This book has managed to captivate my palate. It is one of those unassuming basic looking books- none of the fancy hardcover or glossy photographs shebang- plain old words on paper, followed by more words on paper, bound neatly in an almost unattractive red and blue cover with a drawing of a pious Thai lady, meditating with an aubergine (?!).
Once you look past that almost tacky cover, what ensues is an incredibly written book, adapting traditional recipes and techniques for a more globalised world, resulting in a balance of Eastern flavours and authenticity which is astounding, using substitutes and more widely available ingredients in ways you would be flabbergasted to realise possible. The book at times does require you to make a little effort – for example, in last evenings’ tom yum soup, the roast thai chill paste had to be made at home from scratch (or, you could go to an Asian grocer and buy some). The recipe itself was not rocket science, but it was admittedly, an effort.
You start out by dry roasting some red chillies, after which you put them aside to cool. In a similar method, shallots and unpeeled garlic were dry roasted until burnished and tender. The deseeded chillis are then combined with the shallots and the garlic (traditionally, using a mortar and pestle) using a small food processor. It is then finally blitzed with some vegetable oil, before being roasted in a pan to finish with as a really strong but gorgeous crimson paste. Then to balance the chilli, palm sugar, soy sauce, salt and tamarind pulp are added.
The odd thing is, the recipe for the papaya salad didn’t call for any peanuts. But I couldn’t do without peanuts in my papaya salad, so I went ahead and dropped in 1/2 cup of roasted chopped peanuts to finish the salad.
- 2 green chillis
- 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 raw green papaya, peeled and shredded thickly
- 8 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch stalks
- 2 tsp palm/brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbs vegetable stock
- 1/2 lime, quartered
- 9 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup peanuts, roasted and chopped
- In a mortar, pound the chilli, garlic and shallots until almost mushy.
- Fill a zip loc bag with the papaya, and beat with a rolling pin until bruised and releasing a bit of juice.
- In the mortar, pound in the green beans until bruised. Mix in the salt, vegetable stock and sugar. Squeeze in the juice from each lime quarter and then add in the squeezed pieces into the mortar as well. Add the tomatoes and gently pound.
- Taste to check. The dressing should be spicy, sour, salty and sweet. You can add more lime/salt/sugar/spice based on your personal preference.
- Mix with the papaya, serve immediately with the peanuts sprinkled on top.
- I found that the salad needs to be well chilled for the flavours to really work their charm. I suggest chilling the shredded papaya.
- You can prepare this salad in advance by making the dressing and shredding the papaya, and simply tossing before service.
- Try the same recipe with pomelo or sweet raw mango, to give you a thai pomelo/raw mango salad.