When I was growing up, I don’t really remember eating that much Thai food. Probably because there weren’t many good Thai restaurants where we lived, but I’ll have to ask my parents why because my life as an adult is not complete without it. Maybe it was because I didn’t especially like spicy food when I was little. I don’t know. But ohhh, how things have changed.
I was fortunate to have been able to go to Thailand several times to film shampoo and skin care commercials. Working there was great, but my favorite part about being there was feasting on authentic Thai food. Their dishes are SO flavorful and every bite packs a mean punch. I don’t think you could dislike spicy food if you were Thai! Almost every dish set my mouth on fire!
So when my April Bon Appétit arrived one afternoon, and I thumbed through to find the Thai Shrimp - Halibut Curry recipe, it gave me inspiration, despite only having two of the twelve ingredients (vegetable oil and fish sauce), to make a Thai dinner that night! A few pages further into my magazine (and new best friend) was a great accompaniment to the curry; Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Chile.
I was making Jasmine rice to go with the curry and with the pork & asparagus, so I was in search of a salad to round out the meal. I found a few on Epicurious, so I used them as a guide to make an Asian Napa Cabbage Slaw. I’d like to warn you that napa cabbage gets soggy rather quickly, so when you’re ready to eat is right about when you should dress the salad. You can find all of the recipes below. And of course, you can adjust the spiciness to your palette. Know that Thai chilies are effing SPICY.
THAI SHRIMP-HALIBUT CURRY
Prep 50 minutes Total 50 minutes
Thai red curry paste, unsweetened coconut milk, and fish sauce are available in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets. Serve this curry over steamed Jasmine rice.
3 large limes
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped shallots
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch dice
1½ Tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2½ teaspoons Thai red curry paste (such as Thai Kitchen brand)
1 13½ to 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
16 to 18 ounces halibut fillets, cut into 1½-inch chunks
8 peeled and deveined uncooked large shrimp (8 to 10 ounces)
⅓ cup shopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh basil
Finely grate enough peel from 2 limes to measure 1½ teaspoons. Squeeze enough juice from 2 limes to measure 2 Tablespoons. Cut third lime into wedges.
Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped shallots, diced red bell pepper, and minced ginger; sauté until shallots are tender and peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, 1½ teaspoons lime peel, and 2 Tablespoons lime juice. Simmer gently, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Add fish and shrimp to curry sauce. Return to very gentle simmer and cook just until fish and shrimp are opaque in center, 5 to 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently stir in cilantro and basil; serve with lime wedges.
SPICY PORK WITH ASPARAGUS AND CHILE
Prep 25 minutes Total 25 minutes
Be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and measured before beginning to make this quickly cooked stir-fry.
3 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
12 ounces ground pork (preferably coarsely ground; sometimes labeled chili grind)
3 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
12 ounces thin to medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on extreme diagonal into ½ - ¾ inch pieces
1 red jalapeño chili, minced with seeds
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
Fine sea salt
Whisk 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch in medium bowl. Add pork; toss to blend. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in heavy large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, chile, and ginger. Toss until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus mixture to plate. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to wok. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until browned, using spoon to break up pork into small pieces, 2 to 3 minutes. Return asparagus mixture to wok. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey; stir-fry until pork is cooked through, adding water by Tablespoonfuls if dry, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss to incorporate. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
ASIAN NAPA CABBAGE SALAD
Prep 15 minutes Total 15 minutes
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ Thai green chili, seeded, minced (be careful, they’re really spicy)
3 cups finely shredded Napa Cabbage
⅓ cup grated carrot
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves or ¾ teaspoon crumbled dried
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1 Tablespoon sesame oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have sesame)
3 or 4 Tablespoons chopped peanuts for garnish
sesame seeds for garnish
In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, nam pla, sugar, and salt until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Slowly add the minced chili as a little goes a long way. When you’re ready to serve the red curry and asparagus dishes is when you should finish this recipe.
In a large bowl, add the cabbage, carrots, mint, coriander, and oil. Toss the salad well. Add the lime juice and nam pla dressing and toss again. Sprinkle the peanuts and sesame seeds as you like, either in the salad bowl, or on your individual plates. Enjoy!