Thai

Tapenade

Tapenade

 

Tapenade is always associated with Provence where olives are the star at local farmers markets, but the Romans were making a similar olive puree with herbs thousands of years ago. The name is rooted in the French word tapeo which means capers, a key ingredient along with olives, anchovies, olive oil, and lemon juice.

Tapenade on crostini is my go to favorite hors d’eouvre to serve with drinks, although it need not end there. Delicious served with fish, poultry, meats, tossed with pasta, or spread on a buttered baguette when making a sandwich.

I have included a simple classic Mediterranean Tapenade recipe that follows the traditional wisdom of simplicity of ingredients. I have also included a mash up recipe if you will for a Thai tapenade that evolved more out of necessity than any fusion intended. There is a substitution of Thai basil in lieu of Italian sweet basil which is hard to find and expensive. Thai fish sauce replaces the anchovies which are imported and also expensive, lime juice in lieu of lemon juice, and Thai red chile flakes in lieu of black pepper. This makes for a very savory taste adventure with a difference!

 

Classic Mediterranean Tapenade: makes about 1 ¼ cups

  • 1 cup pitted oil cured black olives
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • a handful of fresh sweet basil or lemon thyme leaves; or a combination of both
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • a twist or two of freshly ground of black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping teaspoons capers, rinsed
  • sea salt to taste

Tapenade would traditionally be made in a mortar, but a food processor works beautifully.

Place the pitted olives, anchovy fillets, herbs, lemon juice and pepper in the work bowl of the processor, lock on the lid, and pulse until the ingredients are broken down into a coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.

Then with the processor running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream through the feed tube until it is emulsified into the puree. Stop the machine and add the capers and pulse until the capers are broken down and mixed into the puree. Stop the machine, taste the tapenade, and add salt if needed.

Transfer the tapenade to a bowl, seal with cling film and refrigerate for several hours before serving which will meld the flavors together. Stir briefly just before serving.

 

Thai Tapenade: makes 1 ¼ cups

  • 1 cup pitted oil cured olives
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
  • a handful of fresh Thai sweet basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Thai red chile flakes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Place the pitted olives, fish sauce, Thai basil, lime juice, and red chile flakes in the work bowl of the processor, lock the lid, and pulse until the ingredients are broken down into a coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.

Then with the processor running add the olive oil in a slow stead stream through the feed tube until it is emulsified into the puree. Stop the machine, taste the tapenade, and add salt if needed.

Transfer the tapenade to a bowl, seal with cling film and refrigerate for several hours before serving which will meld the flavors together. Stir briefly just before serving.

Thai Pomelo Salad

Thai Pomelo Salad

 

It is pomelo season here in Thailand and there is nothing more arrestingly beautiful than coming upon a pomelo tree fully laden with fruit that look like giant yellow Christmas balls shimmering n the sun. It is an astonishing sight to behold!

Pomelo

Pomelo (citus maxima) is native to South East Asia but found in the tropics around the world. It looks like a large grapefruit that is mildly sweet rather than bitter and the main ingredient for a Thai pomelo salad with shallots, garlic, chilies, shrimp, coriander, toasted coconut, and peanuts tossed with a pungent sweet sour and spicy coconut milk dressing. Sound enticing? Believe me, it is. To me, this is Thai food at its very best. I prefer the more traditional flavor of dried shrimp for the recipe, but feel free to use freshly poached shrimp if you prefer.

Serve as a main course for lunch or as a starter for an evening meal. This is a spectacular salad that tames the summer heat in the most unexpected ways. Pomelos can be found in Asian markets, but if not available you can substitute grapefruit in the recipe that follows.

Pomelo salad must be served absolutely fresh so there are components that should be prepared ahead and on standby for assembling the salad.

