Saturday, 21 January 2012

Salt and Pepper Squid with Naem Khao Tod

he says:

Our friends had just arrived back from a holiday to New York so we had them around for dinner and drinks to hear all about their trip. It sounded awesome, I visited New York briefly about 5 years ago and spent the next 12 months after my return unsuccessfully trying to work out a way to move there.

I love entertaining my friends and introducing them to new food that they otherwise wouldn't have tried. I have a personal boast that a truly skilled cook can whip up a great meal after polishing off the first bottle of wine while still maintaining conversation with the guests. I actually reckon this is the true My Kitchen Rules (or whatever its called). Even Masterchef would be spiced up if all the competitors were asked to drink a bottle of champagne then hit the kitchen! So of course I am usually proud of the food that I serve up to my guests but also quite pleased with myself for being able to prepare it while still being social.

Tonight was no different. We usually opt for a slightly different serving style where we all drink until ravenously hungry, then food is served and occasionally dessert, then everyone goes home and we crash out. Initially this wasn't a deliberate decision, I was usually just having too much fun chatting and drinking and the serving of dinner would get a bit delayed. After time we found that this process worked quite well for us so now it is more a deliberate plan. If I am well organised I will usually have some appetizers to keep everyone going but often that's not the case. I also reckon another true test of skill is the old whip something up at short notice to feed a small party of guests but that's for another time.

For dinner I opted for one of our latest favourites, Salt and Pepper squid from the Vietnamese Street Food cookbook by Tracey Lister. Initially I wasn't that excited by this book but after reading it more closely and trying out a few dishes I now reckon it was a great buy. The preparation is pretty simple and the result fantastic. Obviously you have to prepare the squid, I try and cut my rings quite thin, around 5mm. These are then rolled in a mix of rice flour and potato starch with of course salt and pepper.

Next you need to pound a chopped red chill, a few shallots and some garlic in the mortar and pestle then fry this off in some oil until nicely browned.

The squid is then fried off in vegetable oil in batches until the flour mix is nice and crunchy. This doesn't take long, I usually have a few issues with oil temperature but I find if oil is at around 200 degrees when you start it comes back a bit when you add the squid.

Once the batches of squid are cooked I drain it on some paper towel then mix in the chilli, garlic and shallot mix. its not that traditional but the westerner in me can't help but serve it with a side of mayo! At least I use Kewpie mayo which makes me feel better. I love a good dipping sauce and have no objection to offering a few different sauces when it works so I also a serve a small bowl of sweet plum sauce. This is another great discovery from Bangkok, its not that easy to get in Melbourne but so worth tracking down. I reckon its a rival to sweet chilli sauce. I'm old enough to remember the days when sweet chilli sauce was actually considered quite exotic so maybe the sweet plum sauce will have the same evolution and we'll soon see it served up with fried potato wedges at the local fish and chip shop...

This recipe gives me the chance to use my new toy, an awesome cast iron LPG wok burner. This thing is brilliant, the flames are so big they lap around the edge of the wok! I love it!

The Naem Khao Tod salad is also a simple easy and delicious option. I should say that my version doesn't use the fermented Naem sausage so strictly speaking its really a Khao Tod salad. My best guess is that this roughly translates to Fried Rice salad, Khao = Rice and Tod = Fried. I have cooked this with Naem sausage which is available in melbourne at the Footscray and Abbotsford Thai grocers but I was a bit unsure about serving it raw so I lightly fried it and found it made the salad very oily so as its also a bit of a mission to get it, I just cook the salad with out it.  The highlight of the salad is the crispy rice, I first tried this at Yim Yam in Yarraville after reading "Six of the Best Melbourne Dishes" review by Matt Preston and I have to agree with him, the texture of the crispy rice is really something special. I recently visited the new Yim Yam in Collingwood and they still have this on the menu with the description, "Matt Preston's favourite!" I have never seen this served anywhere else which is something I just can't work out, it really surprises me how many great Thai dishes just aren't served in most Melbourne Thai restaurants. I use a recipe from She Simmers, another extremely informative and beautifully presented blog. Well worth taking the time to scour through the wonderful history of Thai dishes.  The She Simmers dressing is quite simple and very delicious but I have to be honest and say that it isn't as good as the dressing at Yim Yam's, its just another one of those times when you are enjoying something so good but really have no clue how to even start to try and reproduce it.

Finally, with dinner we enjoyed a simple cheap favourite "le Chat" Pinot Noir 2010. I didn't have time to get to the bottle shop after work so not wanting to make it too complicated for him, I asked my friend to grab a bottle of this on his way over. It's imported from France, although I'm pretty sure it can't be classed as Burgundy. At $20 its a great option, nothing too big or bold about it, just a nice smooth drop with a nice tanneny touch without any of the objectionables you can get from some of the cheaper pinot, just good easy heart and mouth warming drinking.


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