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Sichuan Peppercorn-Ginger-Butter Shrimp aka M’s Shook Shrimp

Spicy Buttered Shrimp
A long trip of traveling to different parts of Thailand and East Asia was responsible for my absence of late from the blog. But then it’s also the guilty party who has given me many recipes, ideas, and stories to share with you in the weeks and months to come. So I hope you’ll forgive me (big, toothy grin; head slightly tilted to the left; ten rapid blinks).

This recipe, for example, was picked up during a brief stop in Bangkok; it came from my friend M (to understand this post better, you really should read this older post about M first).

Knowing I was in town, M called and informed me of a new dish he said was a mashup between a Chinese shrimp dish that his mother-in-law often made and my dried pepper-butter shrimp (which isn’t a traditional Thai dish; no need to write me). He added that it was so good that he always whipped it up whenever he got his wife mad, because once it was put on the table, ahem, she could never stay mad. Tender shrimp with buttery, aromatic sauce that goes beautifully with warm jasmine rice is conducive to marital harmony, M argued. Besides, it’s kind of hard to be angry when you sit at the dinner table peeling shrimp with your hands and sucking the delicious juices out of their heads. In all seriousness, though, Leela, this is good stuff, he said.

You see, according to the way my brain interprets things, that was a dinner invitation right there. So that afternoon I showed up at M’s condo with fresh ingredients and asked him to demo the dish. This is what happened. Continue Reading →

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Sweet Potato Fritters from Simple Thai Food Book

Sweet Potato Fritters from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu

© Erin Kunkel/Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House

I have recently written another article about GFB, the woman behind these sweet potato fritters as well as many other fried things I have yet to introduce you to. The article also includes instructions on how to make them.

Halloween would have been a more appropriate time to run this story — any story about GFB, actually. But it’s a long way away and I would like you to give this recipe — one of my personal favorites from Simple Thai Food book — a try now.

So if you’re not the type that gets scared easily, please move on over to Wall Street Journal Scene Asia.

You’ve been warned.

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Chilled Tapioca-Cantaloupe-Coconut Milk Dessert Soup (สาคูแคนตาลูป)

Chilled Tapioca-Cantaloupe-Coconut Milk Dessert Soup
Many types of dessert soup, featuring various main ingredients, are routinely consumed in Thailand as well as other places in Asia, especially the East and Southeast. Some of these dessert soups are served warm; some are served chilled or topped with crushed or shaved ice; some are great at any temperature. I have covered some of them here already. Remember pineapple in iced syrup (or the apricot version of it), glutinous rice pearls in sweet coconut cream, crunchy water chestnut dumplings in iced coconut syrup, or sweet sticky rice and durian in coconut cream? Even things that you don’t normally associate with dessert — let alone ice dessert — can be prepared in this manner, e.g. egg noodles. Sa-khu Cantaloupe (localized as khaentalûp), a chilled dessert ‘soup’ of chewy tapioca, juicy cantaloupe, and sweet and creamy coconut milk fits right in that pattern.

Once cooked, tapioca pearls become soft, translucent, sticky, and viscous. Sweetened with sugar and topped with creamy and slightly salty coconut cream topping, you get a comforting, warm, and gooey pudding that comes in countless variations depending on what other ingredients you add to the tapioca base to create different flavors and textures (corn kernels, young coconut meat, and taro are among the most common add-ins). The way tapioca pearls are used in this case, however, is atypical. The presence of this large amount of coconut milk breaks up the starchy “glue” that holds the cooked tapioca pearls together, causing the tiny beads to loosen, separate from one another, and float freely.

The end result is not much different from a chilled bubble tea. The only exception is that it’s served in a bowl instead of a tall see-through glass, that the tapioca pearls are lighter in color and much smaller, and that you go after the little pearls and the added melon balls with a spoon and not an oversized straw. Continue Reading →

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