 

Thai Pomelo Salad serves 4

Dressing:

  • 1 cup coconut cream (thick coconut milk)
  • 4 teaspoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons roasted red chile paste (Note: see recipe below)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves

Pour the coconut cream into a non-reactive sauce pan. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, and red chile paste to the pan and set over low heat. Stir as the contents heat up to dissolve the palm sugar and chile paste. Once the contents of the pan come to a to a slow simmer, add the lime juice and kaffir lime leaves. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Note: roasted red chile paste. Prepared red chile pastes can be found in Asian markets. If they are not available you can easily make your own.

 

Roasted Red Chile Paste:

  • 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut or coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated garlic
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated shallots
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced seeded red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium low flame. When the oil is hot add the garlic, shallots, and red chilies and fry until very soft without browning too much.

Make a well in the center of the pan and add the shrimp paste and palm sugar, pressing them against the bottom of the skillet until they melt together. Add the fish sauce and stir everything together and continue to fry until the mixture is reduced and thickened into a paste.

Transfer to a storage container and when cool refrigerate.

 

Pomelo Salad:

  • 1 pomelo, peeled, sectioned, membrane removed from each section, and refrigerated
  • 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut or palm oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • ¼ cup toasted shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water (or 12 poached plump shrimp, deveined)
  • 2 red bird’s eye chilies, seeded and finely minced
  • ¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves

Break up the prepared pomelo sections into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet and fry the garlic until soft and only slightly colored. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the shallots until soft and only lightly colored. Transfer to the plate with the garlic and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet once again with a paper towel and add the shredded coconut. Set the pan over medium low heat and lightly toast the coconut, stirring or tossing continuously. Remove the coconut from the pan promptly and set aside in a small bowl.

Drain the dried shrimp and pat dry. Coarsely chop and add to the bowl with the pomelo sections, or add poached shrimp if using. Add the fried garlic, shallots, minced chilies, two thirds of the toasted coconut, two thirds of the peanuts, and most of the coriander leaves, reserving enough leaves for garnishing.

Toss the ingredients until well combined and then add 3 to 5 tablespoons of the dressing and toss until combined.

Transfer the salad to individual serving bowls and drizzle a little more dressing over each serving. Sprinkle a little coconut and peanuts over each serving and garnish with remaining coriander leaves and serve promptly!

Nam Prik Num; Flame roasted Thai Green Chilies

Nam Prik Num; Flame roasted Thai Green Chilies

Nam Prik Num is a favorite northern Thai flame roasted green chile sauce that locals eat with Chiang Mai sausage, with a plate of raw vegetables, or especially with crispy fried pork skin. Yikes! That said, crispy pork skin dipped into this fiery green chile sauce is an indulgence that should not be denied! It’s a match made in heaven.

This is HOT stuff! The flavors of fiery roasted green chilies, roasted garlic and shallots, a dash of fermented Thai shrimp paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, and fresh lime juice all pounded together in a stone mortar turns out a rustic hot green sauce that is instantly addictive. Even eating it with plain steamed rice is transportive. I’m planning to serve it with bites and drinks before a Thai supper for my visiting family from America next week and will post the menu soon after.

 

Nam Prik Num (Noom) makes 1 ½ cups

You may want to use disposable gloves when working with the chilies to avoid burning fingers!

There are many options for the chilies you can use for this recipe including Thai green chilies, jalapenos, New Mexico or Anaheim greens. Use whatever is available.

  • 12 fresh Thai green chilies or 6 large green chilies (New Mexico green/Anaheim, or jalapenos)
    3-4 small fresh Thai green bird’s eye chilies (optional for extra heat)
    6 plump shallots, skin on
    10 plump garlic cloves, skin on
    2 teaspoons oil
    1 teaspoon Thai fermented shrimp paste
    1 teaspoon palm sugar (or white sugar)
    2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

Flame roast the green chilies (including the bird’s eye chilies if using), shallots, and garlic until the skin is blistered all over (see here). Set aside until cool enough to handle. Then peel the charred skin off the large chilies and discard the skin. To reduce the heat, split the chilies lengthwise and remove some of the seeds. Then quarter the chilies lengthwise (finely chopping the unpeeled bird’s eye chilies if using) and set aside.

