Friday, August 27, 2010

Thai Beef Eggplant Salad

If someone told you to eat eggplant because it's good for you, what would you do with it? I've tried regular globe eggplant and it just doesn't taste that good to me. I've tried frying it, stuffing it, dicing it and adding it to casseroles and it has always fallen a bit short of my expectations.

In my Thai cooking class, we made this dish using the thin Japanese eggplants. I've never eaten those before. And believe me, I was skeptical because my past eggplant experience was sketchy.

But we made it, we all ate it and I was in utter disbelief! Eggplant that really tasted good! Even my husband liked it and he doesn't like regular eggplant at all. OMG! This is now one of my new favorite recipes. I even shared it with Grandma Rose.

Pla Nuea Makreua Orn
3 small Japanese eggplants
canola oil for frying
1 lb beef tenderloin (same as filet mignon)
1 Tablespoon sliced shallots
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
juice of one lime
2 - 5 bird's-eye chilis
ground black pepper

1. Slice the eggplant into thin rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. Fry in the hot oil until both sides are golden brown to your liking. Eggplant will absorb the oil, so don't overfill the pan with oil to start, just about 1 or 2 Tablespoons. Don't be shy to add more oil as they cook. I like to drizzle it in on the hot side then tilt and swirl the pan to distribute it. Transfer cooked slices to your serving bowl.

2. Slice your beef to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.  Season both sides generously with black pepper and salt.

3. Once all the eggplant slices have been cooked, add a little more oil to the pan and get it hot enough so it sizzles when the meat is added.  Quickly fry the beef on both sides, only about 2-3 minutes on each side.  You want it to stay a little rare and tender.

4. Transfer the cooked beef to a cutting board and slice into strips. Add sliced beef to the bowl of eggplant.

5. Add a tiny bit of oil to the pan if it's dry, maybe only a teaspoon, and add the shallots. Stir just to wilt the shallots and absorb some of the beefy residue from the pan.  Add this to the bowl of eggplant and beef. 

6.  Slice the chili peppers into tiny thin rounds, keeping the seeds.  If you like this very mild, use only 2 chilis, for little more heat, use more, up to 5 chilis.

7. Prepare your dressing of fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Mix well to dissolve the sugar. Add the chilis. Drizzle over the eggplant and beef mixture.  Toss well.

8. You can let this dish rest while you  prepare others because it's delicious hot or at room temperature.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thai Red Pork Curry

I recently attended a cooking class just for Thai food. I think unless you have a real talent for exploring ingredients, it can be beneficial to have someone show you what to use or how to use it. I've been to Asian markets before and wandered around wondering what exactly was that stuff in a jar. Then, I pretty much only bought things I could recognize without having to read the wrapper, like rice, noodles, produce, or certain condiments.

Thankfully, being told name brands to look for also makes a huge difference. My cooking instructor suggested Three Crabs Fish Sauce.  If you can't read the label, at least you can find one with 3 crabs. But then at the store, they also have Five Crabs Fish Sauce. Seriously? Is 5 better than 3? I went with 3 because that is what she told me.

My instructor pointed out one thing about Thai food is that it requires a lot of prep work, but cooks up quickly. She said it's really perfect for busy weeknight dinners if you can get the prep work done in advance. All you'd have to do it toss the ingredients in a pot. Cooking time is really fast, maybe 20 minutes if you are slow. This curry only took me 15 minutes of actual cooking time.

Gaeng Ped Moo
1/2 cup coconut cream, I used Chaokoh
1 Tablespoon prepared red curry paste, I used Mae Ploy
3/4 to 1 lb pork tenderloin
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk, I used Chaokoh
2 Tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
1 small red chili, like Fresno or Habanero
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, (regular basil is OK too) sliced into fine ribbons, Chiffonade style

1. Slice the pork into thin 1/2 inch strips.

2. Cut open the hot pepper. Lay it flat and carefully remove the seeds and white inner ribbing membrane. Discard that stuff.  Mince the remaining pepper flesh. If you don't like much heat, use half a pepper.  If you like more heat, use it all.

3. In a frying pan, bring the coconut cream up to a boil. Add the curry paste and mix well. 

4. Add the pork.  Stir regularly to keep the sauce from getting overcooked while getting the pork cooked through, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, salt, sugar, lime leaves, and chili pepper to the pan.  Stir to incorporate then bring up to a simmer to heat through.

6. Remove from heat. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with the finely sliced basil leaves.  You could add additional chili pepper or sliced green onion if you like. 

7. Serve with jasmine or basmati rice to soak up the curry sauce. Just a note on the rice,  you will need to start cooking the rice before the curry so it's ready. You can let finished rice rest in the pot with the lid on and heat off while you cook this.