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One sauce - many dishes

for great Thai food at home

Posted: April 16, 2013 - 11:42am  |  Updated: April 17, 2013 - 2:08pm
From one basic sauce, in this instance Thai Basil Sauce, it's possible to create a number of mouthwatering Thai dishes, including clockwise from left, Orange Chicken, Spicy Shrimp and Eggplant and Asian Style Soft-shell Crab with Scallions and Ginger.
From one basic sauce, in this instance Thai Basil Sauce, it's possible to create a number of mouthwatering Thai dishes, including clockwise from left, Orange Chicken, Spicy Shrimp and Eggplant and Asian Style Soft-shell Crab with Scallions and Ginger.

It’s not surprising that Thai food is so popular. Lightly cooked foods, balanced with aromatic herbs and spices, is as sensual as it is delicious. Satisfying curries and noodle dishes, simmering bowls of soup, shrimp, chicken, duck, fish, pork, squid, veges – plus coconut, rice and more – are all part of a gastro-adventure otherwise known as Thai cuisine. The intermingling of sweet with sour, hot with spicy, pungent with mild, is tantalizing, and, for some us, dishes that also include licorice/anise-flavored Thai basil, a kind of sweet basil native to Southeast Asia, is just icing on the cake. When used in its fresh, uncooked state, a sprinkling of Thai basil adds a splash of brilliant flavor to hot soups and entrées, as well as to other dishes such as zesty salads and wraps. And, because Thai basil’s flavor persists under high cooking temperatures, the herb’s bright essence remains perceptible even in a quick stir-fry, or a long-simmering sauce – such as versatile Thai Basil Sauce. With Thai basil at its core, the application for Thai Basil Sauce is limitless, be it with vegetables, meat, fish or fowl – this sauce loves them all. If you’ve never tried your hand at Thai cooking, don’t be timid about having a go at it. Asian ingredients are in good supply in the ethnic food aisle of larger supermarkets and many communities are home to Asian food markets that stock a wide range of ingredients both fresh and otherwise.

 

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Thai Basil Sauce

1 cup hoisin sauce

¾ cup plum sauce

¼ cup rice wine

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 cloves garlic

1 (2½-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed*

2 tablespoons May Ploy Sweet Asian sweet chili sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, optional, for a spicy sauce, more or less to taste

2 teaspoons premium Thai fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

Handful fresh Thai basil leaves

 

Variations: For orange flavor, add 1 tablespoon fresh grated orange zest. (Be careful not to grate the white part of the peel – it is very bitter.) For spicy flavor, add 1 teaspoon Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, more or less to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes over very low heat. Strain. Use immediately or keep refrigerated in a tightly closed container. Sauce will keep under refrigeration for up to 3 months.

*Kitchen Ade Note: When purchasing lemongrass, if lower bulbs are intact, remove them, as well as the tough, fibrous outer layers of the stalk until you get to the portion that is tender.

 

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact, if desired

2 tablespoons peanut oil, plus more as needed

2 whole, dried red chili peppers, torn in half

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch scallions, including most of the green part, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, peeled and quartered, then cut in half

1 medium Japanese eggplant, halved, then cut into 2-inch cubes

1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into strips

1 red bell pepper, seed removed and cut into strips

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

Steamed rice for serving

Thai Basil Sauce, as desired

Heat the chilies in the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high medium. Once the chilies start to sizzle (and you begin to smell the aroma of the chilies), lower heat to medium, adding the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, peppers, onion and eggplant Stir gently for several minutes until the eggplant pieces are shiny and soft and peppers and onion are crisp/tender. Toss in basil leaves.

Add shrimp, continuing to toss until shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent. Lower heat to a simmer, adding sauce and cilantro, cooking just until heated through and blended. Garnish with additional cilantro, as desired, removing chilies before serving. Serve immediately with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

Orange Chicken in Thai Basil Sauce

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

or an equal amount of beef tenderloin

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon tamari sauce (may substitute with soy sauce)

½ green bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into strips

½ red bell pepper, seed removed and cut into strips

1 large onion, peeled and quarters, then cut in thirds

½ pound sliced mushrooms, optional

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

2 teaspoons minced ginger

Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Thai Basil Sauce

Mix cornstarch and soy sauce in small bowl; stir in chicken. Let stand 30 minutes.

Heat a wok or 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, swirling to coat. Add chicken and stir-fry chicken until just cooked through, about three to four minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Lower heat to medium, adding peppers, onion, mushrooms, garlic, orange zest and ginger and stir fry until peppers and onions are crisp/tender. Stir in as much of the sauce as desired and cook just until heated through. Garnish with minced cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Asian Style Soft-shell Crab with Scallions and Ginger

4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned

½ cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more

6 scallions, white part and some of the green, chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Thai Basil Sauce

 

Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge soft-shell crabs in the flour, shaking off excess. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat melt butter in oil. When foaming, add soft-shell crabs, top side down, and cook for about 4 minutes, per side, depending upon size of crabs. Remove crabs from pan and drain on a paper-towel lined platter.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, adding 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Over medium heat, cook scallions with ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Return crab to the skillet, adding sauce, as desired, cooking just until heated through. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

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