Thai nostalgia in a pot
Until a few weeks ago, the husband has been a bit of a closet culinary enthusiast. I’ve always believed he had it in him, but his own laziness and impatience that makes him imagine cooking is a tedious and long-drawn affair, has kept him away from jumping in head-on. More often than not he steers clear of the kitchen, except for making the odd omelette, my weekend morning chai and of course the one time he made me Patrani Macchi. This is not counting all the pitching in with chopping and stirring, when I’m beat on most weekday evenings. Its a boon when I’m trying to get dinner done in record time so we can eat and crash, but I think its a good time in our lives for him to step in and take on more.
Of late though, his interest has piqued, thanks to my general obsession coinciding with a Masterchef overdose, and in a quest to teach himself everything from scratch, he bought Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything — a beginner’s guide to the basics of cooking.
I mocked him at first, because I thought it was a ridiculous idea to think you can learn to cook everything, our of a book. But when it arrived, I had to eat my words. For a beginner with no kitchen experience this is the culinary equivalent of Julie Andrews’ doe-a-deer, starting at the very beginning and covers a wide spectrum of all the basics, the essentials. Tips, tricks, everything from kitchen ware, the perfect set of knives, how to pick vegetables, techniques in using knives, working your way around sauteeing, boiling, simmering, braising, poaching etc. With over a 1000 big coloured pictures, he’s been soaking it in like a diligent student for a few weeks now.
Today, he’s more willing to step in and experiment and excitedly tries out a new thing every week. He started with the basics, making me scrambled eggs one weekend, and then he jumped right into the complicated poached egg the next. Something even I haven’t mustered the courage to try out. He made some honey glazed carrots last weekend and yesterday in an attempt to marry Thai nostalgia with upping the difficulty levels a bit, he decided to make Thai-style noodles with prawns. Not to be mistaken as Pad Thai Noodles, this is more a simmered coconut milk broth, with lots of veggies, prawns and Thai flavours melded into one big pot. You could easily make a vegetarian version by simply omitting the eggs and the prawns and I’m pretty sure it will taste just as good.
Here’s what he used (enough to feed 4 hungry people)
1/2 kg prawns, shelled and deveined
1 bunch spring onions
3-4 pods of garlic
1 small capsicum
4-5 large button mushrooms
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons soya sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red chilli flakes
2 dried red chillies
A dash of fish sauce
A small handful chopped fresh cilantro (I used coriander)
Salt to taste
2 small packets flat rice noodles (We used the readymade Ching’s Pad Thai noodles mix, but skipped their spice mix)
1/2 cup shelled and crushed peanuts
Here’s what he did
First he cleaned and deveined the prawns. Then between swigs of his Sunday afternoon beer, he got all his veggies chopped and ready.
Next went in the trimmed red chillies, the coconut milk mix and a dash of fish sauce in quick succession, and he gave it all a nice big mix, simmered it for 2 minutes and turned it off, making sure not to overcook the prawns. If you feel they have cooked sooner, turn it off immediately because prawns continue to cook in the dish.