Monday, November 12, 2012

A simple three-course Thai meal: Tom Yum, Thai Spring Rolls, Coconut Rice w/ Mango

We recently saw some fresh galangal (looks like ginger, but has a different, sort of flowery odor) at the farmer's market  and were inspired to make a Thai meal. Ever since I had a bowl of mind-blowing tom yum in Hawaii I have been wanting to try and recreate it.

Once we'd decided to do that, why not Thai spring rolls and mango coconut rice?

Thai spring rolls Coconut sticky rice with mango
In planning the soup, I thought back to that eye-opening bowl I'd had on our  honeymoon. The key difference from most tom yum I'd had was the strength and simplicity of the flavors; the flavors of the large inedible chunks of lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves in the soup blended together and made it clear that this soup meant business. Anyway, I didn't want our guests to have to pick out inedible chunks, but I still wanted to focus on the flavor of the broth because the typical ingredients to vegetarian tom yum (tomatoes, canned straw mushrooms, tofu) were uninspiring. As a result, I just filtered everything out and served it as a plain broth. Now that I've verified how good the broth is, I'm going to try again with a few solid ingredients and see what happens. Here's the recipe I came up with:
In a saucepan, add:
4 cups vegetable stock
~1/4 cup lime juice (I used 1.5 limes)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 stalks lemongrass (remove the outermost dirty layer, and score the entire length of it with a knife)
~1/3 cup chopped fresh galangal
8 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp chili oil (I used sesame chili oil, but that was a mistake. plain chili oil or canola would be better)
1 fresh cayenne pepper, minced (or other hot pepper)
garlic (maybe 2 cloves? I used a big splash of homemade garlic vodka / garlic extract)
2 pickled umeboshi plums, pitted (these provide a nice salty pungent umami flavor in place of fish sauce)
maybe 1/2 cup cilantro probably would be good, we just didn't have any

Heat the saucepan on high, and once boiling reduce to simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes until delicious. Add salt to taste if needed. Strain out the broth so you won't have to pick out the inedible bits (lime leaves and lemongrass) You could make this with enoki mushrooms, or straw mushrooms if you don't hate them, or tomatoes (I guess), or tofu.

For the spring rolls (what I call non-fried rice paper rolls, some other people call them "fresh rolls" or "summer rolls"), we started by freestyling a coconut-lime-peanut sauce (sorry, I didn't keep track of what went in but it was tasty). Next we sauteed up some homemade seitan with garlic / soy / mirin / galangal, and minced it in the food processor. We shredded some carrots, thinly sliced the fresh red peppers which we can STILL get at the farmer's market in late November (good enough to eat like an apple), and washed and chopped the arugula. We got a good factory assembly going where I softened up the rice wrappers (since I have heat-resistant hands) and passed them to Sarah to stuff and fill.

Sadly our rice was not all it could have been. We basically used the coconut rice recipe from Joy of Cooking (which is good), but instead of jasmine rice (as they recommend), or sticky rice (which is best), we used some leftover arborio rice we had from a friend who just moved, plus a bit of jasmine rice for flavor. Tragically the only mango at Whole Foods was overripe on one end, and under-ripe on the other, but we got enough mango out of it to at least give our dinner guests a good mix of mango and coconut rice. The leftover rice got dry in the fridge overnight, but was excellent with some So Delicious vegan nog on it and then microwaved until it was soft.

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