Here's a dish with street cred from the pages of Pok Pok, Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand (Ten Speed Press, Fall 2013) by Andy Ricker of Pok Pok restaurant with J.J. Goode.
Stir-fried Brussels sprouts
• A Thai granite mortar and pestle
• A wok and wok spatula
A visit to a Thai market will always remind you how much you don’t know. At Chiang Mai’s vast wholesale emporium Talaat Meuang Mai, for instance, you’ll pass vendor after vendor exhibiting piles of green things—feathery flora and serpentine stalks, wide blades of what looks like grass, and pudgy-stemmed Chinese-broccoli doppelgangers. There are sundry leaves—some spindly and bitter, some succulent and tart, some strangely sweet—and other plants, plucked from overgrown patches by the side of the road, foraged from forests, or harvested from farm fields.
Some day I’m going to stop inquiring about them. For years, I’ve asked friends, restaurant owners, and vendors at local markets to identify every novelty I’ve come across. And instead of a simple name, I get one of three answers. “That?” I’ll hear in Thai. “You eat it raw along with laap,” the minced meat, blood-spiked Northern staple (page 106). Or you eat it steamed along with naam phrik, the diverse category of chile-based relishes. Or you eat it stirfried with oyster sauce. So I still don’t know the names of most of these alien vegetables. I’m not sure they even have names.
Once in a while, though, you’ll be surprised by what you do recognize. During a trip to Phrae, an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai, I went to a restaurant and asked what vegetables they offered for a simple stir-fry. “Very local vegetable,” said my waiter. “Then that’s what I want,” I said. Minutes later,
out came a plate of fiddlehead ferns. Turns out that the furled young ferns that overflow crates in springtime markets in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere throughout the US, also pop up in Northern Thailand.
Another favorite vegetable common in stir-fries is khanaeng, which looks like a cross between a Brussels sprout and bok choy. You can’t find it in the US, so at Pok Pok I sub regular old Brussels sprouts, which turn out great, and I call for them here. Of course, as my fruitless inquiries suggest, you can apply this method of cooking and saucing (a Chinese-Thai merging of oyster sauce and fish sauce) to almost any vegetable to delicious effect. Briefly blanched (I subscribe to the theory of deep-water blanching, so use a pasta pot full of water for a pound of vegetables), broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, or a mix of several types all work well.
Serves 2 to 6 as part of a meal
10 ounces Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed, outer leaves removed, halved lengthwise (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons Thai oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon Thai thin soy sauce
Small pinch ground white pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
11 grams peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly crushed into small pieces in a mortar (about 1 tablespoon)
6 grams fresh Thai chiles (about 4), preferably red, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Sup Kraduuk Muu (Pork stock), page 268, or water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
BRIEFLY COOK THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add enough salt to make it taste slightly salty. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook just until they’re no longer raw but still crunchy, 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on their size. Drain them well. If you’re not stir-frying them right away, shock them in ice water.
STIR-FRY AND SERVE THE DISH
Combine the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and white pepper in a small bowl and stir well. Heat a wok over very high heat, add the oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the garlic, take the wok off the heat, and let the garlic sizzle, stirring often, until it’s fragrant but not colored, about 15 seconds.
Put the wok back on the heat, and add the Brussels sprouts and chiles. Stir-fry (constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients) for 30 seconds to infuse the sprouts with the garlic flavor. Add the oyster sauce mixture (plus a splash of water, if necessary, to make sure nothing’s left behind in the bowl), and stir-fry until the Brussels sprouts are tender but still crunchy and the liquid in the pan has almost completely evaporated, about 45 seconds. Add the stock, then add the sugar and stir-fry until the Brussels sprouts are tender with a slight crunch and the sauce has thickened slightly but is still very liquidy, about 30 seconds. Transfer the vegetables and sauce to a plate in a low mound, and serve.
Sup Kraduuk Muu (Pork stock)
A cooking staple in Thailand, stock fortifies the flavor of many dishes, from soups to stir-fries. Pork stock is, in my experience, the most common version, though you do certainly see it made from beef, chicken, a mixture of pork or chicken, and of course, bouillon powder. If you want to cook from this book, I suggest making a batch straight away and freezing the stock in small portions.
You’ll use no more than 1/2 cup for stir-fries and steamed fish dishes.
You’ll use about 11/2 cups per portion for soups. I like to store some of the stock in ice cube molds and once the cubes are fully frozen, dump them into a freezer bag.
Like a good Westerner, I prefer my stock cooked a little more gently than the boiled stocks common in Thailand. A little cloudiness, however, certainly won’t kill you. The first time you make it, use all the aromatics listed below so you understand how they play off each other to create a balanced stock. Soon,
though, you’ll be able to recreate a great stock with whatever scraps you have lying around from your other Thai cooking endeavors.
Makes 4 to 5 quarts
5 pounds meaty pork neck bones, cut by the butcher, if necessary, so they can fit in your pot
1 whole unpeeled head garlic
1 (approximately 1-ounce) piece unpeeled ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed, halved crosswise
About 6 ounces peeled daikon radish, cut crosswise into approximately 1-inch slices (about 2 cups)
3 or so green onions
3 or so cilantro sprigs (preferably leaves, stems, and well-washed roots)
3 or so leafy Chinese celery sprigs
1 teaspoon black or white peppercorns
WASH THE BONES
Put the bones in a large pot, fill it with cold tap water, stir with your hands, and pour off the water. Add enough water to cover the bones by an inch or so, cover, and set the pot over high heat. Bring the water to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Skim any scum from the surface, then drain the bones and rinse them under running water. All this is to get any blood off the bones, which will give you a cleaner-tasting, clearer stock.
MAKE THE STOCK
Clean the pot, return the bones to the pot, and add enough water to cover the bones by 2 inches or so. Cover the pot, set it over high heat and bring the water to a bare simmer (do not let it boil), lightly stirring once and skimming off any surface scum. Uncover the pot, decrease the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook, skimming occasionally, until all the flavor has been cooked out of the meat on the bones, about 3 hours.
Working one at a time, use a pestle or heavy pan to lightly whack the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass a few times to bruise them. Add them to the pot along with the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer gently for 30 minutes more. Strain the stock into a large bowl or pot (don’t press the solids), discarding what’s left behind. Let the stock cool and skim off any fat from the surface. (This is even easier when the stock is chilled and the fat solidifies.) The stock keeps in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
(* Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with J.J. Goode, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc, Photography: Austin Bush © 2013)