(Andy Oliver)
List 08 May

5 alternative Thai recipes

Professional chef and previous Masterchef finalist, Andy Oliver shares his favourite alternative Thai recipes he's picked up on his travels

Andy Oliver loves all food from around the world but is especially passionate about South-East Asian cuisine, here he reveals his top five alternative Thai recipes.

1. Salad of crisp fish, green mango and cashew nuts

An all time favourite of mine. I first tried this salad on a beach in Southern Thailand - sitting on a flimsy plastic chair a few feet from the sea along with a cold beer I remember thinking ‘it doesn’t get better than this!’

Ingredients

Serves: two (without much else, or four or more as part of a Thai meal)

150g white fish fillet, such as sea bass or bream
A handful of of plain cashew nuts, toasted in a low oven until golden
2 sticks of lemon grass, though outer layers removed
2 shallots, peeled
1 clove of garlic
1 green (hard and unripe) mango
Handful of coriander, with the roots
Handful of mint
Juice of 2 or 3 limes
1-4 bird's eye chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
Small tsp of palm sugar (but normal caster sugar works fine here too)
Pinch of maldon, or other coarse sea salt
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
5 tbsp plain oil to shallow fry

First make your dressing: pound the garlic clove, three coriander roots and your chillies in a pestle and mortar (or if you dont have then whizz in a blender) until quite fine.

Extra tip: adding a pinch of sea salt to the mortar will help break down the ingredients and start the seasoning.

Now add the juice from the two limes (three if they're not very juicy).

Next mix in the palm (or white) sugar, and finally add the fish sauce.  Have a taste and adjust if needed (it should be hot, sour plus a bit sweet and salty).

Now peel your green mango and julienne with a knife (or use a mandolin, but watch your fingers). Thinly slice the shallots and the lemongrass. Pick the leaves from the herbs.

Now you’re ready to fry the fish: toss the fillet in a little light soy sauce then shallow fry skin side down in a wok (or pan) with your five tablespoons of oil on quite a high heat (preheat the oil before adding the fish!).  After about two minutes carefully flip the fish over to cook evenly.

Another minute and the fish should be crispy on the outside, cooked in the middle. Take it out and drain on kitchen paper.

Now you're ready to serve: toss all the ingredients (except the fish and dressing) in a bowl, then add the dressing. Toss again and serve on a plate. Break the crispy fish in to bite sized chunks over the top and enjoy.

2.‘Stir-fried’ penang curry with pork

Here’s a really quick dry way of making a fairly dry curry in a wok.  I learned this type of dish from a Thai chef I used to work with; he would always make us something to eat late at night after service was finished.  This dish was perfect: tasty curry in minutes!

Ingredients

Serves: two

200g of pork loin, sliced about 1cm thick
1 tbsp of ‘penang’ curry paste (bought one is fine but try and get a Thai brand e.g Mae Ploy)
1 tbsp of plain (e.g sunflower) oil
1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp palm sugar
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 long red chillies, sliced on the angle
Handful of Thai basil (you can also use Western basil), leaves picked

First open can of coconut milk, if there is thick cream on the top then scoop off a couple of tablespoons of that and add it to a wok or high sided frying pan. If the milk in the can is all liquid then don't worry just start with two tablespoons of that in the same way.

To your pan now add the tablespoon of oil and cook on  a medium high for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally.  Now add your curry paste and fry in the cream and oil for about three minutes, add the teaspoon of palm sugar and then the sliced pork and fish sauce.

Cook for about two more minutes before adding about five tablespoons more of canned coconut milk, throw in your sliced chilli now too.

Taste and check the seasoning: it might need a pinch more sugar or splash of fish sauce.

Finally add a generous handful of basil leaves and serve.

Extra tip: good additions here would be some crushed roasted peanuts and some torn kaffir lime leaves, if you have them.

3. Dtom khaa gai (coconut galangal soup with chicken)

This Thai classic is one of my favourites, you can find it in Thai restaurants across the world, but it isn’t always done well.

Note: the galangal is really important for it to be authentic (after all the name of the soup ‘dtom khaa’ means ‘boiled galangal’) so try and find it at your nearest Asian store.

