Monday, August 25, 2008

SE Asian Pilaf

Hey, guess what?! I like delicious food and I bet you do too, right? I don’t care if it’s *authentic* or not. I’ll be the first to admit, I don't cook authentic food. It's not that I can't, I just like experimenting (I'm a woman of science, didn't you know?). As long as it tastes good, I’m happy. I guess this must really drive the purists out there crazy (hi, mom!).

This picture really doesn't do this rice justice. The herbs make it so fragrant and the shrimp paste gives it so much flavor. You'll just have to try it for yourself to see.

Since I’m in a bit of a mood, I’m going to make those purists really nuts with this recipe for SE Asian rice pilaf. It’s not really a classic Thai dish, but has classic Thai flavors. I could have called it fried rice, but when I think of fried rice, I think one-wok meal, complete with protein and vegetables. This is more of a side dish— a pilaf to accompany grilled fish or chicken. It’s also good for breakfast served with a fried egg on top and a couple squirts of fish sauce. And yes, I’m completely serious about the breakfast thing. So there you go, something that’s not authentic but totally delicious anyways.

SE Asian Rice Pilaf
Serves 4
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 to 2 tbs shrimp paste in soy bean oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 24 oz cooked, cold rice (about 5 cups)
  • fish sauce, to taste
Note: Shrimp paste in soy bean oil can be found at any Asian market that has SE Asian items. Or you can order it online. It's not fermented, which means it's not stinky, but the oil has a way of leaking out and staining stuff red-orange, so be sure to store it in a plastic Ziploc bag or similar. Don't let the fact that it contains the "buttery substance in shrimp heads" turn you off. You wouldn't have known if no one had mentioned it. :-)

In a mortar, combine the lemongrass, garlic and kaffir lime leaves and pound until you get a uniform paste. Put some elbow grease into it, otherwise the lemongrass won't break down enough and it'll be unpleasant to chew and swallow. Transfer the paste to a bowl and mix in the shrimp paste.

Heat a wok on medium-high heat. Add about 2 tbs oil for stir-frying. When hot, but not smoking, add the seasoning paste and the shallots. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds to release the flavor of the herbs. Be careful not to let the paste burn. Add the brown sugar and incorporate. Add the rice and stir-fry until well coated with the seasoning paste and heated through. Add fish sauce to taste. Serve as a side dish with simple grilled fish or chicken.

8 comments:

Manggy said...

Well, you're quite experienced so differing from the formula is not so much a problem from you :) Because a lot of what I make is the first time, I usually strive for authenticity, just so I know. (Hmm, I should really cook more often...)

So this would be nasi goreng-ish? Hee hee. Looks great. When you say "fried rice" here, usually there's implied protein and such too, but it still wouldn't be enough to be a meal in itself for us! Need a main dish! :)

dp said...

manggy, striving for authenticity is not a bad thing, just as experimenting isn't either. I just get annoyed when people proclaim themselves the authority on a particular cuisine and think it's unacceptable to deviate from the classics. I very much encourage people to use their instincts with cooking and make things they like to eat.

Yes, you should cook more often! Men who get get bonus points with the ladies :-)

I guess it's nasi goreng-ish and it's also a riff on a Thai-style fried rice too. I guess that's why I called it SE Asian Pilaf. If I called it Thai or pinpointed any other region, I'm sure someone will get their panties in bunch. :-)

Lars said...

i personally like to mix it up; I love trying to get a dish as authentic and clean as possible, and sometimes i love experimenting... I think there is a charm to both. Searching for originality and authenticity in a dish gives you a chance to exercise and/or learn basics in the kitchen, while going all out experiementing lets you try out, combine and stretch the basic techniques and flavors that you have learned. But I also think there can be a lot of experimenting involved in the search for authenticity, because the basics of the dish will be there, but the final adjustments and the perfection of the dish will rely on very small changes made to the measurements and/or cooking times.

Rice sounds and looks nice, and fortunately I don't know enough about asian cuisine to know what's authentic and where you have gone crazy, so this is just one more nice Darlene dish to try out :-)

Wandering Chopsticks said...

How dare you?! Fried rice can only be made one way. And pilaf only made another way. You aren't allowed to deviate. :P

Eh. I hate the word "authentic." People slap it around to make themselves sound more authoritative. I think a better word is traditional. Is this a traditional method of preparing this dish? And is this a newer or different method?

In the end, all I care about is taste. Sure there's "traditional" ingredients and methods that are better, so just modernizing a recipe for the sake of doing so won't necessarily yield a better result. All I care about is taste, so if the traditional method ends up with better results, I'll stick to it. If cutting corners or adding different ingredients is still tasty, then I do that too.

So this isn't exactly fried rice. I still love the addition of lemongrass and kaffir leaves. I bet it smelled wonderful.

Alex Rushmer said...

If we didn't experiment we would never get anywhere. Ignore the rules and do it proudly. *applause*

Nate-n-Annie said...

I too love the addition of lemongrass and lime leaves.

Would a food processor have worked better than a mortar and pestle?

Darlene said...

Nate-n-Annie, yes a food processor would work fine, but mine is a little big and the paste just ends up splayed to the side of the bowl. Also with these types of herbs, the pounding releases their aromas and helps them blend together a little better than a food processor.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I'm not one for authentic either, but just as well--experimentation is the best way to find the odd discoveries that work for each of us. The rice certainly sounds like it would be very flavorful