There was an obvious change in my life about a year and a half ago. I was no longer in the States, and I had become an ex-patriate again. I moved, for what I thought was temporarily, to Stockholm, Sweden.
I noticed that I wrote less and less on my dear foodblog entitled How to Eat a Green Mango and I felt bad for my handful of readers and my family (hi mom!). I was letting them down. What happened?
Well, I started cooking a lot less. It wasn't lack of ingredients, or lack of hunger, it was actually a surfeit. Suddenly, someone was cooking for me!
As a rule, I host a lot of dinner parties because there's hardly anything more fun/anxiety ridden than feeding the people you love. I had become a bit of an anomaly with my regular dinners, and my friends even explained their hesistancy in cooking for me.
But, I love when other people cook for me because food = love. It does. I'm starting this first entry with loooooooooooooooove.
If you are ever lucky enough to have a Thai person who knows how to cook, love you, then you've obviously eaten some of the most delicious food in the world.
I was talking to someone about what had made me a good cook, and my wide exposure to delicious Asian foods is something I accredit my experience background with. That, and I cook a lot.
If any of you visit Thailand, you'll understand what I mean. Thai people love their food, Thai people love their tourists. Thai people especially love their tourists because it's a huge boon to their economy and has, in all likelihood, raised their quality of life standards.
I was lucky enough to eat some version of this dish in Mae Rae, a tiny town outside of Chiang Mai (my personal favorite part of Thailand). It was my aunt's sister who we had gone over to visit, and while we were chatting in broken English (I often reply in broken English because it's the most understandable), my aunt's sister whipped up this dish for me. All of it! I nodded stuffing myself, like I had done so many other occasions before. Gin! Gin! was something I heard very often with the very persuasive smiles of my relatives bearing kilos of tropical fruits and delicious desserts upon me.
Being sufficiently Western, and having a boyfriend who eats so much, he's the rhinocerous of this "Feeding a Rhinocerous" equation, I upped the meat significantly. I still think it's much wiser to eat less meat, but Otto prefers a lot of it. We both agree that we love pork, and if he didn't it'd be very hard to be together since I am half Thai and half Chinese, and both those cuisines eat a lot of pork. Pork, yummy.
Thai Pork Tomato Coconut Bolognese
Serves 4 or 2 depending on your dining companion
Heh, did I mention I can't speak Thai? You should eat this with sticky rice if you have some handy, or you can make your favorite rice. I've eaten this over Italian spaghetti and it doesn't do any harm.
A few things you should know about. There are some major perils to Thai cooking. First, that I now understand why Thai people have outdoor kitchens. The culprit is trying to roast shrimp paste. But, you can't get the same authentic and delicious flavor without it. Here's where ginger, lemongrass stems and limes come into the equation. After you've made your house smell like roasted shrimp paste, a smell which will be seared on your brain from that moment and on, boil at a low heat lemongrass, crushed lime, and ginger in water and your house will smell ok again. Believe me, we tried everything, and this is the best route.
I am still a bit intimidated by Thai food. I will admit it! But, there are a few ingredients that this recipe uses which are widely used in other Thai dishes, so don't be afraid to start your pantry with these things because the flavor is worth it.
5 dried red chilies deseeded, then soaked in hot water 10 minutes
3 t salted fermented soybeans
1 T galangal or ginger
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 onion minced or 5-6 shallots minced
1 t shrimp paste roasted
3 T tomato paste
1 lb minced pork
1 can quality whole tomatoes (like Mutti)
1/2 can coconut milk stirred well
1 t light brown sugar or palm sugar or just sugar
1 handful of cilantro minced
You can find the dried red chilies sold by the bag at Asian stores. Here is a picture of the salted soybeans, a mystery ingredient I had long loved before knowing what it looked like in a jar ...
And here's a picture of a Shrimp paste bottle for those of you who will risk all for authentic Thai flavor!
If anyone wants to mail us tips about roasting shrimp paste or how to clear the air afterwards make sure to mail us here
Sorry for the long introduction. Deseed and soak the chilies. In a mortar or a food processor, mash together the galangal or ginger if you're using it, together with the salted soy beans, and the now reconstituted chilies.
In a large heavy bottomed deep pan, heat vegetable oil with the teaspoon of shrimp paste in it. Fry it as long as you can stand it (it should change a darker shade), and then throw in the minced onions. Sautee until translucent, add the paste made of the chilies, galangal, and soybeans and continue to fry another minute or so.
Add the minced pork and brown until all the meat is finished cooking which should take about 10 minutes, then add your canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Mash up the whole tomatoes in the pan, and simmer, add the teaspoon of sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add half a can of the coconut milk and stir to meld the sauce.
Mince the coriander and throw it in just before serving.
Serve over rice or noodles.
In tomato based recipes please spend the extra money to buy good canned tomatoes. I, myself, am a complete convert. The taste is so much richer and even more expensive canned tomatoes doesn't cost the earth.
I know this recipe is going to be an adventure for many -- especially those of you lacking some of the crucial ingredients for a Thai pantry, but I promise you the taste is aroy mak mak! meaning, very delicious.
Please let me know how it turns out!