Ingredients

Serves: two - three

300 ml coconut milk
300 ml chicken stock
3 small shallots
3 sticks lemongrass, long ends trimmed off
5 coriander roots
4 cm galangal, sliced in to thick rounds
3-8 Thai bird's eye chillies (depends how hot you like)
4-5 lime leaves (frozen ones work fine and can be found in many Asian shops)
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 skinless chicken breast, cut into 1cm-thick slices
100g oyster mushrooms, or other exotic mushroom torn in to bite sized pieces
5 baby sweetcorn sliced in to bite sized pieces
1-2 tbsp of fish sauce, or to taste
Juice of one lime
Small handful coriander leaves

Pour the coconut milk and chicken stock into a saucepan, place over a medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.

With a pestle and mortar (or even the side of your knife) bruise your shallots, lemon grass, coriander roots and chillies, tear the lime leaves roughly and tip the whole lot in to the simmering milk and stock.  Bring back to a simmer.

Add a tablespoon of fish sauce and half the palm sugar then slide in the chicken, mushrooms and corn. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is opaque and cooked through.

Turn the heat off before adding the lime juice (it goes bitter if boiled) and taste, add a touch more palm sugar or fish sauce if needed (you should have a nice even balance of sweet, salty and sour, plus some heat from the chillies).

Ladle the soup into warm serving bowls and scatter over the fresh coriander leaves

Extra tip: you can make this soup more luxurious by using wild mushrooms.

4. Bananas poached in coconut cream

This is a very simple Thai dessert, I tried it on my first trip to Bangkok at a nighttime street stall. It was the only dessert I recognised - all the others were multicoloured frogspawn-like tapioca balls and jelly squares which I didn’t have a clue about. For a delicious (but not very authentic) twist you could serve it warm with a cold sorbet e.g coconut or lychee.

Ingredients

Serves: 4

6 small Asian banana or 3 large medium bananas (try to find firm /slightly under ripe ones).
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 tbsp of white caster sugar
A good pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp of sesame seeds

Optional: 2 pandanus leaves (available at Asian supermarkets) cut in half

First toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan, stirring regularly, until an even golden colour. Next pour your coconut milk into a small pan, add the pandanus leaves (if using) and bring gently and simmer.

Season with the sugar and salt and taste to adjust: it should be sweet and the salt almost unrecognisable.

Now peel your bananas and, if large, cut in to three, if small then in cut in half.  Add these to your simmering coconut milk, simmer for a further minute, then turn off the heat and leave to sit for five minutes before serving sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

5. Stir-fried Asian greens with crisp tofu

This is a really simple dish suitable for vegetarians, and also great as part of a Thai meal. The smell of stir fried golden garlic is one of the things that instantly brings me back to Asia, even if it’s January in London. Good tip here is not to try and cook too much at once; if you need to stir fry for 4 then do it in two batches, the end result with be better.

Ingredients

Serves: 2

2 large handfuls of washed and drained tender Asian greens (e.g choy sum, bok choy etc, or even spinach will work)
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
A small block of ‘silken’ tofu
Oil for deep frying, and a little for stir frying too
2 spring onions, cut in to 3cm lengths
A thumb-sized nob of ginger, cut in to matchsticks
1-2 tbsp of light soy sauce
A pinch of caster sugar
A pinch of white pepper
A few drops of roasted sesame oil

First deep fry your block of tofu in hot oil until golden and crispy on the outside, cut it in to four or six cubes and set aside.

Now take a wok put it on a medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil to it.  Fry your garlic slices until just starting to turn golden, then quickly throw in the prepared ginger and spring onion, stir for 30 seconds before throwing in the greens.

Turn up the heat to full and stir the veg rapidly, season with soy sauce, white pepper and white sugar and add a tablespoon of water if it’s very dry.  Taste to check for seasoning, then gently fold through your cubes of fried tofu and finish with a few drops of sesame oil.

Serve and enjoy.

Having finished an 18-month stint working at Nahm in London, Andy is currently in Thailand spending time in the kitchen at Nahm Bangkok, travelling around and eating as much interesting local grub as is humanly possible

You can read about his latest adventures on his blog: The Cook's Broth

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