I’ve been cooking a fair deal of Thai style dishes over the past while. I love the combination of creamy coconut, chilli heat, lemongrass freshness, fish sauce saltiness and the bite of a nice bit of lime. Add to that the delight (or disgust) of a handful of coriander and whatever meat or fish is going to act as the carrier and one has the perfect Thai delight. Or do you? I have wondered for a long time about cooking in banana leaf. What would it add? It looks the business. But will it make my dish any better? Let’s find out.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a brace of wild trout recently and decided to cook them in an Oriental style. This caused a bit of a of stir (not a stir fry) at home. The rational used by my detractor (the Wife) was that as they were such a fine pair of fish, they could be let stand on their own merits and there was little need to “Mess around with them with all those ingredients”. Under normal circumstances, I would be the last person to go against the views of the Wife. But, I really wanted to make the most of these delightful ingredients. I pressed ahead and hoped against hope that I would turn out a delicious dish. Wild trout is a delicate fish and needs to be treated in the same way as one might treat an argument against the instincts of the Wife. That is, proceed with caution.
Here’s a little adventure into the worlds of Thai flavours and video. I will be smoking some salmon over the coming couple of weeks and while I was thinking about doing something “different”, I thought doing something with a bit of Thai flavour might be fun. I took the trouble to shoot a bit of footage to show the process. I have been utilising video in my business over the past few months and thought that I might apply it here on the blog too.
While thinking about this recipe, I got to consider my storyline. It should be an easy one to write. Halibut is my favourite fish and right now, I am having a great time with many of the Thai flavours that bring out the very best in fish. With very little thinking done, I hit upon “curry favour”. I could easily bend that around to “favourite curry” and have a play on words. This would be easy.
“Ray Spines”, sounds like the name an author might inflict on a dodgeball insurance salesman who wears a Hawaiian shirt and a pork pie hat. His long suffering wife would have to be called Barb and he would have a minor role in a particularly gruesome murder mystery. That’s one Ray Spines for you. My ray spines are a different kettle of fish. Let me back the boat up a bit.
There are things that I love about food descriptions and things that I hate. In Oriental cookery, many of the descriptions are truly evocative and allude to history and culture in equal measure. Great examples include “General Tso’s Chicken”. This evokes thoughts of the great Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. That’s as far as it goes as there is no known connection to him or the dish in his home province of Hunan. This dish is punching above it’s cultural weight as it really is just a sweet, sticky American chicken with rice. Then we have “Man and Wife Beef”, “Squirrel Fish” and the classic “100 Year Old Egg”. Great names all. But, sometimes possibly going wide of the trade descriptions act.
This little delight might just as well be titled “Mantis Prawn V Monkfish – The battle of the uglies.” In truth, I had intended doing Mantis Prawns and Black Beans”. Never having cooked the crusty, ugly little crustaceans before, I didn’t reckon on them being so difficult to cook. The cooking bit is pretty easy (boil the blighters). But, getting the meat out of the shells proved to be impossible.
Try saying that with a few drinks on board. “Tongue Numbingly Wonderful Sichuan Pepper Prawns” is a bit of a mouthful, in more ways than one. This is a really easy dish to prepare. There are very few ingredients and it is an absolute delight. I can only encourage you to try it. But, be warned, those Sichuan peppercorns will literally numb your tongue.
It’s a while since I have posted something from further east than Howth (A fishing port on the far side of Dublin Bay). This is a slight variation on a classic, served in some of the best Oriental restaurants around. It is not dished up in the average Chinese where the height of culinary ambition matches the diners’ desire for a gooey sauce and a slice of pineapple with their sweet and sour chicken balls. This dish has finesse. It has class and refinement. It does not go well with beer and it will never become a post-pub favourite in the way that chicken chow mein or prawn curry with fried rice have. This is a good thing.
Just in time for the Chinese New Year, I could have titled this “Extremely Easy Oriental Part 1”, had I thought about it a bit more. At the risk of paraphrasing Jamie Oliver, this is a 30 minute meal. In this instance, the 30 minutes includes eating time. The star of the dish is the tamarind. On a recent trip back to Ireland, my brother who lives in Dar es Salaam, brought me a supply. Not that Dar is in the Orient. But, it’s easier to find there than here.