So much for promising to post again soon about Thai food. It's been the usual start-of-term hecticness (which is not a word, but should be) and somehow I find myself in the middle of the second week back at school. Despite my lack of blogging there has been plenty of Thai cooking going on.
Our first Thai meal when we arrived back in Brunei was Tom Yum Goong. This hot and sour soup was never a favourite of mine... until I had it in Thailand. Now I'm a convert.
When I first met Rob he had an ancient jar of Tom Yum paste in his fridge (he had a lot of ancient foodstuffs in his fridge and cupboards actually...) and I recall him making us Tom Yum soup for lunch one day. It was vile! It was so hot (temperature-wise) that you had to slurp it off the spoon (which incidentally had to be stainless steel as the soup would tarnish silver cutlery) and as you slurped it it hit the back of your throat, and the heat (of the chillies) induced a violent coughing fit! Even when it cooled down it wasn't pleasant; too 'abrasive' in its flavours. Not our most successful meal.
Perhaps it's one of those dishes that can be adapted to personal taste, but I've found a way that it works for me. Maybe it's not traditional, I don't know, but it needs coconut milk. Not too much - I find the richness of coconut milk can be too heavy - but just a little to take the edge off the strong flavours.
The first time we had it was actually on Christmas Day, in the evening. We sat at a waterfront restaurant and enjoyed a fantastic meal. Rob had the Tom Yum, and I had a Green Curry. My curry was delicious, but I have to admit that my meal was slightly spoiled by the fact that I thought Rob's was better! I hate it when that happens. I ate as much of his as I dared, but demanded that we return to the same restaurant later in the week so that I could have a whole portion to myself.
On our return visit we both ordered it, and it came in this great steamboat with a burner underneath to keep it warm. Again it was delicious so we determined that we would recreate it at home.
While other people may go to Bangkok to hit the bars, we went to hit the supermarkets! We bought several sachets of various Thai pastes with which to cook at home. These pastes are very good - all the ingredients are natural, they just save a lot of work with a pestle and mortar! When we arrived home we found that we already had a sachet of Tom Yum paste... Remember those 'ancient foodstuffs' I mentioned earlier? Well, this sachet had a 'use by' date of 1997. That's got to be a record, surely?!
The antique one is on the left. Believe it or not I actually tried the old one - just mixed it into boiling water and had a taste - but the overriding flavour was of stale oil, so I tipped it down the sink and started again with the new sachet.
It could hardly be simpler - just follow the packet instructions. The packet said to use 2 cups (500ml) of boiling water, but I used about 150ml of chicken stock and about 50ml of coconut milk (made from powder - perfect for small amounts). The recipe on the sachet said to simply add prawns and mushroom, but I went a little further and threw in large (and very mild) chillies (sliced), chopped spring onions, chopped coriander leaves, thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves (what an amazing flavour they provide), and oyster mushrooms (cheap and plentiful here), as well as some raw shrimp.
We served it with wedges of lime to squeeze over, and fish sauce to taste, as well as the obligatory mound of jasmine rice.
The paste ingredients include lemongrass which is an important flavour for this soup. I pondered adding some more fresh lemongrass but in fact it didn't need it as the flavour came through strongly enough. It was hot but didn't blow your head off - just right (bearing in mind that our tolerance for chilli has increased dramatically since moving to the Far East!). We'll definitely be repeating this meal.