herbs. But I was tired of cooking only Indian food. I decided to try my hand at Thai, one of my favorite non-Indian cuisines. I added the essential Thai ingredients to our next grocery order and waited in anticipation. They didn’t arrive. They didn’t arrive with the next order either.
After three tries, we succeeded. And I succeeded in making five delicious Thai dishes, so I am about to give you a couple of recipes.
Coconut milk tins
Thai Red and Green Curry Paste
Tamarind concentrate (or vinegar and lemon)
Flat rice noodles
Protein of choice
I made three green curries: vegetable, fish, and chicken. And I made two kinds of Pad Thai: chicken and vegetarian. For the vegetarian Pad Thai, because I did not have tofu, I used mini Nutrela soya chunks. Yeah, sounds weird (google it), but they tasted just fine with the Pad Thai sauce.
Okay, let me start with the Pad Thai which was the best Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life, not kidding. See, a few years ago the Toronto Star did an analysis on a popular chain’s Pad Thai and said there were 2000 calories per box of noodles, which horrified me, and ever since then, I’ve avoided it. But the wonderful thing about making it at home is you control what goes into it.
Rati’s fool-proof Pad Thai Sauce:
2 heaping tbsp peanut butter
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tsp brown sugar
Salt to taste
(ETA: I have discovered that adding 3 tsp lemon juice and some red chilly flakes makes this even better! Go easy on the peanut butter for a slightly less heavy sauce.)
Mix the above in a bowl. It was too thick a paste, so I added a bit of chicken broth to make it easier to mix. Set aside.
Recipes call for chopping chicken breast into bite-size pieces and sauteing it but chicken breast takes a long time to cook so I just boiled it in a pressure cooker and then chopped it up into small pieces. You can do whatever you wish and add whatever protein you want: chicken, shrimp and tofu are the most common.
Boil the rice noodles for 3-4 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water, and set aside. Note that rice noodles are terribly sticky so it’s best if you cook them just before you need them. I ended up separating them by hand before dropping them in the pan.
In a large pan, saute garlic and chopped onions/shallots in some oil until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and chopped green onions and cook until mostly done. You can also include sliced carrots and / or peppers. Add your protein. Push it all on one side of the pan and on the other side, scramble two eggs (beaten with a teaspoon of soy sauce and salt to taste). Mix it all up. Then pour your Pad Thai sauce over it all. Mix thoroughly, add your cooked rice noodles and chopped basil, and continue to mix until every noodle is coated in the sauce. Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped coriander and chopped peanuts. Tastes divine! There were no leftovers in my house.
Rati’s dead-easy Green Curry Fish recipe
Heat oil, and add two tablespoons of green curry paste until it sputters. Add chopped garlic and green chilies (if you like it hot) then chopped onions/shallots. Cook till soft, add sliced mushrooms, finely chopped potato, cook for a bit, then add chopped green onions and zucchini or green beans if you prefer. Add one tin of coconut milk and stir. Add two teaspoons fish sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and a stalk of bruised lemongrass. (I crush it in my hand so I can inhale the divine lemony flavor!)
Add chicken or vegetable broth to thin the curry if it thickens too much. Or water should be fine too, if you have neither of those. Once the potato is mostly done, add chopped fish fillets. I used rainbow trout because that’s what I had, but I assume any fish fillets will be fine. I think tilapia would be really good in this dish.
Cook covered for fifteen minutes or until fish is a bit flaky at the edges. Garnish with chopped coriander and basil. Serve over a bed of rice. Replace fish with chopped chicken breast or, if you want to keep it vegetarian, tofu and vegetables like aubergines. Sooo delicious!
Anyway. I will need to pace myself. Maybe I shall allow myself one Thai dish every week. That way, there’s something different to look forward to, no one gets bored of it, and I can experiment with various ingredients. I’m dying to try my hand at Korean too; kimchi chicken fried rice is one my favorite dishes, but I have not been able to procure kimchi for the last two months! Fingers crossed we can actually start going to restaurants and supporting small businesses again at some point in the not-too-distant future.