My Thai Coconut Fish Soup – Nothing to be Shy about

See what I did there another terrible pun. But I remember the village fetes when I was growing up and there was always a coconut shy. You aimed a small hard wooden ball to knock down coconuts and win a prize. The only other time I encountered coconut in my childhood was the giant box of Bassett’s Liquorish Allsorts at Christmas. I ate far too many and was violently ill. It then took years to be able to stomach anything coconut flavoured. Thankfully I now like coconut in curries, desserts and love coconut sorbet. So I am not really happy to bring you this very tasty recipe for Thai Coconut Fish Soup. I still think desiccated coconut is made from Satan’s hoof clippings.

Coconut

I love the contrasts and combinations in Thai cooking, salt, sweet, heat and sour. Recipes such as Thai style crab cakes and Seafood Tom Yam. Most of the aromatic ingredients are now available in a good supermarket or specialist Asian shop. You can use creamed coconut or coconut milk in the recipe and any seafood you really fancy. I have used monkfish but you can use any firm white fish. You can add prawns, squid, and mussels if you wish. This soup honours the spirit of Thai cooking rather than being wholly authentic so uses key Thai ingredients. There are chillies, galangal, coriander, and garlic flavouring the coconut base.

Thai fish soup

Thai-style Seafood Soup is a tasty favourite, poached monkfish and prawns, simmered in the spicy coconut broth flavoured with classic Thai ingredients. The kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and crispy deep-fried shallots are all available in good Asian retailers or markets.
Thai Green Curry

My Authentic Thai Green Chicken Curry

Thai green curry is an extremely popular recipe from the central region of Thailand. It is made using a paste of fresh green chillies, Thai basil, and galangal so be prepared it packs quite a punch. This is a real favourite in many of the restaurants and pubs I have cooked in and really easy so I thought it would be a great recipe for National Curry Week. The dish is normally made with white fish or chicken and traditional vegetables such as bamboo shoots or baby Thai eggplant. The sweet coconut milk balances the heat of the chillies in the Thai green curry paste.

Thai Green Curry
Thai Green Chicken Curry

You can buy perfectly good prepared Thai green curry paste but I think homemade has the edge. Making the dish with homemade Thai green curry paste results in a fresher flavour and a brighter coloured sauce. For my recipe for Thai green curry paste follow this link. Even making the paste this dish is ideal for a quick evening supper and can be on the table in thirty minutes. I use Thai fish sauce to season the dish if you like your curries really hot you can add an extra small finely-sliced green chilli.

This dish is ideal for a quick evening supper and can be on the table in thirty minutes.

Seafood Tom yum

Seafood Tom yam Soup – A Thai Classic

I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world. It is usually made with pork or shrimp, tomatoes, onion, maybe mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and may have Thai chilli jam or nam phrik phao added at the finish, which gives the soup a bright orange colour and a bigger chilli kick.

The base of a good Tom yam is a paste called Nam prik pao made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai bases dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients. There are a number of varieties of Tom yam the most popular of which are;-

Tom yam nam sai –a clear Tom yam soup

Tom yam kathi –  a coconut milk based Tom yam

Tom yam kung – Tom yam with prawns

Tom yam kai – Chicken Tom yam

Tom yam kha mu – A slow cooked version made with pork leg

Tom yam po taek – Mixed seafood Tom yam

 

Seafood Tom yum
Seafood Tom yum

Seafood Tom yam

Seafood Tom yam, as you may have already guessed, is my particular favourite, poached fish, plump mussels and fresh prawns, simmered in the spicy broth is a really warming crowd pleaser. You can use any firm fish and experiment with adding squid and other seafood.

 For Soup Base

1 litre quality Chicken stock

4 Lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into large pieces

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and quartered

75 gr Galangal, peeled and sliced

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and roughly crushed

A handful of Coriander stems, bruised ( save leaves to garnish )

5 Lime Leaves, torn

4 small Thai Red Chillies, chopped

4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

2 tablespoons Thai Fish sauce

2 tablespoons Dried Shrimp

1 heaped teaspoon Light Brown Sugar

Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Blitz to form a paste. Place the paste and the remaining ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain.

Per Portion

300 ml Soup base

100 gr Cod or Monkfish ( boned, skinned and cut into chunks )

3 large Prawns, shelled

6 Mussels in shell

3 Chestnut Mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons of Spring Onion, finely sliced

4 Cherry Tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon of freshly chopped Coriander

Juice of ½ a fresh Lime

Heat the soup base up to a gentle simmer and add the fish, prawns and mushrooms. Cook for two minutes and add the mussels and the tomatoes. Cook for four more minutes then remove the soup from the heat, the mussels should be open and the prawns poached. Add the lime juice, spring onions and fresh coriander and check if any more ( seasoning ) fish sauce is required. Ladle into a bowl and serve.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Spicy Tom yam soup is a great match for the classic nutty toasted flavours of traditional Brown Ale and if you want to try a wine pair the slightly sweet, acidic tropical fruit flavours of an off-dry Reisling are a perfect foil for the chilli and spices.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish  Oyster Crab

Please see the Allergens Page

Red Braised Pork

Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly

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Today’s recipe is for Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly, in China red coloured meats are eaten for good luck as red is the colour of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. ‘Red cooking’ is a popular method of braising dishes in northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and the sauce using both dark and light soy sauces, Chinese Rice Wine, and caramelized sugar flavoured with whole spices such as Star Anise, Cassia bark, and Fennel seeds. ‘Red cooking’ stews may contain meat, vegetables and other ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs. Dark soy sauce is actually not as salty as the light variety, and it is often used hearty Chinese dishes like stews that require body and colour.

Red Braised Pork
Shanghai Red Braised Pork Belly

Perhaps the most famous ‘Red cooking’ recipe is Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly or Hong Shao Rou, reputed to be the favourite of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, so much so he supposedly he ate it every day. In China belly pork is a highly valued cut of meat and the perfect order of fat, meat, fat and meat under the skin is known as the ‘Five layers of Heaven’.

Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly ( 红烧肉 )

1 kg of Pork Belly, cut into 3 centimetre thick pieces

A small bunch of Spring Onions, trimmed and cut into 2 centimetre pieces

450 ml Water

5 tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons Rock Sugar or Golden Caster Sugar

3 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 whole Star Anise pods

A couple of piece of Cassia bark

2 centimetre piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and sliced

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Carefully drop in the pieces of pork and blanch for a couple minutes, as this gets rid of any impurities. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain. Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok and melt the sugar. Add the blanched pork and increase the heat and cook until the pork until it is lightly caramelised. The pork may spit as it caramelises so be careful, but it is important to help give the dish its distinctive colour and flavour.

Turn the heat back down and carefully add the rice wine, then the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, star anise, garlic, cassia, ginger and the water. Cover the wok and simmer for about an hour or until pork is really tender. Whilst the pork is cooking stir every five minutes to prevent burning and add a little more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is cooked, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, stirring continuously until it is a sticky and glossy coating.

What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered very difficult but try your pork with a full of fruit, sweet, jammy Australian Shiraz or blended Cabernet-Shiraz and why not try a crisp, refreshing Continental style Pilsner lager as your beer choice.

Allergens in this recipe are;

    Flour

There will be Soya and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

Red Lantern

Sesame Chicken Wings

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Chinese New Year Wish

I love any food you eat you eat with your fingers, prawns in their shells, ribs, it is great fun and so tasty. No surprise then that I’m such a fan of chicken wings maybe with a Crispy Salt and Pepper Crust, American BBQ style Buffalo Wings with a cooling Blue Cheese Dip or Asian style hot Wings with Sesame Seeds. To celebrate the Chinese New Year today’s recipe is my version of the last dish, which I would serve with a bowl of perfectly fluffy boiled rice.

 

Sesame Chicken Wings
Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

For the Chicken

20 trimmed Chicken Wings

( you can ask your butcher to do this,

freeze the wing tips until you are making a stock )

3 tablespoons Cornflour

1 teaspoon Paprika

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Onion Powder

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

A splash of Vegetable Oil

For the Sauce

3 tablespoons Ketchup

2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

2 tablespoon Sesame Oil

2 tablespoons Honey

1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese Rice Wine Vinegar

2 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

To Garnish

2 tablespoons Sesame Seeds

3 Spring Onions, washed and finely sliced

1 sliced Red Chilli

Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C / Gas Mark 7. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the chicken thoroughly then toss in the chicken wings and coat evenly. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper about a centimetre apart and drizzle with the oil. Place in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes then carefully turn over with a pair of tongues. Return to the oven for another fifteen to twenty minutes until chicken is fully cooked.

In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, add all ingredients for the sesame sauce except sesame seeds. Gently bring the sauce to a boil, stirring regularly and simmer the sauce over a low heat for ten minutes. If you want the sauce spicier, add more of the hot sauce to your taste. When the chicken wings out from the oven, carefully tip onto kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat then place into a bowl and add the sauce. Toss chicken wings to coat evenly with the sauce then place into a serving dish, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, spring onions and chilli slices. Enjoy.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds  Flour

There will be Soya  and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

Red Lantern

Xin nian kuai le – Happy Chinese New Year – Slow braised Lamb with Ginger and Spring Onions

Chinese New Year Wish

There are up to two weeks of celebrations for the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. This year is the year of the Dog. In China and the Chinese diaspora there are visits to family, fireworks, and feasts and so I thought appropriate over the next ten days to post some more of my favourite Chinese dishes. I am also building up a database of some of the ingredients and base recipes which you can find on here. If you want to know more about one of my favourite styles of Chinese cuisine you can read my post on Cantonese food.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with the following Recipes;-

Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Shanghai-style Red Braised Pork Belly

Cantonese Pork

King Prawn Chow Mein

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

General Tso’s Chicken

Char sui – Cantonese BBQ Pork

Perfectly fluffy Boiled Rice

Egg Fried Rice

In China lamb or mutton is eaten mostly in the north and north west and is especially favoured by the Muslim and Mongol populations but it is available everywhere. The most popular street food in China are Xinjiang lamb skewers with fiery and fragrant with chilli and Szechuan peppercorns, which you can find in every major city throughout China. Chinese recipes mostly call for mutton or substitute goat rather than lamb mainly because traditionally lamb was scarce, and the cooking times would be longer.  This is rather a generous recipe best eaten with friends, serve with some perfectly fluffy boiled rice. Now may I wish you all prosperity for this Year of the Dog and Enjoy – Gong xi fa cai

Slow cooked Lamb and Ginger
Braised Lamb and Ginger

 

Slow Braised Lamb with Ginger and Spring Onions

1.5 kg to 2 kg boned Shoulder of Lamb

10 Banana Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large bunches of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and cut in 3 centimetre pieces

500 gr Sliced Button Mushrooms

1.5 ltr good quality Lamb or Veal Stock

100 gr Rock Sugar ( you can substitute Demerara )

1 large 6 centimetre piece of Ginger, peeled and very finely sliced

6 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

6 tablespoons Dark Soy sauce

4 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

2 tablespoons Sesame Paste

1 tablespoon Tomato Puree

6 Star Anise pods

4 Cloves

2 large pieces of Cassia Bark

Cut the lamb shoulder into large five centimetre dice. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the lamb by plunging it into the boiling water for five minutes. Strain out the meat and discard the water. Heat a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the pieces of lamb and stir-fry them until they are brown.

Add the shallots, spring onions, mushrooms and ginger to the wok and cook for five more minutes before placing into a large casserole or heavy-bottomed pan and stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring up to the boil and carefully skim off any fat from the surface, then turn the heat down as low as possible. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for around one and a half hours or until the lamb is cooked and tender, skimming occasionally to remove any more fat. When cooked remove the star anise, cloves and cassia bark and serve in bowls with steamed rice.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered impossible but more modern sommeliers are making innovative pairings try your lamb with a fruity, Chilean Pinot Noir or off-dry Rosé and why not try a refreshing Continental wheat beer with citrus and coriander seeds as your beer choice.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds    Flour

There may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

Red Lantern