I’m always set up for a basic Thai green curry

The chayote in the fridge should have been used a couple weeks ago, but there’s no time like the present. A Thai curry using curry paste is easy and quick to throw together, so I like to keep the ingredients around–at a minimum: coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and limes. Luckily I still had some cilantro and mint garnish from the nam Kao I picked up at Chai Thai Noodles after my home inspection.

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Just cook the curry paste in a bit of oil (I use coconut), add a couple tablespoons of the coconut cream floating on top of the coconut milk, and cook until the oils separate. I’ve found it is too difficult to get the coconut milk to crack with most commercial coconut milks (and all coconut creams I’ve picked up in the US contain stabilizers) so the oil plus coconut solids plus curry paste is a decent substitute. After the mixture appears oily, add any long-cooking vegetables or meats, in this case the chayote. Cook for a couple minutes, then add remainder of coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice (I was lucky enough to have some makruts in the bottom of the drawer, so I added zest and juice.) and a pinch of sugar. Cook until vegetables are nearly done, taste and adjust salt (fish sauce), acidity, and sweet (I’m a sweet hater, and my end result never approaches sweet, but I do find it is always better and more rounded with a bit of sugar (or palm sugar or agave syrup). Add quick cooking vegetables, like carrot slices and cook until done. I ended up not adding the tofu, though it was open and would work, as I’m rationing it for a time I’m even hungrier, after all, this has appetite-suppressing coconut milk.
Served over jasmine rich, of which I have a couple servings under 10 pounds and will certainly prevent me from going hungry during this experiment.

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Red curry pumpkin soup

I can't imagine anything more warming.

Yes, this does seem a bit out of season, but so does rain in the Bay Area in late June. I happened to have some roasted kabocha squash in the freezer, and I always have Thai red curry paste on hand, so I quick soup was just what I needed at the end of a long, rainy day. It is based of a true Thai dish, pumpkin red curry usually made with a kabocha-like squash and pork. This recipe is, in concept, that, thinned and blended smooth.

2 cups cooked winter squash or pumpkin
1-2 shallots, sliced
1-2 T red curry paste (I usually have a tub of Mae Ploy on hand)
a pinch of sugar (I use palm sugar, but that’s not necessary)
2 cups chicken broth
2 T fish sauce
juice of 1 -2 limes (or about 3 T prepared tamarind pulp)
1 can coconut milk

Cook the shallots in soup pot until they begin to caramelize. I used coconut oil, but any oil will suffice. Add curry paste and stir. I like things fairly spicy so I used more than 2 T, but 1 T will provide noticeable, but pleasant spice. When paste starts to become fragrant add some of the coconut cream from the top of the (unshaken) coconut milk can. For a true curry, I’d crack the cream (as described in the last paragraph here), but since this is a quick soup, cooking the paste in coconut oil then adding some of the coconut solids will have to suffice. After a couple minutes add the rest of the coconut milk and the pumpkin. If you had frozen pumpkin, like me, lid and cook until pumpkin is completely defrosted, otherwise cook for a couple minutes to bring pumpkin up to temperature. Add fish sauce, lime or tamarind, and 1 cup of broth. Blend with a stick blender and taste for saltiness, hotness, sweetness, sourness, and texture. If the texture is too thick add chicken broth and reblend until texture is slightly more liquid than desired. Balance with lime, sugar, fish sauce, or additional curry paste after dilution, then cook and additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and fresh herbs.

She Simmers’s Mu Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)

I can’t remember how it was I happened upon She Simmers‘s website, likely a robotic recommendation from twitter based on my other interests, but I can barely remember how I cooked Thai food before finding it, and I’ve only known about it for a few months.

Thai has always been one of my favorite cuisines to explore–I rarely tire of the bold, yet balanced flavors. It’s now been about twelve years since I began my quest to learn about the cuisine, plowing through Kasma’s recipes and lessons for taste balancing and purchasing ingredients, seeking out the best Thai restaurants and groceries New York had to offer, and working through many of David Thompson’s Thai Food recipes and descriptions. I’ve learned how to balance flavors, roast shrimp paste, and pound some pretty decent curries, but it always felt like an excerise to me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the food and recipes, it just seemed like I was doing all the work–seeking out the dish I want to make, gathering the ingredients and equipment, and executing with nothing more than a picture, or some other non-Thai friends and family opinions on the result.  But somehow each post on She Simmers makes me want to make that dish immediately (like Kaeng Som, the Thai Sour Curry posted today) and provides a thorough guide as to how, with interesting asides about the Thai language and restaurant/vendor scene.

The recipe for the mu ping is here. I followed it pretty much exactly. I had long been puzzled what cut “pork neck” so common on Thai restaurant menus was, but Leela did the research to determine it is pork butt/shoulder. It is the best cut to use for these skewers. Country-style ribs also work if they are well marbled. They aren’t a well defined cut, as they are kind of between the baby backs and the shoulder.  The other secret, besides the marinade ingredients, was to baste with coconut milk while grilling. This kept the meat moist, and added a great flavor to the grilled meat. The first skewer was so delicious I ate it without any of the accompaniments, and allowed it to distract me from the second skewer, which I picture here, slightly overdone, but still delicious.

Mu ping on the grill, brushed with a bit of coconut milk.