Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kaeng Keao Wan Kung

And I’m back. I never left, but got lazy, fashion week(s) happened, weather in Barcelona has been conducive to sitting around, and doing nothing, wanting to blame the government or something. I still need to write that letter, as today, mid-Spring, was in the 50s I think, but I didn’t want to depress myself by actually confirming it.

It has left me a bit of time to cook though, and nice warm and spicy things. Remember that Time Life series of cookbooks from the 70s that I just love? Well I got another one for Christmas and I finally put it to use. And then I made the same thing again because it was that easy and that delicious. This one is Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking. Honestly, when I got it I was expecting a little less Pacific and a little more Southeast Asian, because there’s almost an abundance of photos of crispy whole pigs with skewered pineapples sticking out of them, (heck, it even gives you a step by step diagram of “Carving a Roast Pig the Island Way”), but I’ve easily found many recipes that I’m ready to try.

I really wanted it for the Southeast Asia stuff, to expand my love of curries from India to other parts, and this book doesn’t fail at showing a different side to food that I pretty much have no idea about. I was happy to discover that there’s a Chinese shop here that has Cloud Ears, which after reading my handy glossary in the recipe booklet, I found out was a type of dried mushroom. That same glossary also taught me about ginger’s cousins, like laos, lengkuas, andkha, but unfortunately I couldn’t find those at the Chinese shop, so ginger had to suffice. And it did.

I chose to make a green curry. I’m mainly attracted to green foods over red, if we’re going to look at the food line like that. A nice green tomatillo salsa over a standard red tomato one? Of course. Basil pesto rather than ragu? Obviously. Green curry and not red? Now you get the hang of it…

I am a shrimp lover, but I almost never order it out here because a)it usually comes whole, meaning shell, head, antennae, everything, and I hate peeling my food while I’m supposed to be eating it, and b) it’s pretty expensive, especially for a coastal city where you think it shouldn’t be that hard to get. But I’ve found a couple seafood stands in the Boqueria Market (if you don’t know what that is, shame on you) that have normal sized shrimp for 10euro/kilo. None of this miniature-lobster like langostinas that I’m not even sure how to prepare and is more than twice the price, but good ole shrimp that I’m used to, and for about 5 euros, I can feed three people with it.

So I pinpointed the Green Shrimp Curry recipe and went to town. The reason it’s so easy is because you make the green curry paste yourself, which keeps in the fridge for at least a month , and then when the time comes to make the curry, you basically throw the paste in a pan with some coconut milk, shrimp, and ginger (or ginger’s cousin). I loved making the paste because I (or my parents) had just bought myself (or me) a new hand-blender with attachments to a mini-food processor and a whisk. Let me tell you, I love that little baby processor, and it’s actually not too small, but not too big, just the right size. Fits in my cabinets and holds the perfect amount of hummus or what have you. And the whisk ain’t bad either, she’s got some kick in her. Back to the curry though.

The worst part of it was deveining all those little shrimp, but as long as I don’t have to dip my hands into my bowl of food at the dinner table, I’m much happier. And, there were leftovers. We also had some corn tortillas and avocados handy, so I decided to be very coastal Mexican and make shrimp tacos. Also delicious.

Kaeng Keao Wan Kung (Thai)

Green Shrimp Curry

adapted from Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking (I changed things like making your own coconut milk. You can thank me now)

Serves 4-6

1 ½ lbs medium-sized uncooked shrimp

3 c coconut milk

2 Tbsp green curry paste (recipe follows)

1 Tbsp kachai, pulverized or finely chopped/grated (or ginger if you have never heard of kachai, like myself)

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp fresh hot green chili strips (I omitted this and enjoyed the spice as was)

Cilantro and lime to garnish

Shell the shrimp and devein them. Wash with cold water, pat dry, and set aside (in the fridge if it’s going to be a while).

In a heavy saucepan, heat one cup of the coconut milk until it boils and then simmer and stir until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup. Add the green curry paste and the kachai/ginger, and cook briskly, still stirring from time to time, until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Add the shrimp and turn them about with a spoon for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are firm and pink. Stir in the remaining 2 cups coconut milk and the fish sauce and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and garnish with cilantro and lime juice.

Serve at once from a deep heated platter or large bowl. Kaeng keao wan kung is traditionally accompanied by hot boiled rice (which I did, good to soak up all the sauce).

Green Curry Paste

makes about ½ cup

6 fresh green chilies, each about 2 inches long

2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots or scallions

1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic

1 Tbsp sereh (lemongrass’s cousin, of course)

1 Tbsp shrimp paste

1 tsp laos (ginger’s cousin)

1 tsp coriander seed, finely ground

1 tsp finely grated lemon peel

1 tsp salt

Wash the chilies, then stem and seed them (if you want really spicy, leave the seeds in). Slice them into rounds. In your mini-food processor (or whatever you may have), combine all the ingredients and pulse until well-combined, scraping down the edges as needed. Tightly covered and refrigerated, the paste may be safely kept for a month or so.

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