Thai food can be a thing of beauty. Ugh, what a pretentious opening line. But it’s true. Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines, thanks in part to the bold, zingy flavors that often include lime juice, fish sauce, and a billion other spices mashed together into a curry paste. I already have two cookbooks (famously documented here) that do a great job of translating Thai food to the home kitchen. One would think I wouldn’t need to venture any further for a decent homemade curry. However, I noticed a curious recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty: purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles.
The “method” called for a Thai-influenced spice paste, which would then be added to coconut milk and used to form a curry. I was highly intrigued by it all, but also hesitant: Ottolengh, after all, is an Israeli-born chef currently residing in Britain. The pedigree doesn’t exactly scream Thai authority. But who knows? Maybe it should.
After the jump, check out my pics of this grand experiment…
We start with some pretty standard curry paste ingredients: galangal, chiles, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots. We also have some slightly off-brand items such as cumin and coriander. Intriguing…
I pack everything, including some cilantro and lime juice, into my mini Cuisinart, which has recently become a major nemesis of mine. Never mind that when I use it, the machine sounds like a scary, Japanese child-ghost shrieking the soul right out of your body.
Number one reason why this machine is my nemesis? Because this is how everything looks after 30 seconds of pulsing. Not cool.
Luckily I have my trusty Magic Blender still.
We have achieved paste.
A quick whiffs that this paste smells almost Thai. But something’s not quite right. Maybe it’s the cumin. Maybe it’s the lack of shrimp paste or dried shrimp. Nevertheless, it still smells good.
Oh hai, broccoli.
I’m supposed to cook purple sprouting broccoli, but I don’t have access to such fine things; so instead, I go with the standard green variety. Also, I’m supposed to boil these brassicas in salted water for two minutes. In my experience, however, boiled broccoli is nastay; so I toss these guys with sesame oil, salt, and pepper and roast them away in the oven.
Time to start making the curry. First I need to deal with another one of my arch-nemeses: palm sugar, as seen here in its body bag.
I’ve heard that using a grater is a good way to break up the super-hard sugar. After much huffing and puffing, this is all I get. It will have to do.
Meanwhile, more prepping. Red onions and kaffir lime leaves.
Time to get things TURNT UP. The red onions go into the pan for some serious sauté action.
After a few minutes, the spice paste joins in. Things smell very good.
We are on our way.
Coconut milk and the lime leaves are next to join.
And here we are moving onto a fourth component that must be prepared: rice noodles!
My lovely broccoli florets. They’re roasted and ready for action. Unfortunately, a little over salted too. Oops.
The rice noodles do their thing.
And now they’re done. It’s the circle of life.
The noodles are tossed with sesame oil, lime juice, and salt, and then divvied up into bowls. Well, one bowl really. Broccoli goes on top, obviously.
Finally, I pour over some sauce and garnish with basil and more lime juice.
Very tasty. This is an odd dish, mostly because it seems to flirt with being Thai but never really gets there. As such, it doesn’t really scratch that Thai itch, but… BUT… it’s tasty unto itself. Who cares if it’s not really Thai? I’m down with a solid pan-Asian curry (and who knows? Maybe this is an authentic Burmese or Indonesian preparation?). The point is that this was a fun meal, and the rice noodles were the perfect texture for this creamy (but dairy free!) sauce. It should be also noted that this recipe yields a lot of sauce. Be sure to save it and use it for other dishes — noodles, rices, and even sandwiches!