Category Archives: Shrimp, Prawn

Thai Chilli Jam (Nam Prik Pao)

chillijampEven if you have tasted lots of different chilli preserves, pickles, jellies or sauces, you will still be blown away by the extraordinary richness of flavours of this Thai condiment. It is obviously hot, but also smokey, sweet, salty, slightly sour, slightly pungent and, most of all, utterly addictive. At first I wondered why it’s called “jam”, but I quickly understood: as soon as I tasted the first spoonful, all I wanted was simply spread a thick layer of it on a piece of crunchy bread and enjoy every single bite of this astonishing product.

Nham Prik Pao/Nam Prik Pao is a famous Thai chilli paste, available in Asian grocery shops. According to David Thompson (Thai Food), there are two distinct methods to obtain it: grilling or frying and he advises the latter, more versatile, technique which I followed as closely as I could. The presence of dried shrimp, shrimp paste, galangal and most of all tamarind creates an incredibly complex and sophisticated result: sticky, pungent irresistible jam which, according to what I read on different internet sources, is indeed eaten as a bread spread in Thailand. According to David Thompson, this jam can be used as a relish, added to a sour soup (such as Tom Yum Goong), act as a basis for stir-fries and as a salad sauce. I have a friend who uses it all the time, so I’m sure it will not stay forgotten in your fridge. Definitely worth the long cutting and frying process!

I have mixed here two recipes (from David Thompson’s Thai Food and Thai Street Food), slightly changing the amounts of certain ingredients, so check either of these fascinating books to see the original recipe.

TIPS: If you cannot find shrimp paste, skip it. In his other book (Thai Street Food) David Thompson doesn’t include it in chilli jam recipe, so I guess it’s not obligatory, but I preferred the jam with it.

According to David Thompson galangal can be skipped here, but one does taste its presence in the final product and I think it creates and even more interesting taste, so if you can find it, buy it!

If you don’t find dried shrimp, you can easily dry fresh or defrosted small shrimp in the oven set at low temperature.  Check David Thompson’s Thai Food for the exact recipe (that’s what I did and my own dried shrimps were not only ridiculously easy to prepare, but largely superior to the bought stuff).

Tamarind can be bought in different forms: fresh, as a ready-to-use paste or in a square block. I use only tamarind blocks, advised in both Indian and Thai cookery books, so I have no idea how much of it should be used if you opt for the paste instead.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (fills a 200-250 ml jar):

oil for deep frying

150 g Asian shallots (I have used European shallots)

75 g garlic

2 slices fresh galangal

5 dried long chillies (you can use any variety, but I would avoid bird’s-eye chillies or Scotch bonnet or other extremely hot ones)

2 heaped tablespoons dried shrimp

3 flat tablespoons palm sugar

2 cm square of tamarind block

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste

Start with obtaining tamarind juice.

Cut about 2 cm square piece of tamarind block and pour 50 ml boiling water over it. Dissolve, stirring with a spoon. Put aside.

After about 15 minutes strain it: you obtain the tamarind juice, aka tamarind water.

Soak the dried chillies in salted water for ten minutes, deseed them (or not, if you want a hotter result) and dry them well.

Heat an empty pan and roast the 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp paste.

Rinse the dried shrimp and dry with paper towels.

Slice finely both the garlic and the shallots.

Heat the oil in a pan and deep fry the ingredients separately (in my opinion the following order is the best): galangal slices, chilli (until it starts looking crispy, but don’t let it burn!), garlic (beware, it starts changing colour very quickly and burns even quicker, so take it out with a slotted spoon as soon as it starts becoming light golden) and finally the shallots until they are golden (this will take a while and you need to do it in two batches at least).

Combine all the fried ingredients and dried shrimp in a mortar and pound them or, as I did, mix them in a baby food processor, adding some oil – as the author advises – to make the process easier.

Transfer the paste to a pan, add several more tablespoons oil and bring to a boil. Add the sugar, the tamarind juice and the fish sauce. Stir for about a minute, taste and adjust the flavours if needed (though it’s difficult while still hot…). Apparently the sugar can easily burn, so don’t heat the paste for too long. Now your chilli jam is ready!

