หมูสามชั้นทอดน้ำปลา Moo Sam Chan Tod Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce Crispy Pork Belly)

First, a little Thai lesson!
หมู Moo = pig/pork
สามชั้น Sam Chan = three layer (Pork Belly)
ทอด Tod = fry/fried
น้ำปลา Nam Pla = fish sauce.
Translation: Fried pork belly with fish sauce.

Fishy pork? Well, that’s doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? Fear not, fish sauce may stench like death but it’s a magical ingredient that will not tarnish your dish if you use it wisely. The main secret to this dish is the limited amount of fish sauce used. When my Thai friend taught me how to make this dish, I was flabbergasted at how little fish sauce she used; how can something with so little marinade taste incredibly delicious? It’s a hard thing for a person like myself who tends to be a little heavy handed on flavour to fathom how 2 tablespoons of fish sauce could be enough for 400g of pork belly. Sorry, I still can’t get over it and I probably never will!

Apart from its magical qualities, it is also probably one of the easiest Thai dishes I have ever come across, heck, it’s one of the easiest dishes I’ve come across in any cuisine around the world! It is also a dish that you are not likely to find in your local Thai restaurant despite being absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

400g pork belly, cut into strips

2 Tbsp. Thai Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tsp. white pepper (optional)

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. cornflour

1 Tbsp. water

Method

1 Marinate the pork belly with Thai fish sauce, white pepper and salt; leave for a few hours or preferably overnight. It’s also not the end of the world if you don’t have that much time and can’t leave it marinating for very long; just do it anyways. moosam12 Just before frying coat the pork belly with cornflour and water and mix well. moosam23 Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Depending on the size of your pan, it might be best to fry in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. moosam3Serving suggestion:
This dish can be served on its own as a snack (goes great with beer), as part as a larger meal with different dishes or as a daily meal paired with Thai Jasmine Rice or sticky rice. I also make Prik Nam Pla (the most basic spicy Thai dipping sauce made with Thai chilli, fish sauce, lime/lemon juice & sugar) but the pork doesn’t actually need it; I normally make it more because I like it with my rice. moosamchan (3)

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British Cauliflower Cheese

I used to absolutely loathe cauliflower especially as in school it was always cooked to death and tasted like the devil’s food; I couldn’t even muster cauliflower cheese for Christ’s sake. While I still can’t stomach overcooked cauliflower, I can’t get enough of cauliflower cheese. There is really no need to parboil or boil the cauliflower before baking the dish like I’ve seen on so many recipes. Why bother with an extra unnecessary step?

My cheese of choice has to be proper British extra mature cheddar cheese; none of that faux cheddar though that gives this underrated cheese such a bad rep. You can of course use any cheese you like; you can even go cray-cray and use goats cheese if that’s your thang. It’s also good with Stilton but where I live (out of the UK) Stilton is rather expensive to be made into this dish.

This is the classic version of Cauliflower Cheese but it can easily be taken to new and exciting heights without much creativity. Add bacon for example; what doesn’t taste better without bacon?! Unless you follow a plant-based diet of course!

Enough chit-chat.

Ingredients

1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets

60g unsalted butter

60g plain flour

1l cold milk

150g grated extra mature British cheddar (or any cheese you like)

1tsp grated nutmeg

Salt & pepper, to taste

1 spring onion, diced (optional)

Method

1 First you need to make a cheese sauce by melting the butter in a pan and adding the flour until it comes together into a sort of paste (or a roux, if you will). Fry this paste for a bit to ensure the flour is no longer raw and then cold milk and continue to stir until it becomes thick. Tip: You don’t need to constantly stir until your hand falls off; just make sure you stir every now and again to make sure it doesn’t burn. Cauliflowercheese12 Add most of the cheese (save some for the top later on) and melt into the sauce and then season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Cauliflowercheese23 Transfer the cauliflower florets to an ovenproof dish and completely cover with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cauliflowercheese34 Optionally you can sprinkle with some spring onion once finished baking to add colour and a pop of flavour but it’s not completely necessary or classic. It also contributes towards another one of your five a day.  Cauliflowercheese4

