Tag Archives: Thai food

Thai Stew with Sticky Rice Balls

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When 10-15 years ago a friend mentioned that she was making Thai stir-fry for dinner, I was immediately very interested and asked her how she did that. It’s more of a stew, actually, she said, and gave me a list of the ingredients and how she puts it together. Since then I have experimented a lot with her basic recipe, but let’s start with those simple fundamentals. Here is what she wrote:

A Thai curry is not exactly a stir-fry, but more like a stew. For a good beef curry, I would cube some chuck or whatever, add a can of green chiles, a chopped onion, some chopped garlic, some chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup of fish sauce, a Tbsp or two of sugar, and a can of coconut milk.

Stew it all together gl P1020803about an hour. For a much hotter sauce, you can use a Tbsp. or two of canned red curry paste. But I can’t stand the heat. For chicken, I would do basically the same thing, but use canned green curry paste. For a mild paste, put the chiles, onion, garlic and cilantro in the blender with a bit of water, and add that to the coconut milk and chicken. Don’t forget the fish sauce…it’s the salt.

That was when bought my first fish sauce. I always enjoy looking at the many brands in the store I go to. This photo is of the one I have in my cupboard currently. It’s hard to imagine that the flavor varies much; in any case, it’s not something I want to sample by the teaspoon, or even quarter-teaspoon.

Over the years I worked out my own basic recipe for this stew, which I see departed from my friend’s in several ways:

Thai Stew            

Put in a pot:

coconut milk – 1-3 cans
Thai curry paste – ½ to 2 T.
fish sauce – ¼ c.
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 Tblsp. sugar
beef chuck in cubes

Cook for 2 hours, adding water as needed; then add whatever vegetables you like. My favorites are:

red bell pepper

Cook until done. Adjust seasonings. Put some Sticky Rice in a bowl and ladle the stew on top.

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These are flexible amounts where given. You can make this with chicken, pork, fish, shrimp or tofu. Adjust the cooking times accordingly. You can also use part vegetable, fish or meat stock in place of part of the coconut milk, and use part or all soy sauce in place of the fish sauce. But the Thai curry paste (not expensive if you can find it at a Southeast Asian store), fish sauce and coconut milk make the Thai flavor.

I will igl P1020801nterrupt the string of recipes to talk about the rice. I do have another post in which I discuss the rice component, but just today I showed my housemate Kit how I make it, and that generated some more pictures for me to share.

When this stew first became part of my repertoire, I probably served it over sweet brown rice, but eventually I learned how to make the Thai Sticky Rice that really finishes off the exotic meal. I like to form it into balls while it is still warm; some go into bowls with the stew, and some are to serve on the side, for dipping into a mild coconut sauce.

One time I had three different brands of coconut milk in my pantry and when I opened them I noticed how different they looked and tasted, so I wrote down my findings; the calories listed below are per can. This week I added to my information card when I discovered the last brand, and now I have two favorites. I found them both at the Thai store, and also at Food Maxx, a dollar more expensive. I know many people will only be able to find the Thai Kitchen brand in supermarkets, but if you can locate an ethnic market to shop at even once a year you can save a lot on all these ingredients.

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After I wrote down that very flexible recipe above, I had occasion to gl P1020797create a fish stew for a crowd, on a Lenten “fish day.” I’ve done it three times now, and have this “new” recipe on its own card. I needed the stew to not be too spicy, so I switched to Yellow Curry Paste, the main ingredient of which is lemongrass instead of chiles. I like to get these pastes at the Southeast Asian store, where they cost only about $2 each.

Thai Fish Stew

Put in a soup pot and begin cooking:
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups water
4 teaspoons vegetable stock base
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons yellow curry paste
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 chopped onion

After this mixture has simmered for a while, add vegetables:
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1-2 bunches of green onions, sliced
1 large carrot

And whatever other vegetables you may like, however much you like. I have used bok choy, snow peas, sweet potato, butternut squash, mushrooms, sweet red pepper….

When the vegetables are just tender, add:
1-2 pounds of fish, in chunks
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
And simmer until the fish is opaque, just a couple of minutes. Serve over sticky rice. gl P1020787

This is the version of stew that I made yesterday to take to the family with a new baby and sickness in the house. It seemed to me that they might like something different from the usual chicken or lasagna. I made eight quarts, enough to keep half at home. This was the first time I used bok choy; I loved the yams in there, and noticed that the cilantro stems I hadn’t had time to remove had disappeared on their own. When the vegetables were almost done I took out half for us and put that in the fridge, and added pork to their pot.

