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Thai Garlic-Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Aromatic Paste

On the (by no means exhaustive) list of composite ingredients commonly used in Thai cooking which I’ve mentioned in this CNN article is this basic aromatic paste comprising fresh garlic, white peppercorns, and cilantro roots that is used in various dishes, most notably as part of a marinade. This represents one of the basic things that, once incorporated into your repertoire, will make Thai cooking much easier and more intuitive to you.

Is this all the Thai people use to marinate things? No. Is this the sacred marinade without which all Thai meat dishes are declared unrighteous? Of course not. I don’t think there ever was a council of Thai culinary gurus who got together at one point in our history and came up with a “we believe” document in the manner of Nicaea. But if you look closely at the various marinades used in traditional Thai dishes, you’ll see that these three ingredients represent what most, if not all, of these marinades have in common. Continue Reading →

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Massaman-Marinated Roasted Leg of Lamb

This dish demonstrates one of the many, many non-curry ways massaman curry paste can be used. It also shows how well lamb and the herbs and spices found in massaman curry paste go together. There seems to be something in that combination, plus the addition of prepared tamarind pulp, that ameliorates the gaminess associated with lamb which prevents some people (me excluded) from enjoying this delicious meat.

Although lamb, in my opinion, makes for one of the most perfect meats for massaman curry, marinating a large hunk of lamb with curry paste and roasting it western-style like this isn’t exactly a typical Thai preparation. Then again, we’re not going for a typical Thai dish here; we’re simply going for something delicious.

Seriously, lady, who taught you how to truss a leg of lamb?

I served this at a party a while back. The roasted lamb was accompanied by coconut rice with fresh chives and a salad of fresh radishes with Sriracha-buttermilk dressing. Also found on the table was a bowl of Nam Pla Prik.

To the fearful cook’s delight, not a crumb was left.

Massaman-Marinated Roasted Leg of Lamb
(Serves 10)
Printable Version

3.5 lbs boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
2 ounces massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons prepared tamarind pulp
1/2 cup yogurt
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

  • In a large bowl, mix everything together. Make sure the marinade goes into all the nooks and crannies of the lamb. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours up to overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Truss the leg of lamb with kitchen strings. Place it in a roasting pan.
  • Bake the lamb, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Flip it over and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Take the lamb’s internal temperature with a probing thermometer. The middle part of the lamb should be around 120°F to 125°F (49°C to 52°C) for rare, 130°F to 140°F (55°C to 60°C) for medium rare, 145°F to 150°F (63°C to 66°C) for medium, and 155°F to 165°F (68°C to 74°C) for well done.
  • Once the desired doneness is achieved, take the lamb out of the oven. Cover it with a piece of aluminum foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  • Carve and serve along with pan juices.
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    Pork Chops with Crispy Garlic and Lemongrass

    Your experience as an expat living in North America may be different, but for me the loneliness that already gnaws on your heart from time to time throughout the year becomes so intense it tears you up around the holidays. Funny how even with all the friendly faces around, something about this time of year never fails to trigger the kind of deep longing for home that you never get used to or outgrow — the kind that makes you nearly double over and sob.

    One Christmas Eve, I made pork chops with crispy garlic and lemongrass, missing Mom who used to make these all the time.

    how to prepare lemongrass
    While it usually takes me a few times to successfully replicate many things in Mom’s repertoire before getting them just right, I nailed this dish the first time mainly because it’s so easy to make.

    The very delicious and versatile crispy lemongrass and garlic slices certainly make the pork chops special. Most people are already familiar with crispy garlic and how mild, sweet, crunchy, and delicious it is. Crispy lemongrass, on the other hand, could get some more love for its herbal fragrance that is not at all overpowering. You can make a large batch of crispy lemongrass and garlic and keep that in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later. These golden “sprinkles” add crunch and flavor to plain starchy items, such as steamed rice, boiled new potatoes, plain noodles or pasta, etc.

    The pork chops are to be served with steamed jasmine rice. I also recommend coconut rice with these as it goes so well with the crispy lemongrass and garlic. Oh, and don’t forget that which makes everything better: nampla prik.

    baked pork chops crispy garlic lemongrass
    Mom’s Pork Chops with Crispy Garlic and Lemongrass
    (Serves 4, or 2 very hungry people)
    Printable Version

    4 bone-in, not so lean, pork chops (no thicker than 3/4 inch)
    3 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 tablespoon honey
    1 teaspoon ground white pepper
    2 teaspoons baking soda (I’ve found that this helps tenderize the pork chops and keeps the loin parts from being dry and tough. It’s still imperative, though, that you not overcook the pork.)
    2 stalks lemongrass, sliced crosswise very thinly (use only 5 inches from the base and keep the rest to infuse Tom Kha Gai or Tom Yam with)
    5-6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise as thinly as you can
    About 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • Marinate the pork chops with fish sauce, honey, ground pepper, and baking soda. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour, up to 4-5 hours.
  • Meanwhile, put the sliced garlic and lemongrass into a small (8-inch) frying pan along with the vegetable oil. Heat up the oil, the garlic, and the lemongrass together over medium heat until the mixture starts to sizzle. Monitor the heat closely and stir things around almost constantly (the mixture tends to brown more quickly around the edges). You want the garlic and lemongrass to turn golden slowly until they become very crispy. Too high temperature will burn them before they get to that point.
  • Once the garlic and lemongrass are crispy, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • In another pan, preferably nonstick, sear the outsides of the pork chops over medium-high heat just until you get a good color on both sides of them. There’s no need to cook them all the way through.
  • Finish off your seared pork chops in the oven, being careful not to overcook them.
  • Sprinkle the prepared crispy garlic and lemongrass over the pork chops and serve them immediately with steamed rice.
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