Bacalao al horno con pimientos (Baked Salt Cod with Peppers)

The full name for salt cod in Spanish is bacalao en salazón but it is so popular that it is simply known as bacalao (cod). If you want fresh cod you actually have to specify and ask for bacalao fresco. Salt cod features in traditional recipes all over Spain such as Bakailaoa Bizkaiko from the Basque Country, Ajo Arriero from Castilla la Mancha, Bacalao a la Galega from Galicia, Esgarraet from Valencia or Buñuelos de Bacalao from all over Spain. This recipe however is an adaptation of a dish one of my parent’s friends from Tenerife used to make. The original chef refused to share the recipe with my mother but she worked it out herself and since then it has become a family favourite.

In my house we traditionally save this recipe for special occasions such as Good Friday when we are meant to abstain from meat and Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve in Spain is BIG and is actually more elaborate than Christmas Day itself.

Before cooking salt cod you have to desalt otherwise it would be completely inedible!

How to desalt salt cod:

1 Wash the salt cod pieces under cold running water to remove the visible salt off the surface.

2 Completely submerge the salt cod in cold water and leave to soak in the fridge.

3 You need to soak the salt cod for at least 48 hours and change the water every 6 – 12 hours.

4 To check if it has been desalted enough you can try a piece of the flesh; it should be slightly salty but not a kick in the teeth.  bacalaodesalaoIngredients

1 kg salt cod pieces, desalted

4 peeled potatoes, cut into medium thick rounds

1-2 onions, half moons

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 ripe tomatoes, grated

2 tsp. sweet pimentón

1 Tbsp. sugar

200g pitted green olives

1 glass white wine or beer (water is also an option)

Method

1 Boil the potatoes in unsalted water for around 10 minutes; they do not need to be fully cooked as they will be baked later on. Once they are cooked, rinse in cold water and layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. bacalao12 Fry onions until slightly translucent and then add the peppers for 1 – 2 minutes. bacalao23 Add pimentón and then quickly add the grated tomato to make sure the pimentón doesn’t burn. Mix well and then add sugar and wine or beer. Cook on a low flame. bacalao34 Meanwhile cook the bacalao in cold water until it comes to a boil and then carefully strain making sure you don’t break the fish. Save some of the water from boiling the salt cod and add to the pepper sauce. At this point you can remove the sauce from the heat. bacalao45 Now it’s time to assemble: lay the salt cod pieces on top of the potatoes, spoon over the sauce and add olives. Make sure there is enough sauce to submerge the potatoes, if not add some wine/beer/water. Bake in a hot preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes. bacalao5

Serve and enjoy. I also like it cold but each to their own. bacalao6

Dim Sum Black Bean Spareribs 豉汁蒸排骨

If you go to westernised Chinese restaurants you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with spareribs and black bean dishes but forget that, this is authentic Chinese cooking. These  spareribs are steamed with whole black beans and are a quintessential dish in any good Dim Sum restaurant.

Fermented black beans, known as Douchi (豆豉), are salted and fermented black soybeans that are used often in Chinese cuisine. They are primarily used as a seasoning and are not meant to be consumed in large quantities; you don’t want to eat a whole bowl of them.

