Well, many will say that there are certain types of foods that you can’t ever hope to make at home with any success, one of them being Thai food. But nay, friends! I say it ain’t so.
So, you think you can’t cook Thai? I disagree. Here are a couple of important Thai sauces that will make you excited about venturing into these un-traveled recipes. I started cooking the peanut sauce first just by looking at the ingredients on the back of a store-bought jar of Thai peanut sauce. Granted there are all kinds of ingredients that are foreign there—guargum, asparta what? But, take the ingredients that mean something to you and it will be alright.
Here’s what you do. Sautee onion (you could go green or yellow) and garlic in a pan with olive oil. I like to add fresh green beans, but you could choose other veggies. For example, if you wanted to make a yellow curry, I would suggest potato and green pepper. But, for the red curry, I like green beans. Snow peas work very well, too. Red and green bell peppers. Eggplant. Bamboo shoots are always good. Choose your mix. Sometimes I also add stir fry cut steak (you can buy it this way or do it yourself). Then add a can of Masaman red curry paste (it’s a product of Thailand and spicy) and mix it in with the veggies you’ve chosen. Now, this is not cheating in my book because making a curry paste from scratch would require buying fresh lemongrass and other spices and grinding them up together by hand. No one has time for that. So, buy the can at Whole Foods or any other major grocery store.
Once you’ve mixed that in, add two cans of coconut milk, mmmm. Shake well before opening. Add a couple of splashes of fish sauce—I know this sounds disgusting, but it really is the secret weapon of a lot of Thai dishes. Add fresh basil (thai basil if possible, and as much as you can spare). Salt. Let this simmer for a half hour or so (the fish sauce smell will go away, I promise). If you like it more oily than creamy, don’t hold back with the EVOO. At the same time you’re concocting your sauce, cook some brown rice (hypoglycemic’s choice). When the rice is done, serve it in a bowl and ladle the sauce on top.
Oh boy! This one’s a bit harder, but worth the effort. It’s more to the taste than the red curry. Find some natural peanut butter, sans the sugar. Mix this with olive oil (or you could use peanut oil, but since it involves peanut butter, I figure the olive oil keeps me living a little longer). Add water (quite a bit to thin it out). Also add fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic (finely chopped), and let simmer at a very low heat. Other potential additions are red pepper flakes and I’m sure sugar is a common ingredient, but I can’t eat it, so not in my recipe. This stuff can burn easily in a pan so watch out and cook slowly.
At the same time, sautee veggies in a separate pan, and again I think green beans are an excellent choice, or asparagus with bamboo shoots, bell peppers, scallions, etc. Or, to state the obvious, you can also add meat to this–the world’s your oyster. In the end, you’ll have a creamy peanut sauce to pour over your veggies/meat and bed of rice or rice noodles.
Another tip: you can also mix these two sauces for a peanut red curry. Make the sauces separately and then add some of your homemade peanut sauce to your red curry mix to get twice the reward.