Thai lunch

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I’ve gotten into running recently. No, to be more accurate I’ve been coerced into running. It never feels good before starting, sometimes does during and always after so I guess that keeps me going. After a reluctant session of burning calories it always feels good to have a nice meal to look forward to.

I’ve been asked plenty of times to make thai papaya salad (som tum) so today was the day it got made. Then I thought I’d make a variation of it with mango (som tum mamuang) as well, and throw in a beef stir-fry (phat bai horapha) as our protein. I forgot to top the beef with fried shallots, but other than that, it has been declared (not by myself) that this was the best meal I’ve cooked so far. And that’s good enough for me.

One of the reasons why I don’t make these too often is that green papaya is only found in Asian supermarkets occasionally here and it’s pretty pricey. If you prefer you can substitute it with jicama (also known as yam bean, Mexican/Chinese turnip), or  swede, cabbage and green apples. Or make the mango salad instead.

I’ve provided separate lists of ingredients for both salads in case you just feel like making the one, but the amount of dressing is for both. Just make 1/3 for the mango salad and 2/3 for the papaya salad. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your liking, but it should be highly seasoned as the papaya and mango will soak up the flavours. The mango should be just ripe but still firm so the little sticks don’t turn to mush when you mix them up.

If you can’t find fresh kaffir lime leaves for the beef some Asian stores will sell them in the frozen section. If you have to use dried kaffir lime leaves the flavour will be diminished so add a few extra leaves.

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Mango salad (som tum mamuang)
1 mango, peeled and julienned
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small handful of french beans, cut into 1 inch lengths
2 tbsp peanuts
1 tbsp dried shrimps, coarsely chop in food processor

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Papaya salad (som tum)
Half a green papaya, peeled and julienned (about 350g)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
8 cherry tomatoes
1 small handful of french beans, cutting 1 inch lengths
3 tbsp peanuts
2 tbsps dried shrimps, coarsely chop in food processor

Dressing
6 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
4 bird’s eye chillies, sliced finely

  1. Whichever salad you choose to make, first make the dressing. Mix all of the ingredients into a bowl, and pop it into the microwave for 10 seconds then stir to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Put a pan on medium heat and dry fry the peanuts until golden brown. Toss them every so often as the oil in them will make them burn if not stirred around. Leave peanuts to one side.
  3. Use the same pan and increase heat to medium high. Put in 1 tbsp of oil per tbsp of dried shrimps and stir fry until crisp and brown. Drain on some kitchen towels.
  4. Mix the veg together. I used about 3 tbsp of dressing for the mango salad, and the rest for the papaya salad but do taste as you go along. Top with the peanuts and dried shrimps.

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Thai-style beef with basil and chillies (phat bai horapha)
Serves 2 to 3

Recipe modified from here

450g flank/skirt/hanger steak cut into 1/4 inch thick strips (I used fillet steak)
A:
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsps fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar

B:
2 to 3 Thai bird chillies (red or green)
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsps palm sugar
3 tsps fish sauce
2 tsps soy sauce

C:
2 to 3 Thai bird chillies (red or green)
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves, central vein removed and very finely sliced into threads

2 tbsps vegetable oil
2 cups Thai basil
Fried shallots

  1. Combine beef with A and marinade for at least 15 mins or up to overnight if possible.
  2. Place all the ingredients from B in a food processor and blend until a rough paste is formed.
  3. Chop chillies and garlic from C and combine with the sliced shallots and kaffir lime leaves in a bowl.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a hot wok and cook half of the beef slices in one layer until brown before turning them over and browning the other side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.
  5. Wipe the wok. Add all the beef and ingredients from C and toss until aromatic and the shallots have softened, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the sauce mixture from B and toss constantly until the beef is coated and the sauce reduced to just coating the beef. There should be no liquid at the bottom of the wok. Add basil and toss to combine and remove from heat.
  7. Transfer to serving platter and top with fried shallots. Eat with plenty of boiled white rice.
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