Ingredients

500g pork spareribs

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground white pepper

1 Tbsp. light soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine

3 garlic cloves, minced

4cm fresh ginger, julienned

1 Tbsp. Douchi (Salted/Fermented Black Beans), rinsed

1 ½ Tbsp. cornflour (or potato/tapioca starch)

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 spring onion (optional)

Method

1 Marinade the pork spareribs with all the ingredients except the cornflour and sesame oil for at least 30 minutes or preferably overnight if you have the time. dimsumspareribs12 Just before cooking, add the cornflour to the ribs and mix well until evenly coated. The cornflour helps to tenderise the meat. Arrange the ribs on a plate that fits inside your steamer. dimsumspareribs23 Bring a pan of water to a boil (I boil the water in a kettle to speed up the process) and steam the spareribs on a medium heat for 20 – 25 minutes. The spareribs are done once the bone has retracted from the meat but not falling off the bone. dimsumspareribs34 Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with spring onions. Serve as part of Dim Sum or as a standalone meal with steamed rice. dimsumspareribs4

Chilli Tamarind Rabbit

I love rabbit but I know that a lot of people just see them as pets and think it’s cruel to eat them. Funny how they don’t bat an eyelid when they are happily munching on other animals that are not traditionally kept as pets but hey-ho, each to their own.

This recipe is mainly based on Thai cuisine with influence from other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia but it was entirely created in my Frightful kitchen. Rabbit is not eaten in Thailand, except for perhaps in high-end westernised restaurants, but the flavours in this dish really go well with the gamey taste of rabbit.

If you have any qualms about rabbit you can easily use chicken or any other meat instead.

Ingredients

1 whole rabbit (approx. 1kg), cut into pieces

5cm fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1/2 lemongrass stalk

3 Thai chillies

1 Tbsp. Shrimp Paste (I used Indonesian Belachan but any type will do)

Approx. 80g seedless tamarind block (can use 5-6 Tbsp of store-bought tamarind concentrate)

White pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. black soy sauce (see ew dum ซีอิ๊วดำ) or Kecap Manis

1 1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce

5 kaffir lime leaves, bruised and torn

1 Spring onion, sliced

Method

1 Make a ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli paste in a mortar and pestle and then add shrimp paste. Combine well and reserve for later. chillitamarindrabbit12 Soak tamarind block in enough hot water to slightly cover and soak for 15 minutes. Using your hands squeeze the pulp and then use a sieve to make 5-6 Tbsp of tamarind. N.B. Store-bought tamarind concentrate works perfectly fine too just make sure it is from Thailand as Indian Tamarind for example is completely different. P.S. Excuse the photos of the tamarind; yes, I know exactly what it looks like… chillitamarindrabbit23 Marinade rabbit in 5-6 Tbsp of tamarind, white pepper, honey, black soy sauce and fish sauce. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes or preferably overnight. chillitamarindrabbit34 Fry the paste in some vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and then add the rabbit and mix well with the paste. Fry the rabbit for a few minutes until the flesh is no longer translucent and then add cold water until it is just covering the rabbit. Bring to a boil, add kaffir lime leaves and then braise on low for 30 – 40 minutes. chillitamarindrabbit45 Add spring onion and serve with Thai jasmine rice. chillitamarindrabbit8

Thai Chilli Coconut Prawns

Using Thai flavour profiles I came up with this dish using left over น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste) from my ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำข้น Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon (Thai Hot & Sour Creamy Prawn Soup) recipe and a bit of my own ingenuity.

You can just as easily make this recipe with peeled prawns but personally I love whole prawns because then you can enjoy sucking the prawns and its head! mmmm prawn brains, my fave!

Ingredients

500g whole prawns

1 stalk lemongrass

4cm galangal

3 garlic cloves

2 Thai red chillies

1 ½ Tbsp. น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste/Jam)

1 Tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce)

1 Tsp. palm sugar

1 lime, juiced

1 cup coconut milk

3 kaffir lime leaves, torn up

Method

1 Using a mortar and pestle pound the garlic, lemongrass, galangal and Thai chillies into a paste and then incorporate the Nam Prik Pao. namprikprawns12 Fry this paste in vegetable oil for 1 minute and then add the prawns. Toss and fry for a few minutes making sure you coat the prawns in the aromatic paste. namprikprawns23 Add coconut milk, Nam Pla and palm sugar; fry for a few minutes until the sauce slightly reduces. namprikprawns34 Add lime leaves and lime juice and fry for 1-2 minutes. namprikprawns45 Serve with a bowl of Thai jasmine rice. namprikprawnsfeatured

Chinese Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Tofu doesn’t have the best reputation in the western world: it has been shunned by omnivores and carnivores and monopolised by vegetarians and vegans. It doesn’t have to be this way; tofu is much tastier than people give it credit for especially when it’s swimming in a fiery sauce. So if you are on the fence about tofu, give this recipe a go. It might just blow your mind; if not, at least it’ll blow your tastebuds!

