Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I like ethnic cooking: Thai (etc.) dinner at home!

If I really want authentic, well-prepared food from most of the world's great cuisines - I trust the experts to make it for me at a good restaurant run by chefs from the country of interest.

But while I don't want to sound vain here, I really enjoy trying to reach a reasonably close imitation of a world of ethnic fare at home.  Luckily, between the Internet and Louisville's growing ethnic diversity through immigrant and refugee communities, we have access to more information, and more good ingredients, than ever before.

I can hardly look at a fresh green bean any more, for instance, without thinking right away, "Hey, I could make a Thai red or green curry out of that!"

Indeed, I've developed a pretty standard procedure for this curry, subject of courst to little changes every time I make it.  Tonight, for example, I did something like the Thai green bean cashew cream curry I made a few weeks ago, but mixed things up with some significant differences:  I added small dice of extra-firm tofu to kick the protein up a notch, and used coconut milk (yeah, from a can, so sue me) in place of the homemade cashew cream that I used last time.

The basic procedure, however, remains simple:

  1. Veggie ingredients: Cut fresh green beans into 1-inch lengths and blanch them in salted water until crisp-tender or a little past. Drain and set aside. Slice about 1/2 of an onion and mince a good quantity of fresh ginger and fresh garlic fine. Peel and cut up a fresh tomato, retaining the juices.  
  2. Cut 6-8 ounces extra-firm tofu (half of a standard box) into small dice. 
  3. Pour a small (6-ounce) can coconut mile into a measuring cup and whisk in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste (available at Lotsa Pasta and ethnic specialty stores) and about 1 teaspoon soy sauce.
  4. Brown the onions in a wok or skillet; add the garlic and ginger with salt and pepper to taste and a shake of dried red-pepper flakes to taste.  
  5. When the onions, garlic and ginger are well browned, reduce heat to medium and stir in the chopped tomatoes and their juice.  Then add the tofu, then the green beans, and finally the coconut milk. 
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let everything cook together until the flavors blend and the sauce is thick.  Check and adjust seasonings to taste, and serve with steaming white rice and, if you like, a salad.