Special Dish for the Week: Seafood Laksa

This has got to be one of my favourite kind of meals—it’s soupy, it’s spicy and creamy, it’s full of veggies and seafood, and healthy to boot!—a combination of Indonesian and Thai ingredients and flavours that burst in the mouth and feel like there is sunshine radiating from the plate in this Special Dish for the Week:

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

On a recent trip to T&T Supermarket, the Asian grocery store at the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, to pick up some specialised ingredients for my multitude of Bali dinners following my recent self-directed healing retreat in Bali, I picked up some rice vermicelli noodles.

I have been salivating over the thought of making some type of a laksa meal since I was reminded of this delicious dish during my recent travels.

Laksa is actually a Malaysian dish of Chinese origin, though through the use of ingredients and spices, it can be varied in flavour. I use an Indonesian seafood recipe with spices that I am familiar with from Thai cuisine, and it turns out to be a taste sensation.

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

I start by finely chopping the spice and vegetable ingredients:

  • 1 stem of lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 leaves of kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small Indian eggplants, cubed into 8ths
  • shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • small piece of green cabbage, thinly sliced
Seafood Laksa Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Ingredients

When the sliced ingredients are ready, I sautée the spices:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (a bit more if using shrimp sauce)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or 1.5L fish stock or bone broth, whichever is on hand, but using stock requires longer cooking time to reduce the volume)
Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

I then add 2-3 cups of coconut milk to make the soup, into which I add the chopped spices and vegetables when the soup is lightly bubbling hot.

I let the veggies soften and absorb some of the soup’s flavours.

Meanwhile, I boil up some water, and place my package of rice vermicelli noodles in the hot water for about 10 minutes. (This dish could also be made with buckwheat soba noodles, for some Japanese influence on the taste, texture and nutrient composition.)

I drain the noodles in a colander, and set them aside covered with a lid.

Seafood Laksa Dish

Seafood Laksa Dish

After 10 minutes of warming up the vegetables, I add the seafood:

  • shrimp, dethawed and peeled
  • red snapper, sliced into small chunks (or any other white fish fillet)

I let the dish warm and cook for another 10 minutes, and I serve it by placing a generous portion of warmed rice vermicelli and topping it with a couple ladlefuls of the laksa soup, veggies and seafood.

I enjoy this pure sunsine in a bowl dish with a glass of my favourite Apothic Red wine and a flower by my side.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Possibly two years since I last make this deliciously refreshing summer treat during my Book Writing Tour 2013, I prepare it again for this week’s Special Dish for the Week to enjoy with my host and fellow guests on Pender Island:

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

During my recent visit on Pender Island, I decide to surprise my friends with this refreshingly sweet and spicy mid-afternoon cocktail. It is indeed a thrill for everyone on a hot sunny day on the patio.

Rather than serving it in a bowl as a soup, I use large wine glasses to layer cubed watermelon and diced avocado onto the bottom, filling the glass with the spiced watermelon and tomato purée, and top it off with some freshly chopped cilantro. We enjoy these cocktails with a teaspoon in hand, while sharing ideas and secret ingredients for making this nutritious snack such a hit. The blooms from a nearby bushy tree adorn the table for an added touch.

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

The ingredients of this gazpacho include:

  • 1 small watermelon, puréed using my handheld smoothie blender
  • 2 medium tomatoes, likewise puréed into the watermelon

Mixed into the purée are:

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped using my small electric chopper
  • 1 in. ginger, chopped with the garlic
  • 1 large shallot, chopped with the garlic and ginger
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • red Thai chili pepper, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemongrass extract, prepared in advance
  • cardamom seeds from several pods
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seed powder
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 1/4 small watermelon, cubed for garnish
  • 1 avocado (1/4 per glass), diced for garnish

Served chilled, after allowing the flavours to infuse, it is most refreshing on a warm summer day. I have still to figure out what liquor would make this soup into a spiked summer cocktail best…

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.

