Sunday, September 14, 2008
Thai Food Is Spicy.
I used to live in Thailand. I loved the food--aside from shockingly horrendous school lunches and a few too-spicy meals. There was a "restaurant" (using the term loosely) on the compound where I lived. The cook's name was Lek, which means small, which she was. Though tiny, she was spunky and spicy. I learned my lesson (ZIP code 46032 on the link) quickly with her food. She and her daughter taught me how to order food that wasn't hot. (It's pet nit-noi, and never forget it). I ate Lek's food just about every night of the week. I had a few staples; green curry was one of them. It's got a bit of a kick to it, but without the chilis, the cocoanut milk adds a savory and creamy element. It's all my favorite spices and herbs mixed together: cumin, coriander, garlic, cilantro, etc. Lek and her daughter Phet also taught me how to order food with proper pronunciation--probably just about the only thing I can pronounce correctly in Thai--ask me, I am an ace at pronouncing green curry with chicken (you'll be more impressed than you should be). Everyone makes green curry a bit differently. It's really hopeless for me to try to immitate Lek's most delicious version. But I had to attempt because Lek would add (when available) butternut squash to the usual mix of vegetables. I have never ever seen green curry with squash. I'm pretty sure I never will. But it is fantastic. Prior to living in Thailand, I had been completely unaware of the versatility of certain vegetables, namely eggplant, mushrooms and squash. I knew if I wanted squash and eggplant in my green curry, I had to make it myself. I followed fairly closely to a recipe by Tyler Florence. However, I could not find any kaffir lime leaves in this fair city. I tried Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, along with Indian, Oriental and a Mediterranean independent grocers. It's likely that Thai Kitchen carries it. I'm not going to include my proportions of vegetables, but I sauteed onions, peppers, those baby corns and eggplant (not on Ty's recipe). I actually used acorn squash, as that seems to be more available at the grocery stores right now. The skin/shell/whatever-you-call-it is pretty thick, and I ended up cutting it in half and roasting it in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper beforehand. I only used half the squash (expect to see the rest of the squash in a different dish later this week). I sauteed it with the rest of the vegetables. I did not use Ty's curry paste recipe--I bought some at the store. If I was to do it again, I would definitely make it from scratch because the store-bought paste was spicy. Seriously. Megan and I started out drinking wine and added water and milk to sate the hot-factor. (Not a particularly good combination). My nose was running a little bit even. It really was good, but I hate how spiciness overpowers the rest of the flavors. So now we have some extra green curry that I don't think I can finish.