Who said Asian food was easy? In my view it is not. It involves pastes, crushing, mashing, mincing, cutting, chopping, measuring, layers, steps, braising, carefully testing, going away for a while, coming back, testing again, making sure the separate flavours sing together, and then eating.
Nothing easy about that. Maggi Noodles it ain't.
I wrote here about David Thompson, the technically perfect chef and protector of Thai food recipes and history in the English language.
I was given Thai Street Food for Christmas which is his second cookbook. My main complaint is that it is very large and thus falls perilously close to being a Coffee Table Cookbook, which I have A Thing about. It barely fits in my recipe book holder which makes me wonder whether he really expected people to cook from it.
Nevertheless, it has some wonderful images, which make me want, so desperately, to return to Thailand.
This image, to me, is what Thailand is all about: Saffron robed monks gathering at a laminex chair and table street cafe for the all important midday meal:
Anyway I had some time yesterday, so to save time I made dinner in the afternoon. Yes, I am MADE of time. And besides what is better than the smell of roasting spices like cloves and cardamom in the afternoon.
I cooked this dish from the book: Chicken with banana chillies and assam. Assam is dried Asian woodruff. You can substitute tamarind paste, which is just as well because my pantry was bereft of woodruff.
The reason I picked this dish is that I bought these wonderful lime green banana chillies yesterday morning. They must be in season.
Firstly, assemble spices in little piles:
Then roast them (separately says David Thompson, all together says I)
Then chargrill the aromatics (chilli, garlic, turmeric, ginger):
Then bash and smash.
Then fry the paste in coconut milk and cream, add the chicken and some seasoning and roasted other bits like cassia bark.
Then eat, greedily.
There is something very therapeutic about the slow banging of a mortar and pestle, and the adding of a little bit of fish sauce here, and sprinkling of palm sugar there. And that is why I love cooking so much.
If you are feeling strong, and have the space, buy this book: