Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Thai’d Up and other fun puns

Pad Thaipumpkin and zucchini stir fryRed Curry VegSweet Sticky Rice with Mango

What is it with Thai restaurants and their corny names? I’ve heard of En Thai Sing, Thai Riffic, Thai One On and many more wittily named Thai places. It seems so much at odds with a cuisine that is so finely balanced and steeped in culinary tradition. Thai people do have a great sense of humour though especially in the local restaurant industry. Are the corny names just a Sydney phenomenon, will have to do some research…

So our last class for this term and the fourth of our foray into the Asian cuisines is the delicious food of Thailand. One of the students had been away to Thailand for two weeks and requested we wait for her to return to try these dishes. I always enjoy the comparisons between authentic cooking and my adjusted recipes that cater for vegetarians. It has taken a long time to develop recipes that have the depth of flavour and variety that is achieved when including fish sauce and other meat products.

I usually substitute fish sauce with Healthy Boy Thai Mushroom Soy Sauce (there’s that Thai humour again!). It has a similar salty and earthy flavour to fish sauce. It’s made with fermented soy beans and dried Chinese black mushrooms. You can find the pretty bottles at the Asian grocery store.

Another vegetarian substitute is Mushroom Oyster Sauce. Use this in place of the regular Oyster Sauce for stir fries and vegetable dishes because “oyster sauce” in not a euphemism, it actually is made from oysters.

As with Indonesian cuisine I substitute Shrimp Paste/ Terasi with Fermented Black Beans. Check the labels of the jars or tins in the grocery store carefully as some do contain fish sauce or dried shrimp.

Apart from that almost any Thai recipe can be converted to a vegetarian meal using tofu, saitan or mushrooms. Though I’ve never tried to make a veggie Massaman Curry, that dish really is all about the meat, maybe big field mushrooms would work?

So this week’s recipes are Pad Thai, Red Curry Vegetables w/ Tofu, Pumpkin and Zuchini Stir Fry and Sweet Sticky Rice with Pineapple (though in the photo I served it with mango).

I’ve posted most of these recipes before:

Pad Thai

Pumpkin & Zucchini Stir Fry

Red Curry Vegetables with Tofu

Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut

Hope you have a chance to try them before next term starts again. The next course runs from 1 May to 26 June. You can enrol online here: http://www.cityeastcc.com.au/course/wovc 


Lorena xx

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan plate

Sri Lankan food has always been one of those experiences where I could never quite put my finger on the flavours and aromas. Until a dear friend shared her secrets with me. Seems that this cuisine owes a lot of it’s lingering sweetness and complexity to coconuts. Coconut milk, grated coconut flesh and jaggery (made from palm sugar). As well as the refreshing use of vegetables and spices.

I hope you enjoy these recipes:

Beetroot Curry


A popular vegetable curry, one of the many colourful dishes at a Sri Lankan meal

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


1 bunch Beetroot
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
½ onion chopped fine
2 green chillies (slit in the middle)
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (Babas)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 ¼ teaspoon salt


1. Wash the beetroot. Peel and cut the beetroot into small thick matchsticks and set aside.

2. Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, and chopped onions and the green chillies and stir. Lower the temperature and add the chilli powder and stir quickly, so that the chilli does not get burnt.

3. Add the beetroot pieces and stir well and then add the salt. Add the water, cover the pan with a lid and cook the beetroot for about 10 minutes.

4. Once the beetroot is cooked add the milk and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir well and take the pan off the stove and serve onto a dish.

Varai_ fried greens

VARAI: Fried Greens

This recipe can be made using a variety of greens; silverbeet; collard greens, kale, cabbage and even leeks.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


Colander, knife, chopping board, medium saucepan with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, serving platter


1 bunch fresh silverbeet, collard greens or kale (about 250 grams chopped)

1 leek, washed well and thinly sliced

¾ cup water

1 teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup red onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 pieces


1. Wash greens thoroughly and remove any tough stems

2. Finely chop the leaves and the leek

3. Add the chopped greens, water, salt, chilli powder to a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes

4. Add coconut, mix well and cook a further minute or two

5. Set aside

6. Add oil to frypan, when oil is hot; add the onion and the garlic. Fry till golden

7. Add the cooked greens to the fry pan and mix well.

8. Serve as part of a meal with rice.

Sri Lankan Dhal w_ Pandan Leaf

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup red lentils

1 onion, chopped fine

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 red dried chilies

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves

½ cup coconut milk

2 pandan leaves*, cut into 10cm lengths


1. Soak lentils in water for an hour.

2. Wash + drain a few times until water is clear.

3. Put in pan + cover with water.

4. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and pandan leaves + boil medium heat, until they just open up.

5. Add coconut milk + salt. Turn off heat and set aside.

6. Heat oil in frypan, add curry leaf + onion + garlic and fry for a while.

7. Add turmeric, mustard seed + dried chillies. Fry until onions golden.

8. Add this mix into lentil curry, bring to boil.

Serve with rice and vegetable curry.

* find pandan leaves at the Asian grocery store, sometimes they are in the freezer. Unfortunately you cannot substitute pandan flavouring. Sorry!

image from: http://thefeastforall.com/2010/05/23/watercress-and-carrot-salad-sambol/


In Sri Lanka these side dishes are known as Sambol and are served fresh with rice.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup chopped watercress

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste


1. Mix chopped watercress and shredded carrot and add chopped onion

2. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice

Serve with rice.

image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Sambola_(Coconut_Sambol) 


1 bowl, 1 microplane grater or coconut shaver

1/2 a fresh coconut
½ red onion finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lime, juice
1 teaspoon chilli powder

1. Crack the coconut in half and pour the juice into a glass.
(Reserve the juice for flavouring a curry or salad dressing)

2. Shave or grate the coconut into your bowl.
3. Make sure your red onion is finely diced and add it to
the coconut.
4. Add the chilli powder.
5. Add the juice of 1 of the limes into the bowl.
6. Mix well. The sambol should be moist and reddish (from the chilli powder).
7. Add another half-limes worth of juice.
8. Mix a little more.
9. Serve!

Pol Sambol could be served with every Lankan meal, it has a wonderful tangy taste.