Spicy Green Beans and Tofu in Red Chili
How is it that before we’ve even celebrated Thanksgiving, they’re erecting skyscraper-sized Christmas trees and pumping holiday music all around town? I’ve had enough of this corporate prescription of blind shopping panic to find the right gift, “before the rush.” What rush? The five minute glowed rush of buying a delightfully wrapped present (and in the frenzy, they’re hoping you buy a few too many for yourself), quickly followed by, “damn there goes my credit card bill.” Don’t get me wrong, I love hunting for special gifts for friends, but in my own time. This mindless manipulation by the media really stinks. Pumpkin Spiced Latte anyone?
As you can see, I am feeling a bit rebellious today. It’s true, we are entering the holiday season, but in other parts of the world, no one gives a monkeys about the Pilgrims sitting down together for a meal with the Native Americans. We all know what a rip roaring relationship that turned out to be. Today, I haven’t the newest twist on Pumpkin Pie, nor a recipe for Deluxe Stuffing a la Stove Top. Of course, I will be Womanning the kitchen on the day, and kicking some bootay, but I am almost positive someone’s got something groovier to say about Thanksgiving recipes on another blog.
For years and years, I have been afraid of making Thai food. It’s been this mysterious phobia that I just hadn’t tackled. That is, until my family sat down at a local Thai restaurant recently, and ate food that was so damn good that I had to get the recipes. The unfortunate truth was that the cooks weren’t into sharing. The restaurant had the usual: two fish tanks habited by colorful, exotic specimens of all shapes and sizes, and a separate tank for turtles. How happy was my son to hang out? While I “supervised” my son who was looking at the tanks, I cautiously craned my neck to see how they made their Spicy Green Beans and Tofu in Chili. That’s right, I was sneakin’ a peek. The cook, who was the size of an NFL linebacker, turned around, stomped Sumo wrestler style over to me and growled, ” I DON FEE COMFA-TA-BAL WITH YOU LOOKING AT MEEEE!!!” My whole body went red hot (I can assure not in the right way), and I apologized profusely. Embarrassed, I explained how I loved to cook, how much enjoyed watching him, etc, all to know avail. The truth was, I was busted big time, and that was that. I meekly asked what the vegetables were cooked in, and he saId flatly, “Chili paste.” Well, it was my fault really.
The only upswing of this was, I was now utterly determined to recreate the dang recipe. I’m pretty good at gauging ingredients, so I went to my local Asian market and hit the aisles. Ah Ha: jars of chilli paste, and I had a choice of medium hot, very hot, and garlic chilli paste. I went for the medium, as I wanted fresh garlic, ginger, and fresh chili as my base. In the cold section, I bought a package of cubed, fried tofu. My last stop was the produce section, where I grabbed the baby thin red and green thai chillies, ginger, and long green beans. Apart from the food, every aisle was a visual delight: Thai buddhist gongs, candles, beautiful crockery, rice cookers, woks, and more. I did buy myself a 16 inch wok, and she’s my newest crush in the kitchen. I made the dish, and it came out beautifully. Just so we are on the same page, this one is not for the kids as it’s little too spicy. Of course you can take out the heat, but why? That’s the interesting part. There are many levels to this dish: sweet and spicy, soft and sticky, then the crunch of the green beans. Scrum-a-lum-a-ding-dang is all I have to say.
My husband Toby took a bite and said, “This is exactly the same Nic. We’ll never have to go to that Thai place again!” While I understand the sentiment, there are those days when the cook of the house needs to hang up the apron and let someone else do the work. Beautifully. I dare say at some point when I’m in the mood to chill, we will be visiting “that Thai place” again.
Spicy Green Beans and Tofu in Red Chili
8 oz fried and cubed tofu
3 cups green beans rinsed, topped and tailed, and cut in half
4 tablespoons thai chili paste
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
2 tiny red thai chili, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons unbleached sugar
1. Steam the green beans for two minutes (no more to ensure they are not too soft at the end off cooking the dish). Take off the heat and set aside.
2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, thai chili, and ginger into a paste.
3. Using a wok or nonstick frying pan, heat the sesame oil until it smokes, then add the garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add the blocks of tofu and fry, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes, until it is golden and crusty.
4. Now add the chili paste and sugar to the tofu, stir frying until it caramelizes, about 5 minutes. Finally, add the green beans and mix in gently for a minute or two to heat through. Serve hot.
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