It will keep in the fridge forever (I empty mine in several days…).

Easter Party Ideas

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Wonton Cups, or Edible Snack Containers

Zsuzsa, my blogging friend from Zsuzsa is in the Kitchen, has recently invited me to join her and other bloggers (Eva from Takarékos Konyha, Elisabeth from Food and Thrift and Eva from Kitchen Inspirations) and, just like them, post my Easter menu suggestions. I was honoured, but at first I panicked because apart from a Chicken Terrine (see below) I don’t really have traditional Easter dishes on my blog. Both Zsuzsa and Elisabeth have convinced me to present whatever I might serve for such an occasion, even if it is not traditional in any country or region of the world. Thank you, ladies, for your advice! Thus, I have chosen some festive dishes I love, regardless their origins or relation to Easter celebrations. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa, for your kind invitation. I hope my eclectic choice, far from Easter traditions will not disappoint you.

Here is a list of dishes I would take into consideration if I had guests for Easter (of course I wouldn’t serve all of them!). All of them can be served at a buffet-style party, my recent favourite way to entertain. Such a concept usually means more work beforehand because, contrary to traditional meals, one cannot serve just three dishes, but this way I offer a bigger choice to the guests, who are not forced to eat all they are served, but most of all such a party has a more relaxed atmosphere. Apart from one exception, I have chosen easy recipes, which either can be prepared very quickly or made in advance. They have both Western and Asian origins, so I hope you will find here some useful ideas, not necessarily for Easter.

First of all, I would never skip the obligatory Wonton Cups, or Edible Snack Containers (see the photo above). Versatile, cute and easy, these edible containers are nowadays a staple not only when I have guests (thank you, Juliana!).

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Last-minute Crackers can be prepared really just before the guests arrive as long as you have some puff pastry in the fridge. These star-shaped crackers were prepared for Christmas, but you can give them any shape you wish, such as bunnies…

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These olives are so easy to prepare you will never consider buying them seasoned by someone else again.

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This Smoked Mackerel and Egg Spread can be prepared with any smoked fish of your choice, of course.

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Recently discovered Taramosalata (Fish Roe Spread) is one more thing I will never ever even think of buying. Home-made version is incomparably better.

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Light Chicken Terrine with Nutmeg is actually the only dish I used to have as a child for Easter and other festive occasions.

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Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes (aka Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes Bread) is a wonderful alternative to canapés.

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Cake with Ham and Olives, another canapés substitution, is a real crowd-pleaser.

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If you feel like serving Japanese food (why not?), try preparing Maki Sushi with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber. They will not necessarily look as perfect as in your sushi shop, but they are really easy to prepare.

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Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast and Carrots, an Asian sandwich alternative, can also be prepared with the remains of your roast, after the Easter holidays.

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Sesame-Coated Chicken Nuggets (Tori no goma age) can be made in advance and will please all the sesame fans.

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Japanese Chicken and Leek Skewers (Negima) are brushed with teriyaki glaze and usually please every guest.

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Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls are incredibly easy to prepare and are one of my favourite ways to serve asparagus.

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Unbaked chocolate Cake with Biscuits (Chocolate Terrine with Speculoos) is a rich creamy dessert which doesn’t require baking and is incredibly simple to prepare.

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Coconut, Chocolate and Rum Truffles (Bounty Truffles). Who doesn’t like chocolate truffles?

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Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles are the only ones which might be tricky to prepare, but they are green, fresh, festive and have this amazing slightly bitter matcha flavour…

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Chocolate and prunes are all you need to prepare these luscious Prunes in Chocolate, a quicker and easier alternative to chocolate truffles.

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This Kiwi and Rum Cocktail seemed perfect for a spring party.

I strongly encourage you to check the wonderful Easter menu suggestions proposed by my blogging friends and would like to wish you all a very happy Easter and wonderful holidays to those who don’t celebrate it!

Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum Goong)

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Tom Yum Goong is apparently very popular, but even though I have heard about it and probably saw it on some restaurants’ menus, I had never tasted it because until recently I was convinced all the Asian dishes labelled as “sour” were also horribly sweet at the same time. I didn’t really know what to expect and was relieved the result was excellent and not sweetish at all. I was enchanted by the sharpness and complexity of the flavours, much more distinct than in the Thai dishes containing curry pastes or/and coconut milk. The elegance,  pureness and freshness of this soup reminded me a bit of the recently discovered Burmese-Style Pork Curry with Ginger, which also doesn’t contain coconut milk, but which is richer and slightly sweet. I also found it surprisingly quick and easy to prepare, the only difficulty lying in the correct balance between the sour and hot flavours.

I found this recipe in “Real Thai. The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking” by Nancie Mc Dermott and have only slightly modified it, mainly leaving out canned straw mushrooms which I don’t like (I have increased the amount of shrimps instead) and scaling it down to two servings.

TIPS: Lemongrass and makrut lime leaves freeze very well, so it’s easy to have them all year round. As for the Roast Chili Paste, you can buy it in most Asian shops and do it on your own (see the recipe here).

The author advises shrimps with tails on, but they make the eating process difficult and not very elegant, so I have removed all the tails, apart for two or three, for decoration.

Preparation: about 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3):

750 ml (about 3 cups) chicken stock

300 g (about 10 oz) shrimp, peeled, with or without tails

2 lemongrass stalks

8 fresh or frozen makrut lime (also known as kafir) leaves

2 – 4 fresh small chilies

juice of 1/2 lime

2 Asian green onions or 1 Western green onion (here the green part only), cut diagonally into 2 – 2,5 cm pieces

1/2 – 1 tablespoon roasted chili paste (see the recipe here)

fish sauce to taste

Heat the stock and in the meantime cut off the leafy part of lemongrass stalks and remove the dry outer leaves.

Crush the lemongrass stalks with a wide blade of knife or a handle (I always use a knife handle), so that they release the aroma.

Put 4 lime leaves and lemongrass stalks (you might need to cut them in two if your pan is small) to the stock and let it simmer for about five minutes.

Put the shrimps into the stock, add the Roasted Chili Paste, two tablespoons fish sauce and cook on medium heat until the shrimps are all pink.

Remove the fresh chili stems and crush them slightly.

Put the chilies, the remaining lime leaves, juice from 1/2 lime and green onions into a big serving bowl (I have divided them into individual bowls). Cover with the soup, give it a stir and adjust the taste adding more lime juice, more roasted chili paste or more fish sauce.

This soup can be made in advance and reheated.

Rice Salad with Shrimp and Avocado

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Have you ever made a rice salad with mayonnaise? Until about a month ago I thought every single visitor of my blog would answer this question positively. For long years I was convinced such a leftover salad was popular everywhere around the world, especially among the nations for which rice is a staple. Then, astonished, I realised rice salad was a total novelty for my Japanese teacher, who took my recipe and prepared her very first rice salad. Her enthusiastic feedback emboldened me to post this casual dish. One’s staple is often another person’s discovery, so I hope that regular rice salad makers will forgive me such a basic recipe and will not consider this post pretentious.

I cook a lot of Asian dishes, so leftover rice is my everyday fare. To be honest, I always steam more rice than needed because we are particularly fond of fried rice and of course rice salads. Rice salads have always been for me a safe bet in the simple & quick meals category, especially in summertime when they become a chilling alternative to fried rice. I prepare many different versions, depending on what I have in the fridge, but the mixture of shrimp, avocado and cucumber is probably the most frequent. First of all I am very fond of this combination (see below other dishes including it) and keeping the three ingredients in stock is quite easy (I buy frozen raw shrimp). Almost all my rice salads include canned corn, a necessary sweet accent and a delicate softer but still crunchy note. In my opinion shrimp, avocado and rice literally scream for mayonnaise, so I have never tested this version with other sauces, although I serve other rice salads with mustard vinaigrette. I know this bowl might not look very appetising, but if you like the main ingredients and have never tried making a leftover rice salad, you should give it a go. I am almost certain you will not regret it.

