THAI RED CURRY BARRAMUNDI SOBA

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It’s a day before the time of the month, no fun at all. My body was roasting hot in the day even when the ceiling fan was on full blast. 😥This is because of the production of progesterone and manifestation of ordinary mood swings in hormonal levels.

Concurrently, my mind was bombarded with flashing thoughts, hypothetical scenarios, and complex emotions began to surface… Before I sank deeper into a rabbit of hole of uncertainties, I distracted myself by doing these 3 things:

1) Meditate for 10 minutes with my Headspace app

2) Listen to “Get well soon” by Ariana Grande from her sweetener album

3) Make a soulful Thai curry I learnt from my recent retreat in Phuket

Doing something slow, and therapeutic releases the tension, and the cramps. Of course, nothing is more comforting than making something tangible, warm and nourishing for myself to feel better!

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What do I eat before and during period?

Iron intake level up

  • Double up my iron intake first to compensate the amount blood I’ll be losing. Brace myself! The most absorbable sources of iron for me is fish (barramundi and salmon). On days I choose to go meatless, I incorporate leafy greens (spinach, kale, bak choy), legumes and soy (tofu and soy protein, soy milk). To boost the absorption rate, add Vitamin C. I pair my meals with a cup of water with a Vitamin C effervescent tablet or snack on citrus fruits!

    More vitamin B-12

  • Take one vitamin B-12 supplement a day to support the functioning in energy metabolism, DNA and red blood cells development. Vitamin B-12 is a vital nutrient that our body requires for essential functioning. Taking this supplement is key for vegetarians or vegans. Our bodies do not make vitamin B-12, we absorb it from animal foods (clams, tuna, eggs, yogurt, trout) or foods fortified with B-12 (fortified cereals, fortified nutritional yeast, fortified non-dairy milk). Similarly, on days I decide to opt for less meat, I drink soy milk with a high fat coffee every morning to meet the daily requirement.

    Choose better carbs (not the white ones)

  • It is impossible for me to live a day without carbs. Especially white rice and noodles that lead me to a dreadful food coma. During period, I stock up soba (buckwheat noodles), quinoa, green bean noodles as substitutes. Going for low GI products can still make us replete with its nutritional benefits.

    Use natural seasoning (no salt please)

  • I am practically a bloated balloon every morning, no matter how I try to suck it in 😭. Having salt-laden food like chips, fries, take-outs will only cause water retention and aggravate the already moody self. So I prepare my own meals, empower myself by putting food with less sodium into the system, and drink more water. Instead of a dash of salt, go for a teaspoon of miso or fresh herbs to flavour up!

With all the tips above, I have refined the Thai curry recipe I learnt and developed this “Thai Red Curry Barramundi Soba”.

The gentle, mild taste of Cone Bay Barramundi was very pleasant to cook for a low-maintenance curry. Very much similar to freshly caught wild fish, it lent saltwater sweetness to the curry, and remained incredibly firm even if you overcooked a little. Even though it did not exude a strong odour, I always sprinkle a dash of pink sea salt, and splash of sesame oil on raw fillets before cooking. Also, the fish is low in mercury levels, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats, thus being my second choice of fish after salmon.

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Every time I decide to make a spiced Asian meal and end up with tons of unused ingredients, I will be in a real quandary about whether to cook it again. But for this recipe, I was thrilled to purchase a Tom Yam Ingredient Set! Most of the essential ingredients for the curry are similar to Tom Yam, and the portion fits right for 2-4 servings, it really helps avoid food waste!

Typically, I prefer to pound the red curry ingredients for freshness, and the free therapy! Alternatively, I recommend buying a store-bought Thai red curry paste for the convenience. For the distinctive citrus fragrance, cut the crushed kaffir lime leaves in very thin strips so you can taste its lingering astringent flavour with the curry without having to throw them away!

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THAI RED CURRY BARRAMUNDI SOBA (serves 2)

GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200g Cone Bay Barramundi Fillet, Themeatclub

  • 2 large asparagus, sliced diagonally 

  • 50g enoki mushroom, cut off base

  • 50g brown shimeji mushroom, cut off base

  • 3 sweet baby corn, halved 

  • 4 lemongrass, chop away green part, use only the white base and pound them slightly using a pestle till the out layer splits open.

  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, crushed, remove stem, cut thinly

  • 200ml UHT natural coconut cream

  • 160g Soba

  • A handful of chopped Thai coriander, for garnish 

Seasonings

  • 15g palm sugar, jaggery

  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

  • 1 heaping tsp red miso, to taste

  • Pink sea salt

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Red Curry Paste (optional) 

  • 2 large dried chilli

  • 2 bird’s eye red chilli

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 2 thumbs fresh turmeric root

  • 1 medium shallot

  • 1 thumb galangal

*The Tom Yam Ingredient Set comes with: lemongrass, shallots, galangal, bird’s eye chills, kaffir lime leaves, and lime 

*Alternatively, you can use 1 tbsp store-bought Thai red curry paste, available in Cold Storage and FairPrice Xtra

Directions

  • Remove skin from Barramundi Fillet, and slice in large chunks (about 7 pieces). Season it with a pinch of salt and toasted sesame oil to eliminate the even the slightest fish smell. 