Tonight I heated up our portion and added fish, and made another batch of rice. We made it all into balls, and ladled the stew over three of the rice balls in each bowl. The rice in the bowls quickly gets soft, but you can enjoy a still-chewy rice ball on the side dipped in a sauce.

Here is one version; you can experiment and make your own, varying the amounts and seasonings. This sauce can also be spiced up, all or in part, by the addition of extra curry paste. If your stew is mild but some people enjoy more heat, they can add spicy sauce to individual bowls.

Thai Coconut Sauce

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon yellow (or other) curry paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar

I hope if you try any of these foods you’ll let me know how it goes. Or maybe you already have your own similar recipes and methods you will share back. Now I should know some Thai phrase to close with, but lacking that, I’ll leave you with my wish that you will have “Good Eating!”
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Powerful Flavors and Memories

This afternoon Mr. Glad and I shopped for a pewter cup for our newest grandchild. My in-laws gave each of our children one when they were babies, and we’ve carried on the tradition with our grandchildren. After we made our choice of cup style and engraved letters, we wandered around the fancy stationery/gift store browsing expensive Christmas ornaments, multiple versions of Carl Larsson calendars, and ball-point pens.

Then back to the parking garage, through balmy evening air, so odd and dreamy. We were reluctant to go home to our wintry house, and briefly considered buying food downtown. Passing an outdoor cafe, my husband said, “Nice dog,” and I looked at the greyhound sitting there by a table and smiled behind me at him while I kept walking. Then, “Gretchen?” I heard, from the dining area, and I saw a woman getting up and coming toward me. I had already recognized her voice, though I hadn’t heard it for almost 20 years. E. is mother to two children who were among my day-care clients way back, my children’s friends, decorators of my walls and place-holders in my heart.

I have often wanted to get together to talk about those old times, and find out how the now-grown-up children are, and send them my love. Just this week I was thinking of one time when the mom needed to talk privately to me. We had to take chairs to a back bedroom and sit there in the middle of what looked like a hurricane disaster zone. Probably all the children were outdoors at the time finding polliwogs or on some other neighborhood adventure such as you can see in this photo. Her two children are among the ones pictured.

It turns out she has moved to another state, and is only visiting here briefly. Thank you, Lord, for arranging this meeting! We exchanged our info, so I hope we can talk later.

As we drove toward home and came near this market, we agreed to stop in. I took the picture in the daylight once, but tonight in the dark I could see it was still open. We went in and were greeted by a pervading fish sauce smell. I like it well in my Thai dishes, but filling the store–not much. I was trying to just pick up one item and get out of there, get home to cook, but it is another place that keeps you looking at all the many fascinating things you don’t end up buying.

I saw the bags of MSG, giant rice papers, rice crackers and twenty types of noodles in cellophane packages. But I snatched up my tapioca flour and we skipped over the other inviting aisles to the produce section. There are usually some very nice vegetable offerings, and we carried a couple of them up front and waited meekly behind the person checking out.

“If you drink Red Bull, you have got to know this is the original stuff!” A tall man with long pale kinky hair had come up behind and was waving some brown bottles.  “Whenever I can, I come in here and buy this–it’s way better than Red Bull! Much more powerful, and cheaper, too!” He smiled broadly in his excitement to share his discovery with us, revealing black holes where teeth must once have been.

So thrilled, he didn’t notice our laden arms, and stepped forward to put his brown tonic bottles on the counter and pay. It didn’t take long before he was striding out. As the cashier tallied our purchases I said, “I don’t think he needs any Red Bull, Asian or otherwise.”

Today I went through my back stock of spices and herbs, sorting and consolidating and putting many little bottles and bags aside for my daughters. Another thing of my past, after the day care business, was the food co-op business, and in the years when I had hundreds of pounds of rice, flour, yogurt and teabags piled in my garage every month or two, I found that I could buy a pound of spice for the same cost as 2 2-oz bottles.

Most of the time these flavorings came in foil bags that preserve the freshness very well. Often four or eight of us would split a pound. If, as the experts would tell me, the potency was diminished over time, why, I could just throw in a bit more of the oregano or whatever. Today, though, I threw quite a bit out, into the garden. I don’t make 20-quart pots of soup anymore, and some of the herbs, especially, had lost all their savor.

Soon I’ll share a recipe that helps me use many different spices, and a lot of them, at one time. This is a sneak preview.