Here are two other dishes with my beloved shrimp, avocado and cucumber combination (accidentally they also include rice and mayonnaise):

 

Maki Sushi with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

Hot & Cold Rice Bowl with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

TIPS: This is a laid back, casual meal. I change the ingredients’ proportions according to my mood and to what I find in the kitchen. Therefore the below amounts are approximate.

I find that leftover, one day old rice is the best option in rice salads. It should at least stay several hours in a closed container before the salad is served.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people as a main course):

15 medium shrimp (shelled, deveined and blanched)

1 avocado

1/2 long cucumber

1 1,2 – 2 cups (about 375 –  500 ml) cooked rice 

1 red onion or 1 big spring onion 

1 can corn (300 g/about 10 oz)

a couple of tablespoons mayonnaise

salt, pepper

(Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce)

Chop finely the onion or spring onion.

Cut up the remaining ingredients.

Drain the corn.

Heat the rice in a microwave until is tepid (it will help to break the grains and to avoid lumps).

In a big bowl combine all the ingredients, add the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire.

Serve cold.

 

 

 

Korean Pancake with Shrimp and Scallop (Haemul pajeon 해물파전)

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What you see above is my first, partly successful, attempt to prepare the famous Korean seafood pancake. I say “partly successful” because in spite of a burnt part and some other mistakes, I was literally spellbound by this extraordinary snack. First, I thought I would wait a second, better prepared and better looking batch before posting it, but finally I couldn’t wait to share with you my first experience with for what I consider as one of the most memorable dishes I have discovered in recent months or maybe even years.

Seafood pancake (haemul pajeon 해물파전)  is a very popular Korean snack or starter. Apparently it is served cut into small pieces and eaten with hands (I say “apparently” because I have never seen it in any restaurant here). It is composed of a batter made with two types of flour, several seafood species, chili peppers and spring onions. The original recipe (found in The Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song ) calls for five marine creatures and enoki mushrooms, but since I had leftover shrimp and scallops, I used only these and adapted the amounts to a smaller batch. As I have mentioned above, I had made some mistakes, but the preparation was really easy and quick (I was just a bit distracted) and the result impressive. When I prepared the pancake I didn’t imagine it even half as good as it proved, so the first bite was a huge surprise. I felt as if I were eating a very distant, more sophisticated cousin of a pizza, but it has also slightly reminded me of the Japanese okonomiyaki (see my last chicken version here). Both me and my husband were blown away by the result and the whole batch disappeared in no time at all. I will not exaggerate if I say I know I will prepare it dozens or rather hundreds of times in the near future and serve it for brunch, lunch, picnic or party snacks.

You will be surprised to notice that apart from the dipping sauce the recipe doesn’t require a single Korean (or in general Asian) ingredient. In fact, it can be prepared with very international ingredients, available worldwide. On the other hand the sauce, which brings an important Korean touch was a pure delight and I will never skip it.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 as snacks):

10 medium shrimps shelled and deveined (cooked or raw)

4 scallops

3 spring onion stalks

1/2 medium hot green chili

1/2  medium hot red chili

1 clove garlic

Batter:

1/2 cup plain flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

200 ml ice cold water

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 egg, beaten

Dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 stalk of spring onion finely cut

1 clove garlic, crushed or grated

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Prepare the dipping sauce and put aside.

Prepare the pancake ingredients. Cut the scallops in two horizontally in order to obtain eight flat, round slices.

Slice the garlic finely.

Slice the chilies into very thin strips.

Slice the spring onion stalks into thin strips.

Prepare the batter combining all the ingredients.

Heat some oil in a big pan. (Keep the pan on medium heat, otherwise the pancake will be burnt like mine).

Pour 1/3 of the batter and make sure it spreads on the whole surface.

Scatter the shrimps, scallops, spring onions, chilies and the garlic over the batter and quickly pour on top the remaining batter.

Cover and fry on medium heat until the seafood is cooked.

Turn it over and fry for about two or three minutes just to brown this side a bit too.

Slice the pancake into small pieces (one or two bite-sized) and serve with the dipping sauce.