  • For all the curry ingredients, remove skin and cut them into small chunks except for the chillies. Use scissors to cut the chillies in small pieces. Avoid contact with the chilli seeds. Pound all the ingredients using the mortar and pestle till it forms a moist, bright orange paste. 

  • Boil 3 cups water in a small pot to blanch mushrooms, corn and asparagus for 1 minute. Drain water, and set the ingredients aside. 

  • Using the same pot, boil 1.5 litres water, cook soba for 3-4 minutes, it should be slightly undercooked. Drain and cool soba in a bowl of cold water. 

  • Pour oil into a pre-heated stock pot over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of curry paste and cook for 3 minutes till fragrant. Add another ½ tbsp of curry paste for extra spiciness.

  • Pour coconut cream and stir in with the paste continuously for 4 minutes. Add palm sugar, lemongrass and ½ portion of kaffir lime leaves, continue to stir for 3 minutes.

  • Turn the heat up, add 1 litre hot water and red miso paste into the mixture. Stir for 1 minute. When it is rolling boil, add barramundi chunks and cook for 3-5 minutes, till they turned opaque white. Taste, and add extra red miso till your desired taste.

  • Assemble soba, mushrooms, corn and asparagus in two deep plates. Ladle hot red curry and barramundi over. Garnish with remaining lime leaves and chopped coriander. 

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally


THAI GREEN CURRY QUINOA

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I miss penning down my thoughts in this safe haven...It is utterly strange because I am never a good writer, I write in simple sentences, nothing fanciful, and I can express myself in Chinese actually. My negligence of this space for the past two months led me to realise that no matter how anxious I felt before writing the past posts, I miss the tranquility in the study room, trying to make sense in writing my encounters, all by myself, and swaying along with hiphop & jazzhop playlists on Youtube. 

So what have I been doing?

1. I took some time off to watch widely on Youtube/Netflix be it food, cartoon (Bojack Horseman) or fashion vlogs for inspiration

2. Practicing active listening from videos, and people around me

3. Getting geeky with veggieboy almost every weekend when we play Trine on PS4

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With all these stuff going on, the kitchen was still in a mess with Thai spices. *Sneeze sneeze* Lately, I'm hooked in Green Curry. I mean this green giant tastes as fierce as hulk when my friend Pear delivered one portion for me at work. Indulging this curry hand made by a Thai was a sheer bliss! Hence, I started reading up different versions of green curry and stocked up the fridge with tons of shallots, lemon grass, limes, ginger etc. Almost every weekend, the kitchen transformed into a laboratory. There were failures where, I dropped a few tears, and ended up with a blocked nose when the green curry paste written in some recipes were awfully spicy. 

So after four attempts over four weekends, poor veggieboy frowned at me when I cradled a bowl of green curry with glowing excitement in my eyes. 

"Try please...." I said. 

Being his ever supportive self, he took a mouthful of Green Curry Quinoa and nodded and pouted. 

AH, FINALLY!

So...I am going to share this recipe with a video this time! To minimise food waste, I managed to purchase Tom Yam mix pack at the local supermarket instead of buying the ingredients separately. It includes the essential ingredients (bird's eye chillis, shallots, limes, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and coriander) which are sufficient to whip up a Thai dish for two to three servings. Additionally, I bought coriander and sweet basil leaves to complete the ingredient check list for the curry. This has saved me from scratching my head for a gazillion ideas to use up the spices.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least spicy to 10 being the most spicy, this green curry is rated at a comfortable 5. One tip to lessen the spice is to remove the chilli seeds from the bird eye's green chilli, add more coconut cream/milk and let it simmer longer.  

Well, if you are also starting to remove white rice or wheat from your diet, try quinoa (keen wah) as a substitute! Definitely a great source of protein, and high in fibre. In this recipe, I did not rinse the organic quinoa before boiling because I like the earthy, nutty flavour it integrates with the curry. Also, the unwashed quinoa will have a firmer texture which resembles grains. 

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Time: 35 minutes (including preparation)

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

Green Curry Paste

  • 5 shallots, diced
  • Juice of  ½  lime
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ cup coconut cream
  • ½ bulb garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 bird’s eye green chilli, sliced
  • 1 thumb size blue ginger, sliced 
  • 1 thumb size young ginger, sliced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, remove base, grate only the white part
  • ½  cup coriander (approximately 5 sprigs), remove the roots and chop them up

*Alternatively you can buy a Tom Yam Mix packet as I mentioned above, and look for the balance ingredients separately.