Special Dish for the Week: Thai Eggplant Curry

Joined by a long-time Waterloo engineering friend for a few days of play in the Vancouver February sunshine, we gather a few authentic Thai ingredients at Granville Island Public Market, we prepare for this Special Dish for the Week:

Thai Eggplant Curry

Thai Eggplant Curry

Thai Eggplant Curry

We spend a wonderful day of strolling around the lovely if still chilly West End, sprinkled with early cherry blossoms, and perusing the magic of DragonSpace gift shop and Public Market at Granville Island, wandering the mystical lands of fairies and dragons and delighting in vibrant colours of fruit, veggies, and flowers.

With an online mediation awaiting us that evening still, we ferry back home across the Burrard Inlet to prepare this Thai curry for our dinner.

What fun and healthful adventure with a loving friend from afar!

Thai Eggplant Curry Ingredients

Thai Eggplant Curry Ingredients

This Thai curry includes some exotically authentic Thai ingredients*:

  • coconut oil
  • green Thai curry paste
  • coconut milk
  • Thai eggplants*, quartered
  • yam, cubed
  • cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • cilantro roots, finely chopped
  • Kafir lime leaves*
  • Thai basil*
  • Bragg soy sauce
  • Maple syrup
    • cilantro as garnish
The Writer/Chef and Her Fellow Engineer/Artist Dinner Companion

The Writer/Chef and Her Fellow Engineer/Artist Dinner Companion

The preparations go much faster with an assistant peeling and chopping while I rinse and heat up the oils and curry paste. Our dish is ready in record time, made fragrant and delicious with two doses of TLC. We enjoy it with a glass of sweet Apothic Rosé.

Thai Eggplant Curry Dish

Thai Eggplant Curry Dish

Special Dish for the Week: Yam Thai Curry with Kelp

The start to my New Year 2015 is inspired by “Advanced Style”—the fabulous documentary I went to see in New Year’s Day—and green Thai curry—the dish I had for dinner afterwards, and which inspired this week’s Special Dish for the Week, with a little seaweed twist for an extra dose of vitamins and minerals:

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp Ingredients

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp Ingredients

I begin this production by laying out all the requisite ingredients, including the accompanying wine, which this week is the very rich and flavourful Apothic Dark red:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • yam, peeled and diced
  • shiitake mushrooms, coarsely sliced
  • green pepper, coarsely chopped
  • firm organic tofu, cubed
  • bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • wild organic kelp, finely shredded
  • organic coconut cream
  • kaffir lime leaves
Yam Thai Curry with Kelp on the Stove

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp on the Stove

Another exciting aspect of this iteration of one of my favourite staples is the organic brown jasmine rice, which I try making for the fist time—with relative success even—in a ceramic crockpot lent to me by my neighbour for the momentous occasion. I’ve been wanting to find out if rice could be made in a ceramic crockpot—instead of in my Teflon rice cooker, and the answer so far is: maybe! The rice cooked and it was edible, but it took a few hours for the water to soak into the rice and the consistency was a bit mushy.  I do soak my rice now, overnight, before cooking it, and I forgot to get a lesson on the crockpot’s dials, so some tweaking of cooking water amounts and heat of the crockpot may be needed!

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp

Adding the curry ingredients into my wok, largely in the order listed, as I chopped and cubed each in turn, I let them simmer for a few minutes longer before serving over the previously prepped experimental rice. I garnish the dish with fresh chopped cilantro, and enjoy it with the red wine.

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp Dish

Yam Thai Curry with Kelp Dish

Special Dish for the Week: Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers

For this week’s Special Dish for the Week, I reach for an old staple of mine—but with a little raw twist in an attempt to incorporate more enzyme-rich foods into my current fall-winter-spring diet, which consists mainly of stir fries, curries, and soups, in order to assist my digestion process to more easily get the nutrients out of my delicious dishes—and I prepare:

Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers

Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers

Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers

For the base, I heat up a generous amount of green curry paste in a tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, allowing the fragrance to fill my kitchen and nostrils alike. I add coarsely chopped sweet onion. Shortly after, join the sliced shiitake mushrooms. I let them sautée together until they brown a little, occasionally adding some water to release them from sticking to my favourite non-non-stick wok!

