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I’d like to forward this recipe from a wonderful, compact Thai cookbook, and I’m sorry that I didn’t take photos.  I’ve mentioned this author in one of my cookbook gazetteers, a year or so back.  Eng Tie Ang published a modest volume of Thai cuisine in ‘Delightful Thai Cooking’, in 1990.

Fifteen years ago, I was happy to find her paperback title in a used book store in Minneapolis, which taught me how to shop for Thai recipe ingredients.  This was proved to be both complex and simple.  Fortunately we also have an excellent specialty Thai superstore in Minneapolis, http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2006/08/16/twin-cities-best-asian-markets

Gaeng Pet Gai (chicken curry)

4 T veg oil

10 dried red chilies, soaked, drained, chopped (I used Szechuan chilies and a hand-held food processor)

1 yellow onion chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

a 1″ dried, or 1 tsp ground galangal root (Kha, or galanga). It is sometimes referred to as Thai ginger in the local markets.  It’s also a stand-out flavor in a world-famous coconut chicken curry soup w straw mushrooms.  Do not be a stranger to this unfamiliar and beautiful spice.

1 trimmed stalk fresh lemon grass, cut into 2″ lengths (I also give them a good pounding w a wooden mallet before I slice them for cooking.  It brings all their beautiful perfume into the final dish.)

4 T fresh chopped coriander

1 tsp ground nutmeg (this ingredient caught me by surprise, but it’s good)

6 kaffir lime leaves (I used dried, but fresh is always better)

1 T ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt (I used a little less, and it was fine)

2 boned, skinned chicken breasts, in 1″ cubes (I used 4 whole thighs)

1 can bamboo shoot (6 oz), cut into fine shreds (I used an equivalent amount of shredded, sour young bamboo shoots)

one 14-oz can coconut milk

20 fresh Thai basil leaves

Heat oil in a medium sized pot, stir-frying the chilies, onion and garlic until they become highly fragrant.  Add galangal root, lemon grass, fresh coriander, nutmeg, kaffir lime leaves, ground coriander, cumin and salt.  Cook for a couple of minutes over med-high heat.

Add chicken and agitate for a minute or 2 before adding bamboo shoots (or bamboo shoot-kraut) and coconut milk.  Cover & simmer 20 min over low heat, until chicken is tender.  Fold in the Thai basil leaves, and serve over steamed white rice (of course Thai rice is recommended, but I use Basmati).

*if you use powdered or dried lemon grass -or galanga powder, add both during the last 10 min of cooking, according to Madame Eng Tie Ang

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photo courtesy C. Katt

An Indian menu for non-Indians:

Spicy, Pan-fried Fish Chettinad, from  Madame Jaffrey’s cookbook, ‘Flavors of India’ (Carol Southern Books, 1995)

Cauliflower/potato/cashew curry, adapted from *Joy

[* 1975, p 361-62, Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer, et al]

Fragrant rice (basmati) (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper)

Tea

Fresh Raita (also Jaffrey)

Paratha bread, from the local market & heated in the oven

Three Pickles:  Tamarind, bitter lemon, green mango

We ate ocean perch in a spicy marinade, sauteed,  with fragrant saffron rice, and cauliflower & potato curry with cashews, cooked in Ghee.  Also, various pickles, from bitter lemon, and hot mango-, to sweet tamarind.  Everything was brought together with a fresh mint and cucumber Raita.

Indian cuisine has close connections with The Ayurveda tradition, which means that food is also medicine, hewing closely to  Chinese beliefs.  Turmeric in particular is a potent purifying agent, and key to many basic curry blends.  Here are the recipes we used:

Spicy, Pan-Fried Fish Steaks Chettinad

For 2 fillets:

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

¼ tsp ground dried turmeric powder (very purifying)

½ tsp ground cumin (preferably roasted whole & ground)

1 tsp salt (or less)

3-5 tsp lime/lemon juice

An equal amount of water (I ignore this)

2 nice fish fillets, or steaks

2-3 Tbsp any good vegetable oil

Make a paste with all these ingredients and let the fish marinade in the paste for at least 15 minutes, up to 3 hours.  Eventually saute them 4-5 min on a side, depending on the thickness of the cut, It will be spicy, sharp and pleasant.

Fragrant Rice

1 c dry Basmati Rice (essential that it  is Basmati)

A 2” stick of true Cassia cinnamon, broken

One whole pod of cardamom- black or green- depending on your preference

Several (4-9) grains of Black Pepper

½” piece of fresh ginger

2 generous pinches of dried saffron

½ tsp salt (I often reduce salt proportions)

Rinse the rice in several changes of water, taking out the starch.  Then add a small can of coconut milk into a measuring cup, and add sufficient water for a total of 1-1/4 cups, and bring everything together up to a boil.  You can also substitute plain water with an equal measure of stock, for added richness and flavor.  Allow to simmer for an additional 12-14 min, with a lid over everything.  It’s done.  Let it relax before you fluff it all with a fork, and cover it with a tight lid, or some foil until service.

Cauliflower & Potato Curry

This is an adaptation of a preparation from *Joy.  I have taken liberties with a traditional recipe, but it is still very recognizable.  We used to prepare something very close to this at The Riverside Cafe, many years ago.

½ head cauliflower, de-stemmed & broken into medium florets

A large red potato, cut into generous cubes (maybe 1”)

Steam each vegetable separately until al dente and shock in cold water.  Drain.  This is a short-cut, but useful.

Meanwhile, add to a wok over medium-high heat:

2 Tbsp Ghee (clarified Indian butter.  It has a higher than average smoking point)

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp grated garlic

2 c minced onion

½ a jalapeno pepper, or one fresh red cayenne

(I spun the onions and fresh pepper in a food processor until it was a light pulp)

Add the cauliflower and potatoes to the mix and add:

1 big Tbsp good curry powder (I used a hot blend)

1 scant Tbsp all purpose flour

Stir-fry everything for 3-5 minutes, and then add:

1 small can of coconut milk

¼ cup chicken stock, or any good stock

½ tsp salt

½ cup broken roasted and salted cashews

Continue cooking until everything boils gently (important, because of the flour), stirring frequently.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and it will be ready to serve in about 4-5 minutes.

Raita

This is a cooling condiment, also improvised for our lunch:

½ peeled, de-seeded and coarsely grated fresh cucumber

2 Tbsp minced fresh mint

1-1/4 cups natural (plain) yogurt

½ tsp salt, to taste.

Whisk or stir all of the ingredients together.