Green Curry

  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • ¾ cup coconut cream
  • 6 glass prawns
  • 3 baby brinjal, sliced
  • 4 white button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup broccolini, chopped, separate stems and florets
  • 6 lime leaves, remove stalk and tear the leaves in pieces
  • A handful of sweet basil leaves

To serve

  • Lime wedge, coriander and sweet basil leaves

Directions

  • Pour quinoa and 2 cups of water into the sauce pot over medium heat. Stir for 1 minute to let water evaporate. Let it boil for 15 minutes, and remove foam-like coat on quinoa surface (saponins). This will remove the bitter flavour. Strain quinoa and set aside to cool.
  • In a food chopper/processor, add all green curry paste ingredients. Blend to a paste and set aside.
  • In the same sauce pot, add coconut oil over medium high heat, then add reserved green curry paste. Stir it swiftly for 30 seconds to release the spice fragrance. Slowly pour coconut cream and stir the paste constantly until it forms a fresh green mixture. 
  • Add mushrooms, eggplants, stems of broccolini into mixture. Stir to incorporate. Lower heat to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  • Add lime leaves, broccolini florets and prawns, scoop cooked ingredients over so that florets and prawns are cooking at the base. Let it simmer for 6 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle sweet basil leaves on green curry, and stir briefly for 10 seconds. Turn off heat immediately.
  • Portion quinoa into two to three plates, and top each portion with green curry, a lime wedge, coriander and sweet basil leaves. 

Enjoy!Xx

- Ally

 

 

REMEMBERING AH GONG | THAI COCONUT SEAFOOD SOUP (TOM KHA GOONG)

Yesterday was a special day. A day that reminded me of my late grandpa who protected me from stray dogs around the neighbourhood and the only one who offered his cuddles generously more than my parents. 16 years have past, and I still dreamed about searching for him, high and low, then woke up in tears. The loss was too soon, but fond memories of him left a huge impression in my life. Our last holiday was to Bangkok, a year before he left us. He was the first person who fed me with a mouthful of milky soup, it dances between sour and spicy, a queer sensation at the tip of my tongue. At the age of 9, I've never tasted any food with two tastes combined, even for soups, they are either sweet or peppery. This soup is called Tom Kha Gai or chicken galangal (blue ginger) soup. The chicken is bathed in an aromatic, silky coconut millk broth, and usually served with rice. The mild spiciness drew me to pester my grandpa for more, and that marked my fondness in Thai food. 

Mummy Chow went to pay her respects on his death anniversary, while I was nursing my grandma the whole morning. The emptiness in me has led me craving for the warming and comforting soup that reminded me of him. Before grandma woke up for lunch, I sneaked out to buy some quintessential Thai ingredients: lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, red chilli padi, red onions (they come in a pack and you can find them at Fairprice supermarket in Singapore), trimmed coconut milk, clams and red chrysanthemums. 

The toughest part for the recipe may be searching for the key ingredients: the leading roles that play the creamy, sour, spicy, tiny bit sweet part in this broth. You'll most likely find them in Asian supermarket, and I wouldn't advise replacing lime leaves with lime zest, galangal with turmeric. Hmm...they will taste different, I've never tried it, but having lime zest boil within the soup for too long, it may taste an odd bitter. The easiest part will be bringing them altogether, in groups and they meld within the broth quite swiftly.

This classic, second best known Thai dish in America can be quite a teaser to your nose and eyes while preparing it. First, keep an eye on your supporting fingers whilst slicing the chili padi. DON'T EVER TOUCH THE SEEDS! THEY STING. So, cut off the tip, hold down the tail of the chili padi, and carve out the seeds. Next, ☝🏻 I've to warn you to cover your nose while frying the Thai ingredients. The pungent and sharp aroma can be a little choking at first😷 So keep the fire low to medium heat. 

Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, chop finely
  • 1 galangal, skinned, cut in 4 slices
  • 1 ginger, skinned, cut in 4 slices
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, pale white bottom part only. Smashed it with a pestle and cut in diagonal slices
  • 4 chilli padi (small hot Thai chiles), deseed, thinly sliced
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 6 lime/makrut leaves (without stem)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 anchovy stock
  • 1 pound small clams
  • 6 huge prawns
  • 1 cup roughly chopped Thai coriander
  • 1 lime, wedges, for serving
  • 5 cups warm water
  • Fish sauce to taste

Tip:

  • To remove fishy smell from clams completely, add 1 tablespoon salt in a big bowl of water. Pour clams in and let it soaked for 20 minutes. Drain water away, fill the bowl with water again and add 1 tablespoon salt in the bowl. Leave it for another 10 minutes. Drain salt water away before cooking clams.

Directions

  • Heat coconut oil in a heavy bottom stock pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until slightly brown and tender. Add galangal, ginger, lemongrass and stir fry till combine for 3-4 minutes. Lower to medium heat, add chilli padi. Continue to fry the mixture for 2 minutes.
  • Add warm water to the mixture (water level should cover the ingredients) followed by the stock and lime leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes. 
  • Taste the mixture and add 1 tablespoon fish sauce to the soup. Adjust the flavour to your liking by adding 1 teaspoon fish sauce each time.
  • Add clams and prawns and bring mixture to a boil over high heat for 5-8 minutes or until clams have opened. Quickly add coconut milk in and stir it once or twice. *Don’t leave the soup boiling for too long as it foams up and create white milk particles. 
  • Turn off the heat. Transfer clams and prawns to bowls. Strain the broth using a strainer if desired and ladle over seafood. Sprinkle with coriander. Squeeze a lime wedge over each bowl.

Enjoy!Xx

Ally