Ever since I walked into the Royal Thai restaurant in Nottingham 20 years ago, I have been enchanted by Thai cuisine. Not so much the ‘farang' (Thai for Western foreigners of white descent!) version of Thai food, with our predilection for all things deep-fried - a sort of spring rolls with everything attitude - but the fresh and light, hot and spicy flavours brought together in a variety of harmonious dishes that seem to make every Thai meal a banquet.
Without dairy and hardly any emphasis on meat, Thai cooking is the embodiment of all the main flavour components - sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter - perfectly balanced in playful, imaginative dishes that are full of colour and texture. I’ll never forget the sheer joy and excitement of one gorgeous Thai girl called Tinkerbell (how endearing a nick-name is that?) as she ran out from the restaurant’s kitchen to proudly show us her first representation of a beautiful bird she’d painstakingly carved out of a carrot!
Our first visit to the Royal Thai was an attempt to educate ourselves in anticipation of a month long business trip to Bangkok. At first they must have smiled at our naivety, but, prior to the journey we were generously afforded numerous ‘insider’ traveller’s tips and we quickly became one of their more regular customers…hungry for their companionship as much as the food! Subsequently, the amazingly beautiful, gracious and intelligent Thai girls running the business at that time welcomed us with open arms into the Thai community, and for many years it was as if we were part of their family. Sadly, the girl I most fell in love with died in a road traffic accident shortly after opening a second restaurant in Nottingham (formerly known as Siam Thani). Nang was the dearest of friends to me and the absolute epitome of all that I now associate with Thai people generally - kind, generous and incredibly friendly.
Now that we’re low-carb and Primal, it’s not so easy to eat out in Thai restaurants - you really do need lots of steamed rice to quieten down the chilli-heat - but for the home cook, authentic-tasting Thai food is simple and fast to prepare, and because you’re in control it doesn’t have to be the hottest of the hot.
Prawns are synonymous with Thai cookery, but their popularity comes at a price. A violent, Asian slave trade exists to produce most of the prawns for sale in Western supermarkets, so please be careful that the prawns you buy are ethically and responsibly sourced. Choose organic king prawns from Waitrose or Honduran raw prawns from M&S. Thank you. Or you could forego the prawns altogether by opting for our vegan-friendly, equally flavoursome, Thai Green Garden Curry.
I’ve paired Primal Plate's tasty, just nicely spicy, warming green curry with pak-choi but Cauliflower Rice is good too. Vegans and vegetarians can simply substitute cherry tomatoes and asparagus tips for the prawns. Hand-carved vegetable flowers and birds are optional!
With food as delectable as this, no wonder Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”.
Thai Green Curry With Prawns (Serves 4)
1 tbsp organic coconut oil
2 medium organic sweet red peppers, cored, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
4 medium/large organic spring onions, sliced diagonally into 5 or 6 pieces
2 x 400ml tins organic coconut milk (full fat)
4 tsp Thai green curry paste
1 tbsp organic tamari
200g frozen petits pois, defrosted
½ tsp sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
20-30ml freshly-squeezed lime juice
2-3 drops organic liquid stevia
20g fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Thai Green Garden Curry
Simply follow the instructions given below - omitting the prawns and substituting with:
300g organic cherry tomatoes, halved
300g asparagus tips, trimmed and cut in to 5cm (2”) pieces
2 x 235g packs pak choi, washed, prepared (*see below) and lightly steamed for 3 minutes.
*If using very young pak choi they can be left whole or cut into halves or quarters. However, larger stems of pak choi will cook more evenly and are much easier to manage on the plate if you cut the leafy tops off their white stems. If the outer stems and leaves are still too large, split them in half down the middle. Place the white stems into the bottom of the steamer, then pile the green leaves on top and steam for 3 minutes with the pan lid on.
Fill and boil a kettle of water. Pre-heat 4 large serving dishes/bowls.
For making the Thai Green Garden Curry: Pour some of the boiling water from the kettle in to a medium saucepan. Bring back to the boil, throw in the asparagus and cook for just 2 minutes (do not overcook them, they should still have some ‘bite’). Drain and refresh the blanched asparagus in cold water (or place under a cold running tap) to stop the cooking process and set their bright green colour. Drain again and set aside.
To quickly defrost the petits pois: Put the peas in a heatproof jug, pour over the boiling water then drain and set aside.
Melt the coconut oil over a medium/high heat in a large, deep sauté pan. Add the pepper strips and spring onions to the pan and stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until just beginning to soften.
Add the bouillon powder and the green curry paste and continue to stir-fry for a further 30 seconds - try to avoid breathing in the fumes at this stage, they’re quite pungent!
Pour the coconut milk into the pan and bring the mixture to the boil whilst stirring constantly. Once it comes to the boil turn the heat down to medium, then add the tamari, half the lime juice and a single drop of liquid stevia. Taste. Add a pinch of sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper - plus an extra drop of stevia, if you think it needs it.
Let the sauce gently bubble away over a medium heat for 5 minutes to allow it to reduce down slightly.
Meanwhile fill a steamer with the rest of the boiling water from the kettle. Place the pak choi in the top of the steamer and cook with the pan lid on for 3 minutes.
Whilst the pak choi is cooking, tip the prawns (or, if making Thai Green Garden Curry, the cherry tomatoes and blanched asparagus tips) and the petits pois into the curry sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the prawns turn pink and are completely opaque - or if making the Thai Green Garden Curry, just until the tomatoes, asparagus and peas are warmed through.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in half the chopped coriander. Check the seasoning again and adjust to taste - also add a little more lime juice and/or another drop of stevia, if needed.
Pile the cooked and drained pak choi in the centre of the four pre-warmed serving bowls. Carefully ladle the green curry over the top dividing the prawns and vegetables equally between each bowl.
Sprinkle over the rest of the coriander and serve immediately.
N.B. To keep the Thai green curry fresh and vibrant you need to be careful not to over-boil it in the final two minutes of cooking time. Gently heat through until just below boiling point. If you over-cook it at this stage, you’ll end up with tough prawns, collapsed tomatoes and dirty-looking, more-khaki-than-green, vegetables. Not very nice!
Carbohydrate 21g Protein 25g - per serving (with prawns)
Carbohydrate 26g Protein 10g - per serving (with cherry tomatoes & asparagus)