Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bringing Southeast Asia To The American Southwest

This does not imply fusion cooking. This is about taking all that I learned at my cooking classes and putting them to use here.

One of the things that really excited me as I took the three classes during my trip was how fast one was able to make various iconic dishes. I suppose it makes sense if you live in broiling hot climate, you want food you can prepare quickly so you don't spend too much time over a hot stove.

We are blessed in our little hamlet of Albuquerque (okay 32nd largest city in US Albuquerque) that we evidently have a robust East and Southeast Asian population and we have a number of Asian grocery stores in town. One in particular is very large, has a very large selection of items and is convenient to where we live.

The key ingredients to a lot of the dishes from Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia are a series of curry or chile pastes. A number of these, particularly the Thai ones, you can buy ready made. Others you need to make yourself. Each of these pastes is in turn a combination of a number of ingredients but almost all have some combination of shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, tumeric, lemongrass, and chiles. Then there are other components you add that create the differences.

So I set aside this last weekend to making up a bunch of the pastes and freezing them.

Here's my haul from the local Asian market. In addition to all the stuff listed above there is Tom Yum paste, Tamirind extract, Thai apple eggplant, straw mushrooms and glass noodles. I also bought a heavy duty mortar and pestle. And I placed some of the cookbooks and recipes from our classes.

The essence of the paste making is pounding a whole bunch of rather tough plant ingredients until they break down.
Here's a batch of Malay curry paste about half way there.

Our teaches told us you could make this in a blender or food processor but the taste was better if you hand pounded at least 10 minutes before punting to the machine.
Here's a Cambodian curry paste for Amok after processing

Last night I put this to use and made Fish Amok.
The Cambodian curry, Amok versus the Malaysian curry like Redang are on opposite ends of the taste spectrum with the former being very light and the later being very robust. This comes not just from the curry pastes themselves but from the cooking technique as well.
Here's my Fish Amok cooking and served.

The Fish Amok took about a half an hour to make including cutting the vegetables

Looking forward to making some Malay style fried rice with chicken later this week with a salad. I couldn't find green papaya so I'm going to try it with kohlrabi.


Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

What a great stash of ingredients and pastes to have ready in the freezer!

alexis said...


JRR said...

in which the DI is seen continuing to run amok in the kitchen... we are on standby to consume the results....