Peel the charred skin off the shallots and garlic. Chop and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and when hot add the shrimp paste and palm sugar in the center of the pan and stir until melted together. Promptly add the chopped shallots and garlic and stir until combined. Transfer to a stone mortar and grind the ingredients until they are broken down. Then add the chopped chilies and continue to grind until the chilies are looking stringy. This may take a couple minutes.

Add the fish sauce and lime juice. Continue to grind until the liquid is incorporated. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The nam prik num will last about a week refrigerated, or freeze for longer storage.

Best served at room temperature!

Kaeng Som Gai; Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken

Kaeng som Gai; Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken

 

Kaeng Som, aka Thai Yellow Curry, originates from central Thailand. It has a slightly sour taste and not to be confused with massaman curry from the south of Thailand that has its origins in India and Persia. Kaeng Som is very popular and served up in restaurants and food stalls across the country. Very easy to make using prepared sour Thai yellow curry paste which is perfectly acceptable and available in Asian food shops worldwide.

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Or, if you are a purest, by all means make your own curry paste at home. A recipe is included below.

This is a dish you will find yourself making again and again. Kaeng Som’s sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and pungent flavors bundle together all the elements that make Thai foods so alluring and irresistible!

 

Kaeng Som Gai; Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken    serves 4

You will find this dish is often made with sliced boneless chicken breast meat in restaurants, although I much prefer using bone in legs and thighs for a moister meat and added flavor.

  • 4 chicken legs and thighs separated, skin on (or boneless breasts thinly sliced)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or cold pressed peanut oil)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons yellow Thai curry paste
  • 4 teaspoons palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind water (tamarind paste dissolved in hot water and strained)
  • 2 cups coconut cream (thick coconut milk)
  • 1 cup stock or water
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into small bite size cubes
  • 3 fresh red chilies, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup fresh Thai Basil leaves, whole
  • fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large deep sauce pan until nearly smoking. Add the chicken pieces skin side down and brown until the skin releases from the bottom of the pan. Turn and brown the other sides and transfer to a platter. Skip this step if you are using sliced chicken breast.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and when hot add the curry paste and fry until the paste is soft and aromatic, about 1 minute. Then add the palm sugar and stir into the curry paste until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tamarind water and stir until combined. Promptly add the coconut cream and stir until the paste is combined with the coconut cream. Then stir in the stock and add the chicken, kaffir lime leaves, eggplant, red chilies, and fish sauce. Lower the heat to simmer, partially cover the pan, and cook 30 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and the chicken is nearly falling off the bone. Reduce cooking time to 20 minutes if using sliced chicken breast.

Taste the sauce and add sea salt to taste if needed. Stir in the basil leaves and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and lightly coats the chicken pieces. 

Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with Thai jasmine rice and pickled sliced cucumbers (ajat; recipe below) on the side.

 

Kaeng Som Curry paste:

  • 7 dried red chilies
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 red shallots, peeled and minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons Thai shrimp paste
  • ½ inch knob galangal, peeled and minced
  • ½ inch knob ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, ground
  • ¾ teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 2 inch piece lemongrass (inner white part only) minced
  • ½ inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated (or 1 teaspoon powder)
  • 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

Soak the chilies in hot water until soft and drain. Slice open lengthwise and remove most of the seeds and mince.

Place the minced chilies in a mortar along with the salt, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste. Grind until the ingredients form a paste. Then add the galangal, ginger, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, lemongrass, and turmeric. Grind until the paste is relatively smooth. Add the fish sauce and grind until incorporated.

Set aside for immediate use, or place in a jar and refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

 

Ajat (pickled cucumbers) Prepare ahead.

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 red or green fresh chilies, seeded and cut into thin slices ½ inch in length
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • water to cover

Place the sliced cucumbers, shallots, and chilies in a nonreactive bowl.

Place the sugar, vinegar, and salt in a small sauce pan and heat until the sugar and salt is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool and then pour over the cucumber mixture. Add enough water to just cover and stir to combine. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for several hours.

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