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐 is a quintessential Chinese dish from the Sichuan province that is known for its numbing spiciness also known as Ma la 麻辣. In the western world however, Chinese restaurants tend to tone it down to cater to the local palate or even transform it into a vegetarian/vegan dish as most people who would even order a tofu dish will most likely be vegetarian or vegan.

There are two ingredients in this recipe that you may have trouble finding if you don’t have an Asian supermarket at hand:

  • Douchi 豆豉, often labelled as Salted/Fermented Black Beans, are fermented black soybeans that are used as a flavouring in authentic Chinese cuisine. In the western world they tend to be mashed into a gloopy sauce and used to make a variety of Black Bean dishes. To use: Rinse the beans in cold water and use either whole or minced.
  • Pixian Doubanjiang 郫县豆瓣酱, often labelled as Pixian Douban or Chili Bean Sauce, is a spicy paste made with chillies and broad beans beans from Pixian, a district in Chengdu in the Sichuan province. It is the soul of Sichuan cuisine and used in practically everything. Outside of Sichuan, Doubanjiang is usually made with soybeans and is not spicy. If you can’t find Doubanjiang from Pixian at least make sure that you buy one that is made with chillies and broad beans rather than soybeans. To use: it is recommended to run a knife through the paste as sometimes there are big chunks of beans intact.  mapotofuingredients

Ingredients

500g soft tofu, cut into medium sized cubes

200g pork mince

1 ½ Tbsp. Douchi 豆豉, rinsed and minced

2 Tbsp. Pixian Doubanjiang 郫县豆瓣酱, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorn oil (optional)

2 tsp. chilli powder

4cm fresh ginger, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 spring onion, finely diced (keep white and green part separate)

1 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. cornflour (or potato/tapioca starch)

Cold water

Sesame oil, to taste

Ground Sichuan peppercorns, to taste

Method

Optional step:

If you wish you can make your own Sichuan peppercorn oil at home by dry frying the Sichuan peppercorn for a few minutes until aromatic and then adding vegetable oil for a few seconds to let it infuse. Drain and use just the flavoured oil. If not, skip. maposichuanoil1 Bring a pan of water to boil, lower the heat to medium and gently simmer tofu for 2 – 3 minutes and then strain with a slotted spoon making sure you don’t break the tofu. Keep aside. mapotofu12 Stir-fry the pork in vegetable oil until browned and then move to the edge of the wok/pan. Add the white part of the spring onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant and then mix in the pork. mapotofu23 Move the mince to the edge of the wok/pan and fry off the Douchi and then incorporate with the mince.

4 Move the mince to the edge of the wok/pan and fry off the Pixian Doubanjiang until the oil turns red and then incorporate with the mince. mapotofu35 Add water (just enough to cover the tofu), chilli powder, Sichuan peppercorn oil and then bring to a boil.

6 Once it has come to a boil, lower the heat to medium and add the tofu. Shake the wok/pan to coat the tofu in the liquid and use a spatula to gently push the tofu back and forth. It is important to be careful and resist stirring as the tofu will break easily. Simmer for a few minutes.

7 Make a cornflour slurry by dissolving cornflour with 2 Tbsp. cold water. Add this slurry to the tofu and gently stir the liquid and shake the wok/pan to thicken the sauce. mapotofu48 Once the sauce has thickened remove from the heat and garnish with the green part of the spring onions, sesame oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns. DSC04546