Tom Yum Thai. Thai Place. Thai One On. Tommy Thai Smile. Sailors Thai. 5 Star Thaitanic. Thainatown. Thai Me Up. Thairiffic. The list goes on...
For anyone walking around Sydney, the ever expanding love for thai cuisine in this city becomes very clear. A trip down King St in Newtown is proof in the pudding - every second address is a Thai restaurant or takeaway. Signs baring sometimes terrible but mostly amusing Thai puns litter every food hub, every suburb has "their" thai restaurant, where the locals flock to for easy and delicious grub. Some may think this obsession with massamams and jungle curries may be getting out of hand, but I love it....hell, I encourage it. Where else would I find a filling, satisfying and fresh lunch special for only $7.50, with only a mere 5 minutes between ordering time and eating?
This desire for all things South-East Asian has lead to an abundance of supermarkets and fruit and veg shops now stocking up on essential ingredients that fifteen years ago would never have existed on our shelves. Palm sugar, fish sauce, kecap manis, thai eggplant, birds eye chillis, vietnamese mint, water chestnuts, thai basil, bamboo shoots, fried shallots and tamarind are now readily available for our thai hungry population. I live in an area where there is a huge Asian population and along with this comes amazing foodstores and restaurants that offer anything and everything. I am forever grateful for this, because although I could grab Thai for dinner every night sometimes I just want to make it at home.
And so I do, and you should too.
Sticky Pork on Broccolini
(adapted from The Complete Book of Modern Asian... this book is my Asian bible)
A yummy stick pork mince served with crunchy broccolini and spicy chillies.
1 tablespoon peanut oil
500g minced pork
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup kecap manis (thick, sweet, Indonesian soy sauce - subsitute for soy sauce which isn't as sweet so more sugar may need to be added)
1/2 cup lime juice
2 star anise
3 tablespoons fried shallots (you can buy these in jars in Asian specialty shops)
1/2 cup roasted and roughly chopped peanuts
2 big bunches of broccolini, steamed lightly
a handful of fresh coriander leaves
2 birds eye chillies, sliced thinly
Stir fry pork in peanut oil for a few minutes until brown. Add the garlic and ginger.
Meanwhile, in another smaller pan, combine sugar, fish sauce, kejap manis, lime juice and whole star anise. Keep heat on low until the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes until it's thick and has reduced a little bit.
To the pork, add the coriander leaves, roasted peanuts and chillies. Add a dash of soy sauce to the pork for seasoning. Arrange broccolini on a plate and mound the pork mixture ontop, remove star anise from sauce and pour over the pork and broccolini. Top with fried shallots, some roasted peanuts, some coriander leaves and extra chillies if desired.
Trout and Thai Basil Stir Fry
(adapted from Anna Gare)
A ridiculously easy stir fry with melt in your mouth trout, delicious aniseed-like Thai basil and crunchy water chestnuts. Don't be afraid of using trout - it is very similar to atlantic salmon but has a more toned down subtle flavour and great texture.
1/4 cup peanut oil
3 brown shallots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 birds eye chillies, sliced
1 small knob of ginger, grated
3 cups Thai basil leaves (some supermarkets but most fruit and veg stores sell this)
1/2 cup roasted and chopped peanuts
400g trout fillets
1 packet of bean shoots
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon kecap manis
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 can of water chestnuts, drained
Season trout fillets and grill skin side down in a very hot pan for about 3 minutes. Pop in a pre-heated moderate, oven for another 4-5 minutes. The trout should stay raw in the middle as it will continue to cook when added to the stir fry. Remove and leave to rest while you get on with the stir fry.
Add peanut oil to aa wok on high heat. Add shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies and fry off for a few minutes. Add the sauces and lime juice. Chuck in the bean sprouts, water chestnuts, thai basil and peanuts. Flake the trout into smallish chunks and add this to the stir fry at the very last minute. Garnish with extra thai basil, chilli and peanuts.
**I serve these dishes with jasmine rice that is steamed along with a knob of ginger and a few whole star anise just for added fragrance.