Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pan Asian Ingredients

In Plainsboro we have an Asian Food Market. It's a huge grocery store with a rainbow of fresh but cheap vegetables and fruits. I got 9 limes for 99 cents! Herbs are bright green and squeezed into big plastic boxes; not like the tiny bundle you get a Shop Rite. A whole row of greens: bok choy varieties, sprouts, mushrooms, snake beans. There are aisles and aisles of prepared foods--organized by type and country of origin. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Korean, and somewhere I stumble upon Goya and Campbells brands that simply look out of place. Hundreds of noodle varieties, bean pastes, bamboo shoots, spices, snacks of dried fish and seaweed many of which are not translated into English. Fermented soy curd, anyone? Sometimes I want to walk up to someone with an unusual ingredient in their basket and ask how they plan to prepare it. But I'm shy, often the only non-Asian person in the market, and worried they won't speak English. One day I'll be brave!

Here are a few ingredients I picked up and added to my farm fixin's for a Thai Zucchini and Tomato Red Curry dish last night. CSA zucchini, basil and chicken breasts, local farm tomatoes, conventional onion and lime, Thai coconut milk, Indian basmati brown rice, and Thai red curry paste. The recipe is from a Food and Wine cookbook; I halved the recipe since we're just 2 people and it took only about 45 min total to prepare. In fact, the rice probably took the longest to wash, soak then boil and simmer for 25 min. In the meantime I skinned and seasoned the chicken breasts, cooked them in a hot, deep pan then set them aside on a plate. Half the sliced onion went into the chicken's pan to stir fry and in 2 minutes was joined by zucchini, tomato, curry paste, lime zest and juice and unsweetened coconut milk. The aroma was amazing! The chicken simmered back in it's pan with the veggies and I served portions over brown rice with a little extra sauce and basil. It's amazing how much flavor and tang the lime zest gives to the whole dish! The chicken was tender and veggies still had some firmness to the bite. When I lived in Boston with my friend Heather we had several great Thai restaurants, but none around here.
Frankly, who needs them now?

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