 

Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers Dish

Shiitake Mushroom Thai Curry with Raw Peppers Dish

While I cube some organic tofu, my Jasmine brown rice is cooking in my rice maker and my shrimp are defrosting. Eating animal source heme iron (in the shrimp) is supposed to help with the absorption of plant-based non-heme iron (in the tofu). I lower the heat, and add a generous amount of coconut milk to my wok, along with a half dozen kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves. Allowing the tofu and the shrimp to gently warm up in the heating coconut milk, I finely chop one each of red and green peppers, which I only stir into the curry when the rice is cooked, so as to retain these veggies in their raw form. I chop some cilantro, and sprinkle it atop and around the curry that I serve over the rice.

I surround myself with thoughts and memories of my good friends, near and far, by enjoying my dinner with one friend’s favourite French wine: Paul Mas Grenache Noir, in my Santé, machine à manger wine glass from another friend. For dessert, I taste the ginger beer a friend sent me in my birthday gift package, selected in memory of our trip together to Southeast Asia. I find that I really enjoy the taste of this Fentimans botanically brewed ginger beverage—and I delight after dinner in the knowledge that I will be able to acquire some more of this delicacy right here in Vancouver!

Special Dish for the Week: Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Staying in Thailand for this week’s Special Dish for the Week again, with fond memories of my travels there with my good friend who enjoys delicious and interesting food almost as much as I do, I prepare:

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

I start off with preparing the base components of this dish: Jasmine brown rice and red lentils, for the protein, fibre, and other nutrients.

While these cook, I loosely follow a recipe, and sautée grated garlicred Thai curry pastered Thai chili pepper, chopped cilantro stems in some coconut oil, releasing their flavours and intermingling them.

Next, I cut into bite size pieces a couple of light purple Chinese eggplants, a bunch of soaked overnight shiitake mushrooms, and an orange pepper. I stir fry these with the sautéeing spices, adding the mushroom water for added flavour and to keep the veggies moist.  I then season the dish with some salty fish sauce, sweet maple syrup, and fragrant kaffir lime leaves.

When the veggies are heated through and softened slightly, I add coconut milk, and when that heats up, Thai basil.

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry Dish

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry Dish

Serving the Thai curry over the Jasmine brown rice and a side of red lentils, I garnish the dish with more chopped cilantroThai basil leaves, and the juice of half a key lime. I enjoy these with a glass of undetermined-grape red wine, which was gifted to me and tastes rather flavourful. Another successful and enjoyable meal, which I get to enjoy for my lunches during the week as well!

Meal ideas & recipes from “International Thai Cooking: Authentic Thai Food” book acquired during my 2009 Southeast Asia travels.

Special Dish for the Week: Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu

In keeping with my latest theme of spicy food during my Book Writing Retreat 2014 Barra de Navidad in Mexico, I travel in my Special Dish for the Week to another continent that also prizes itself on spice, and I prepare a spicy-sweet Thai dish:

Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu

Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu

Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu

Loosely following a recipe, I sautée grated garlic and ginger in some coconut oil, together with red Thai curry pastered Thai chili pepper, chopped cilantro stems and coarsely chopped sweet onion.

While these are releasing and mingling together their flavours, I coarsely chop an orange pepper, slice some canned pineapple, and cube some organic tofu. Meanwhile, my Jasmine brown rice is cooking in my rice maker and my shrimp are defrosting. Continuing to prepare my curry, I add the fruit, veggies and protein, along with coconut milk and several kaffir lime leaves to the wok, and let them all heat through.

Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu Dish

Pineapple Curry with Prawns and Tofu Dish

I serve the curry over the Jasmine brown rice, and garnish it with a generous pinch of chopped fresh cilantro. From my customised Special Dish for the Week wine glass, received for Christmas from my good Hamburgerin friend, I sip some Pinot Blanc, for a change. And after the spicy-sweet curry, my sweet tooth cannot resist a morsel of baklava for dessert.

Meal ideas & recipes from “International Thai Cooking: Authentic Thai Food” book acquired during my 2009 Southeast Asia travels.