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This dish is the epitome of fast food (or at least what most other parts of the world call fast food). Took about 5 minutes of cooking time in a hot wok from start to finish (how’s that for fast?). Although, there is a huge difference between this dish and what we traditionally think of as “fast food”; that is, this dish contains real food (as nature intended), absent of unnecessary chemicals, fillers, and a laundry list of unpronounceable, mystery ingredients (that have no right to be there in the first place, but to make the product shelf-stable for eternity). With a side of sauteed garlicky greens and some rice, you have yourself one quick, healthy, and oh so tasty meal. Beats a frozen dinner or trip through the drive-thru any day.

The basis for this quick and easy dish is Thai red chile paste. You can make the paste ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for a few weeks; one batch of paste is enough for several servings. Then when you’re in the mood for a mid-week curry, it’s there waiting for you. Just heat up a wok (or skillet), add the red chile paste, seafood, stock, fish sauce, a little sugar, and fresh basil. Within minutes, the flavors come together to produce a nicely balanced sauce, with good depth of flavor, and just the right amount of heat (that you’ll want to slurp up with a big soup spoon). I’m a big fan of squid, but if you don’t share the same enthusiasm for these cephalopods, you can substitute with any combination of seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, etc.), or even a firm white fish (salmon as well); it’s so versatile. I’ve recently discovered smoked tofu (who knew there was such a thing), which may be a nice addition as well (seared a few minutes per side until crispy and browned).


Thai Red Seafood Curry

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons Thai red chile paste (recipe below)
1/2 pound squid (body and tentacles), cleaned, cut into ~1/2-inch rings
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon palm (or brown) sugar
large handful basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. When (smoking) hot add the Thai curry paste and saute a minute or two, until fragrant. Add the shrimp and squid and saute about 2 minutes. Add the stock, fish sauce, and sugar. Saute another minute or two, until the shrimp and squid are cooked through. Add the basil leaves and stir. Serve hot with a side of (brown) rice.


Thai Red Chile Paste

15 dried red (long or bird’s eye) Thai chiles
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 tablespoons lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh galangal (or ginger, if you can’t find galangal), minced
2 tablespoons cilantro roots/stems, chopped
3 tablespoons shallots, diced
1/4 cup garlic, roughly chopped
*fresh Thai red chiles to taste (2 for medium heat and 3-4 for hot)
lime zest, 5 large strips (used a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

*Note: mother nature is unpredictable and spice levels may vary (start with less chile, you can always add more).

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles and rehydrate in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain and set the chiles aside, reserving the soaking liquid.

Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and toast in a dry skillet over low heat, about 4-5 minutes (makes the shrimp paste more fragrant). Set aside.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender jar (except for the vegetable oil). If not using the shrimp paste, substitute 1 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. If needed, add some of the reserved chile soaking liquid until you have a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the paste and stir for 2-3 minutes, until the oil incorporates into the paste.

Let cool and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Will keep about 2 weeks refrigerated.


Garlicky Greens

Olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Thai chile, thinly sliced
1 bunch of broccolini, Chinese broccoli, or your favorite greens
salt and pepper to taste
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and thai chile and saute a few minutes until soft but not browned. Remove the garlic and chiles and set aside. Add the broccolini and a little more olive oil if needed, season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute, until the broccolini is tender. Sprinkle the reserved garlic and chile over the broccolini, and some sesame seeds, if you like. Serve hot.

Note: I drizzled a little bit of the broth from the curry over the finished broccolini; a tasty addition.

I like a good dose of garlic with my greens; feel free to add more or less according to your taste. Ditto for the chiles.


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