I want to go to Thailand. Sometimes it seems that practically all my friends have already visited this very famous tourist-destination-neighbor of ours (one very good friend just got back). In fact, a lot of them are already off to less visited places around our little Asian block, while I have not even seen the major go-to points…places that are in my own backyard! Criminy.
They say people take for granted that which is familiar…and I suppose I am guilty. All my life I dreamed of far-off destinations, when some of the most exotic where right beside me (instead of a debilitating 18+ hour flight away), not to mention all the incredibly amazing places to visit right here (but that’s a whole other story)!
Ah Thailand! What secrets have you shared with everyone but me? When I go, will you be weary of visitors and have no gusto left for a latecomer? Will the cuisine I have heard so much about, whose flavor is incomparable to any of its replications in other countries, still lash out with the same power and heat to slay me? Will all your goodies still be as reasonably-priced? Wait for me Thailand!
Sigh...one day. Meanwhile, I pacify myself with homemade Thai curry.
I love Thai food (another reason I am itching to go!) but I have never really thought of making it at home. Until I saw these recipes on Rice and Noodles…Mae’s fabulous site of which I am a big fan. I combined some of her recipes, along with some others from my own cookbooks and this is what I came up with.
Thai Green Curry with Tilapia
(adapted from Mae’s recipes)
- 300 grams tilapia fillets
- 1 cup coco evap (Nestle coconut evaporated milk)
- 1 cup water
- One 50-gram package green curry paste (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 2 stalks of lemongrass (sliced 1 inch diagonally, crushed)
- 1/3 cup dried kaffir lime leaves (not packed)
- One onion, sliced
- 2 slices dried galangal
- 3 pieces calamansi (one for the curry and two for the fish)
- ¼ cup of dried holy basil
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Squeeze calamansi on the tilapia and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pot on medium heat.
- Fry the onions, lemongrass, and galangal until onions are soft.
- Add the curry paste and kaffir lime leaves and sauté a bit.
- Add the coco evap and water. Let simmer until flavors develop, about 20 minutes. Add fish sauce and calamansi/lime to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering, add the tilapia fillets. Stir (carefully! take care not to crush the fillets), cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the holy basil and stir (carefully!). Simmer a bit more then take off the heat.
The curry came out much better than I expected. I thought my first attempt at Thai cooking at home might not capture the full flavors that I expect of Thai food…plus I was using a lot of dried/not fresh ingredients. Well, I was pleasantly surprised that all those Thai flavors did come forward, without overpowering one another! It should still be tweaked to your taste though, depending on how spicy you like it. The tilapia fillets worked really well with this. They were just the right amount of tender and held the flavors perfectly.
I used dried kaffir lime leaves and dried galangal which I found in Spices 'n Flavours. This was before I found out that you can get fresh kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and holy/Thai basil from Gil Carandang's Herbana Farms stall at the Salcedo Saturday Market. I have, since then, also found fresh galangal at Rustans Supermarket. My good friend who just came back from Thailand brought me back some kaffir lime leaves as well…in a very spiffy-looking blue tin! Thank you Gypsysoul! I will be using these next :)
I have yet to try Thai dishes in Thailand, which I am told is one of life’s amazing food experiences. Until then I have this...thanks Mae for always inspiring!
To try next time:
- Using fresh kaffir lime leaves/galangal/holy basil
- Adding fresh cilantro at the last minute
- Using real lime instead of calamansi (first I have to find some)
- Substitute the tilapia with prawns or chicken
- Adding a vegetable like kangkong or spinach or eggplant