I have to admit, I sometimes feel like Marco Polo when I visit an international food market. I imagine that I am a gallant adventurer, in search of spices and treasures from distant lands. There are so many strange and wonderful things to see, most of which I know little or nothing about. Fortunately, I almost always find a friendly proprietor that is happy to answer my questions and will guide me through the store, politely pointing out interesting things.
“Tell me about ghee,” I might ask. “Is it like clarified butter?” And then I might ask about the several different varieties of rice on a shelf and ask what properties they have that make them appropriate for some dishes but not suitable for others. Invariably, during my visit, I will reach a point where I run out of intelligent questions or the proprietor will begin to fidget and will look for a way to carry on with whatever they were doing before I captivated so much of their time.
It’s usually around that moment that I feel a sudden desire to return to my homeland, to share my stories and show my new treasures. I gather a few exotic wonders and pack them away in my sack, bid a fond farewell to my congenial friend, clasp my cloak about my neck and prepare for the arduous journey back home.
Ok, it’s really just a fifteen minute drive through a light drizzle that dampens the city streets but I like to believe that I am hoisting the sails of my sea bound schooner and that I am preparing to batten down the hatches, at a moment’s notice, in case the stormy seas start to surge.
I know the trade routes like the back of my hand and, in due time, I return to the happy harbor of my home. And that’s when the fun really begins…
Coconut Chicken Curry with Pesto Sauce
1 ½ tsp salt
1 Japanese eggplant
1 Tbs olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1 lb chicken tenders (tendons removed)
¼ cup basil pesto sauce
juice of 3 limes
juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, sliced
1 Thai chili, sliced lengthwise
1 ½ Tbs chili powder
1 Roma tomato, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp Garam Masala
13.5 oz Thai coconut milk
3 green onions
Using a sharp kitchen knife, remove the white tendon that runs down the length of the chicken tender.
Cut the chicken into 1” pieces and place them in a bowl.
Add the pesto sauce, lime and lemon juice, sliced ginger, Thai chili and chili powder to the bowl and mix by hand. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Cut the eggplant into 1” pieces and add them to a mixing bowl. Mince one clove of garlic and add it to the bowl, along with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Spread the eggplant out on a parchment lined baking tray and roast in the oven at 400° for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant has browned a little. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
In a large skillet, sauté the onion and the remaining garlic for one minute, over low heat.
Add the marinated chicken and turn the heat up to medium. Stir the chicken while it cooks.
Once the chicken has firmed and turned white, add the sliced jalapeños and carrots. Stir frequently.
When the carrots begin to soften, add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan.
Add the Garam Masala, ginger, lime and lemon zest, lime and lemon juice. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato and eggplant and stir.
Cover the skillet and simmer at low heat for 15 minutes.
At this point, I tasted the broth and determined that the jalapeños were spicier than I had expected. I removed them and used them as a side dish, for anyone that wanted a little extra heat.
Add the coconut milk and mix with a spatula. Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Remove to a serving bowl and keep warm until serving time. Serve in bowls, over basmati rice.
Spicy Shrimp Noodles
1 lb shrimp (I used frozen shrimp, in the shell, de-veined)
2 Tbs basil pesto sauce
1 Tbs chili powder
2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbs cooking oil
12 Thai chiles
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ cup Asian stir fry sauce (I used General Tso sauce, but any kind will do)
1 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 ½ Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (or more, if you want it to be spicier!)
½ lb Vietnamese rice sticks
Put the shrimp in a large bowl. Add just enough water to cover the shrimp. Add the pesto sauce, chili powder and minced ginger. Quarter the lime and squeeze the juice over the bowl. Add the rest of the lime to the bowl. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Since I started with frozen shrimp, I marinated for one hour.
The rice sticks will need to soak in warm water for about 30 minutes, to soften. Vietnamese rice sticks tend to be very long so I broke them in half before soaking.
Heat a wok at high heat. Add the cooking oil and the chilies. Sear the chilies for about one minute, or until the outer skins begin to blister. Remove the chiles and set aside. I put them in a small dish to serve at the table.
Add the whole, unpeeled shrimp to the wok and stir-fry for one to two minutes. Remove the shrimp and allow them to cool before removing the shells and tails.
Set the shrimp aside and return the shells and tails to the wok. Stir the shells over high heat for about one minute, to extract their juices. Remove the shells and tails and discard.
Add the garlic to the wok and stir for about 30 seconds.
Add the Asian sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha. Turn the heat to low and stir to mix.
Drain the rice sticks in a colander and add the rice sticks to the wok. Stir to coat the rice sticks. Return the shrimp and mix briefly. Turn out to a serving bowl.