Investigating: Asia – Thailand

I have always loved Thai food and consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of Pad Thais, Green Curries and all things satay. My earliest memory of eating in a Thai restaurant is as a 12 or 13 year old in a place in Henderson, Auckland, ordering Spicy Peanuts, requesting them to be ‘Thai hot’ and the waiter bringing me 6 litres of water to avoid a conflagration at one of his tables. Those were some damn spicy peanuts alright.

Thai Green Curry

250 g Tofu cut into slices (about 4x2cm long and wide, 0.5cm thick)

2 tablespoons green curry paste
10 – 15 slices of bamboo
1 medium potato – diced
1 400g tin of coconut milk
6 mushrooms cut into quarters

Steamed vegetables
Snow peas

1 cup jasmine rice

I find tofu incredibly hard to cook well so I am trying a technique that I found here and I won’t combine it with the curry. Rather, the tofu will be served, with some soy sauce, sliced spring onion and a dab of sweet chilli, as a side dish. This will keep the flavours distinct and prevent the tofu from breaking up in the sauce and ruining my evening.

With no chicken or other meat to brown, and the tofu being cooked separately, the green curry paste, coconut milk and potatoes go straight into the pan, are brought to a gentle boil, then turned down to simmer.

Start cooking the rice about 15 minutes into the simmering of the curry and add the mushrooms and bamboo to the curry sauce. Chilli can be added to the pan now, or as a side to each individual plate depending on the tastes and tolerance of the people eating it.

Put the broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas on to steam for 10 – 15 minutes.

In another pan, using the method from the link above, gently pan fry the tofu until golden and crisp on the outside. In a small dish add a teaspoon of soy sauce and 3 or 4 of sweet chilli sauce, mix together. Clear any excess oil from the pan using a paper towel and toast a teaspoon of sesame seeds.

By now the rice and the curry sauce should be just about ready, check the potato and mushrooms are tender and remove from the heat. Check the steamed vegetables are tender and remove from the heat.

Serve into bowls or onto plates, place the broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas on top and serve the tofu as a side dish with the sauce spooned over it. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the tofu. Slice about an inch of a spring onion thinly and sprinkle these over also.

The results of the Thai green curry are infinitely more impressive and edible than the vegetarian curry and I feel myself swell with pride as I taste it. Of course I can pick many holes in it, so here goes.

Under advisement I added a diced sweet potato to the curry along with the diced potato and although they are a little too soft, the effect is still delicious overall. The lesson here is listen to your girlfriend when she suggests the addition of sweet potato. Another is don’t leave pan unattended to goof around with your girlfriend because it will boil over and make a huge mess, as well as cook the ingredients too quickly. That is the only gripe I have with the curry, the mushrooms are tender but still require teeth, the bamboo is as bamboo usually is, fibrous and fairly tasteless, it just makes the dish look more authentic. As I type this I remember the baby corn I have in the bottom of the fridge, regret has washed over me thinking about how much that could have improved it. Oh well. I am sure even the most snooty gros bonnet has forgotten an ingredient from time to time and baby corn is hardly the most glaring omission. After-all, it’s *baby* and hard to spot in the fridge.

The tofu on the other hand is tough as leather and more of a tofu jerky than the crispy-skinned-soft-inside delight I had anticipated. I think the following measures are required – less frying time, thicker slices and thinner sauce to give moisture back to it. I also completely forgot the spring onion, but that would hardly have saved it from being the element of the dish that plunges me into despair, it would have made it more cheffy looking however, and therefore increased my embarrassment as Marion and I tried to chew through the wood chips formerly known as tofu. The spring onions were definitely left out on purpose. The best tofu I can remember is at a place called Selera in Auckland and there is something awesome they put on it. Perhaps it is the fabled ‘awesome sauce’. They have it cut into large(ish) cubes and the outside is crisp, but has the tensile strength of custard skin and the inside is soft and moist. Mine could not be further away from this ideal. The method I link to above, while not entirely to blame, says 3 – 4 minutes each side on a medium heat. I would alter this to a high, searing heat and 1 – 1.5 minutes in total, moving it around to seal it. Without moisture, tofu is just rubber. Or leather. Tough.

Rice. Perfect. No modesty, no refunds, no returns.

Steamed vegetables could have been left for perhaps one or two minutes longer, but overall very good. I like the idea of steaming the vegetables separately, it gives me more control over their tenderness and needing slightly longer is far more preferable to being mushy.

This was a far more successful recipe, compared to the vegetarian curry for a few reasons. Firstly, I had cooked Thai green curry before, albeit a chicken variation, and I had a grasp of how things would progress. Secondly, pre-chopping ingredients and getting everything laid out and ready to go helped immensely. I could act swiftly with everything I required to hand. Except the baby corn obviously, but I won’t dwell. Finally, it was easier. Thai green curry is delicious and there is not much that can be thrown at it to undo the pungent aroma and spicy, comforting flavour. Coconut milk will cover a multitude of sins and whether there is meat or no meat, many vegetables or few, baby corn or not, green curry paste and coconut milk is a winner.

As a leftover lunch, I wish there was more and it is possibly even more delicious than as a dinner despite the continued absence of baby corn and possibly because of the lack of hard, dry tofu chips, which seemed incongruous with the rest of the dish when all was said and done, like when when my mother would make a pizza with peas on it.

I award the dish thusly. 7/10.

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