Another Saturday, another few dishes from Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok. First, for breakfast I made the very simple khao phat muu (Thai-style fried rice with pork) but used some leftover ground turkey. A little fish sauce, Thai thin soy sauce, a little sugar, and the limes (well, that’s a pink lemon at the very bottom edge of the photograph up top—they were cheaper than the limes at the Super Saver last week, weirdly) make it altogether different from your typical Chinese fried rice. If you’re looking for an easy recipe to serve as a jumping-off point, this would be a good one to start with.
My daughter and I went to an Asian food store I hadn’t been to yet (Jung’s) and were pleasantly surprised to find it well stocked with Korean and Japanese ingredients—most of the Asian grocery stores in Lincoln are Vietnamese-centric. The proprietor asked what we were cooking, and told us she is Thai! Or at least speaks Thai! It was very exciting! She told us in great detail how to use the refrigerated Korean salted shrimp in a zucchini dish, and convinced me to buy a large packet of beef soup granules (first two ingredients are as you’d expect: salt, MSG), which she said would make it even better. The shrimp jar is large (it’s on the right in the picture below), so I’ll take her suggestions happily. As we were leaving: “Come back soon! I’ll tell you more!” We will be back.
Quick swing over to Little Saigon, where Thalia convinced me to buy a coconut, then the Natural Grocers for—what else?—zucchini, and we were all set.
Next up: frying lots of shallots, which I then forgot to put on the yam samun phrai (Northern Thai–style herbal salad): a warm, slightly sweet dressing with a little coconut milk is tossed with julienned vegetables and then topped with chiffonaded herbs. I also forgot that our Thai basil had frozen, and I hadn’t picked up any at the store, so that was missing. I couldn’t find white turmeric root so used Ricker’s suggested substitution of parsnips and ginger, which gave it a woodsy, slightly bitter flavor that I liked a lot. On top I used sawtooth herb (culantro), regular cilantro with the stems, betel leaves, and kaffir lime leaves, plus chopped roasted cashews and toasted sesame seeds. It took half a day to make, but was a very satisfying lunch.
I probably didn’t need to make anything else for supper, much less dessert, but, well, it was something to do, so I kept cooking and made a Dutch oven’s worth of jaw phak kat (Northern Thai mustard green soup with tamarind and pork ribs).
The cross-cut pork ribs are simmered for half an hour or so, then a paste of chiles, garlic, shallots, and fermented fish products of various sorts is stirred into the simmering water, along with tart tamarind water to make a murky, funky, hot-sour broth. Chopped yu choy and wedges of onion are piled into the pot to steam and become tender. I remembered those fried shallots for the top, and fried arbol chiles gave some bites a little more heat. It’s a homey, comforting, wintry soup, and we have about six servings of it left in the fridge.
I want to tell you about dessert, too, the classic khao niaw mamuang (sticky rice with mango and salty-sweet coconut cream), and confess that I still have not purchased a sticky rice steamer. But I didn’t need it, so I probably won’t get one after all—I have enough stuff in my kitchen (and mud room, and basement). Try this: Find an aluminum cake pan and poke a bunch of holes in the bottom with a small nail. Put a couple inches of water in a pot and shove the perforated cake pan down into the top, letting the edge catch on the rim of the pot. Spread the soaked and drained glutinous rice in the pan (you could first line it with rinsed and squeezed cheesecloth for ease of turning the mass of rice later, but I didn’t bother), put a double layer of paper towels over the pan (not shown below) to keep the closure as tight as possible at the edges, then shove the pot lid down as tight as you can. Steam until just about tender, then use a spatula to flip the rice over in the pan so that the layer that was on top is now on the bottom, then steam a little longer until all is just about tender.
Stir the warm rice into sweetened pandan leaf–infused coconut cream, top with mango, drizzle with salty and not as sweet infused coconut cream, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
It was amazing, even—or especially?—with the slightly underripe and thus tart mango, which offset the sweet coconut cream. I warmed up some leftover sweet rice for breakfast this morning and am finding it hard to get moving now so I would not recommend doing that yourself.