When I make a dish that is inspired by a specific cuisine, like Indian, or Italian, it’s because I can. And you can, too. It’s just about being familiar with the specific ingredients of that cuisine. Then it’s just a matter of utilizing those ingredients to create your dish – no recipe required.
The same thing can be done with Thai food. I’m not saying I’m an expert. In fact, there are many ingredients I can’t get my hands on, which is sad, because I’ll never be able to taste them or cook with them. But there are two important ingredients in Thai cooking that are readily available. Those are curry pastes, and coconut milk.
Of course you can make your own curry pastes, and I’m one to usually do most everything from scratch in the kitchen. But because I can’t get certain fresh ingredients, like galangal and kaffir lime, there’s no way I could make a curry paste that comes close to the real thing. So I do rely on prepared curry pastes.
My favorite brand in Mae Ploy. The green is mostly green chiles and lemongrass. The red, my favorite, is mostly red chiles and garlic. The yellow is mostly lemongrass and garlic. They are pastes and must be refrigerated.
Regarding the coconut milk, I’m not talking sweetened coconut milk for pina coladas! Just plain coconut milk in a can. Coconut milk in a carton will work but it’s thinner and has a milder flavor.
Two other ingredients that come in handy when making Thai food are herbs, like mint, cilantro, and basil, as well as chile peppers. These can both be sprinkled on top of your Thai dish. But as long as you have coconut milk and a curry paste, you can make any dish Thai inspired.
So today I’m making a risotto using red curry paste and coconut milk, and topping it with grilled garlic-cilantro shrimp. It’s Thai, and it’s risotto!
Thai-Inspired Risotto with Grilled Garlic-Cilantro Shrimp
For the risotto:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 shallots, diced
1″ piece ginger, diced
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
1 tablespoon red curry paste
For the shrimp:
1 pound good-sized shrimp, cleaned
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cilantro, to taste
Rinse and dry the shrimp; set aside.
Place the remaining ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss them gently.
When you’re ready to cook the shrimp, heat a stove-top grill or skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp to the hot skillet and cook for just a minute or so on both sides. The timing will be different based on the size of your shrimp.
After you’re done cooking all of the shrimp, cover them and set aside while you make the risotto.
Instead of plain olive oil for the risotto, I actually poured the rest of the green marinade into the skillet while it was still hot, and let the watery liquid boil off.
Then I poured it through a fine sieve into the risotto pot. That way the oil I use is much more flavorful, with the garlic and cilantro flavors! But olive oil or butter will both work.
Heat the oil in the risotto pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and ginger. Sauté for a few minutes.
Then add the rice and stir until all of the rice grains are coated with the oil.
Begin adding the chicken broth, about 1/4 cup at a time, and stirring the rice well after each addition.
Add the curry paste and stir in completely. You will love the smells!
Then I began adding the coconut milk, and treating it exactly like the broth. But you can change up the broth to coconut milk ratio to your liking.
The risotto will let you know when it’s at maximum absorption, because it just won’t absorb any more liquid. But trust me, if you let it sit, it will thicken. So be ready to serve the risotto at the end of the cooking time. That way it will be hot and creamy, and not thick and stiff.
I sprinkled on some slices of fresh chile peppers; Thai chile peppers aren’t necessary, you just want something with a little heat. Even jalapenos would work. Chile peppers provide such lovely color, as well.
You can also top the dish with chopped cilantro, mint, and or basil.
If you’re interested in authentic Thai cuisine, check out Miranti’s blog at The High Heel Gourmet!