November 11, 2008

Thai Town

As the weeks have past here in Italy, I have begun to realize that as much as I love a good Italian meal, you just can't have it seven days a week. So I started to wonder where I could find some other ethnic food, besides the massive amounts of risottos, raviolis, manicottis, etc. Looking through the grocery store in Italy, I realized that Italians really don't even eat anything else besides Italian. I have yet to see any other food places besides Italian cafe's, Italian trattoria's, Italian restaurants, Gelato shops, etc. Italians do have some of the best food in the world, but really how do they eat it 7 days a week and 365 days a year? Well I guess when you grandma and mother both are Mama Mia's, then there really isn't much to complain about is there?! So my quest for ethnic food began about a month ago. I searched high and low in all the nearby Italian grocery stores before the light bulb finally went off. Italians may only eat Italian food, but Austrians eat everything! So I drove out to the store in Austria and was delighted when I found an ethnic food section full of Indian sauces, Thai curries, rice noodles, tacos, and the list goes on and on. I decided my first creation would be something Thai, as I miss that food more than anything. I ate Thai almost every week this summer because it is very Celiac friendly. I was more than overjoyed that I could sit down in a restaurant and eat most of the same dishes as my neighbor. So standing there in the store I decided I would get a green curry paste, that of course I made sure was GF, some bamboo shoots, coconut milk and some red curry paste for later. My inspiration for this first dish comes from the Thai restaurant that I frequented every week in Alaska. They make a mean green curry chicken there and I miss it like crazy. I have made this dish three times now and after playing around with the amount of curry versus chicken broth I think I have it mastered.

Green Curry Chicken

~1 can regular or light coconut milk
~2-3 teaspoons green curry paste GF
~1/2-1 cup bamboo shoots
~1 lb chicken, chopped or Shrimp, cleaned and de-veined(uncooked)
~1/4-1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth GF
~3-5 fresh basil leaves
~Fish Sauce GF (optional)
~1-2 tablespoons olive oil
~dash of sesame oil

In a large saucepan add olive oil and cook chicken until it is almost done. Remove chicken from the saucepan and place aside. Add the curry and the sesame oil to medium heat and stir constantly. Add in a touch of coconut milk until it thickens a bit, and then dump the rest of the coconut milk in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and add in chicken broth (only 1/4 cup to start), return chicken and add bamboo shoots and simmer for 5-10 minutes. At this point you can also add fish sauce. I have yet to add fish sauce to my concoction over here, as I am still a little weary that the one I bought isn't gluten free. So I have omitted the fish sauce and believe that the chicken broth gives it the necessary salty taste and that you really don't even need the fish sauce. You can also taste the sauce at this point to see that it is spicy enough for you, if not add more curry. If it isn't salty enough, add more broth. Once the dish is almost done tear the basil leaves and add them to the sauce, simmering for a couple more minutes. I personally like to serve this over basmati rice.

Now if you are using shrimp, do not add the shrimp until you have made the sauce and placed the bamboo shoots in it, as the shrimp only takes about 4-5 minutes to cook. Once the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, add the shrimp and cook until pink all the way through. If you are using cooked shrimp, cook them for about 3 minutes in the sauce to reheat them. The sauce will not be thick, and you do not want to reduce it. It is meant to be thin and delicious so that it is a soupy mix when poured over rice.

My next recipe is inspired by the restaurant Ginger located in downtown Anchorage. If you are a huge Thai fan, you absolutely must go and try their red curry beef! It is the best I have ever tasted, and as with the green curry, I miss it dearly. However, I was able to concoct something that I believe is very comparable.

Red Curry Beef

~1 lb stir fry beef or strips, cut them into thin strips
~2-3 teaspoons red curry paste GF
~button mushrooms, chopped
~1 can coconut milk
~1/2 -1 cup spring onions thinly chopped
~Dash sesame oil

Cook the beef in a saucepan until almost done. Remove from the pan and remove excess grease. Add the sesame oil and curry paste and stir continually while adding in a couple tablespoons coconut milk. Once this mixture becomes slightly thickened, add more coconut milk, thickening each time until the whole can is added. The sauce at this point does not have to be completely thickened. Add mushrooms and chicken back to sauce and heat over a higher heat than that of the green curry chicken. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until sauce is reduced and thick. Spoon red curry beef over basmati rice and top off with uncooked chopped spring onions.

*Note: These two recipes are basic Thai recipes that can be changed in many ways. Feel free to substitute or even add in different vegetables. I, myself find that I enjoy less veggies in my Thai food and leave the excess amount of veggies for stir fry nights. However, everyone has a different palate and therefore adapt these recipes to your own palate; they are merely just a foundation meant to be tweaked and finessed. Enjoy!

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