Since Southeast Asia has so much coastline and rivers stretched between, seafood figures greatly in their cuisine and incorporates influences from Pakistan to China. Southeast Asian food combines a rich variety of spices with influences from all over the world, thanks to its location jutting out between the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the fabled Mollucan, or spice islands. Moslem merchants have been utilizing these spices in their dishes long before the West did, and they were also the middlemen who profited greatly from their troubles. The spices on these islands were so valuable that when the West tired of paying premiums for spices such as black pepper (related to peperomium), they ignited the European age of exploration and the conquest that soon followed. Eventually Southeast Asian food began to incorporate ingredients of not only Spanish, French and Italian background (Nobody cared to much for British food down there... too bland for their affinity to heat.), but plants cultivated within their empires from all over the world. So that is why Southeast Asia is a veritable melting pot for the world's best culinary masterpieces.
1. First, simmer a can of coconut milk, adding 2 tbs of curry paste and chopped vegetables and herbs to taste.
- You can use any combination of your favorite veggies (peppers are nice), but here are some appropriate choices: peppers, mushrooms, shallots, garlic cloves, potato and eggplant. I used portobello mushrooms, which soaked up the flavor and were succulent and juicy.
- Add spices, seasoned to taste: Lemongrass, ginger, curry powder, cardamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, basil and galangal. Many of these you can grow yourself. I have also used slices of a habanero pepper before, making the dish VERY spicy, but delicious. I recommend one little sliver to heaten up the broth so it doesn't overpower everything else.
- Add your starch, to thicken the broth: I used arrowroot, which is related to the Prayer Plant. You can also use taro, or even potatoes or flour if you're playing it safe.
2. Next, Start your rice.
- Follow the instructions on the package. I prefer any glutinous rice, shortgrain, and especially jasmine rice.
3. Sautee your meat, seafood etc.
I used scallops, but you can use anything you want, including vegetables. Its just nice to have something with a different flavor and texture to complement the curry. I would suggest using some salt, garlic and lime to season it.
4. Serve, garnishing with fruit
This makes a great presentation and adds a sweet and tangy balance to the dish. Although I used starfruit, you can also use mangos, pineapple, lime or even peach slices. You can even use a ti leaf, banana leaf, lemongrass stalks or flowers as a garnish if you choose, and I promise it will look amazing.
I will probably include a specific recipe later, as soon as I actually get the self discipline to measure all the stuff I throw in there!