Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Wok – First use … Golden Chicken

There is a dish at the Cambodian restaurant Phnom Phen that I love. It’s called Golden Chicken and is a pretty wonderful Thai / Cambodian curry. They have another dish that is not named, but is also delicious. I think one is a red curry and one a yellow, but both are outstanding.

Well, I walked from store to store last night (a total of 2:27 since I was also getting in some exercise) to find some Thai curry paste as my experiments with Indian curries (Madras in particular) have been a roaring success. I did not want to search out all the ingredients for a home made paste, although I could certainly find them eventually.

But it turns out that the stores around here are all out of red curry paste by Thai Kitchen. How strange. The truck has not arrived or something. In one store, all they had was two bottles of green curry paste, and that’s a pretty wimpy flavor. Luckily, the other had yellow curry paste, which is a bit more like it.

I also picked up a can of lite coconut milk, which is the backbone of these curries, and I had already decided to use a whole Jalapeno pepper, as that is a feature of Golden Chicken. The result was magnificent.

F550EXR  1250ISO  f/3.5  1/30  -1/3ev

Note – there is a blue flare off the right side of the wok, where the image is essentially blown out (no details on the white.) This is the reflection of a window to the left of the stove, and that blue light is exacerbated by the need to push the light towards blue dramatically to counter the Halogen lights in the range hood, which dominated the scene. It’s not really chromatic aberration you are seeing there.

Note the dark regions on the Wok. This is a flat-bottomed wok because it is being used on a ceramic stove top, and some of them are very sensitive to having so much heat reflected back at the element. Turns out to be easy enough to cook in (I found a wonderful Calphalon plastic strainer that mimics the stainless steel strainers I used to use quite often when stir frying) but it was a bear to season. I’d seen a film of seasoning a proper round-bottomed wok on a flame (gas stove) and that was easy and very effective. This was brutally difficult and inconsistent. I burned the sh-t out of the bottom, too. :-)

But it works. I stir fried the green beans and the chicken and set those aside to make the sauce. I dropped in the sliced peppers and seeds and let it get really hot, in both ways. Pretty stunning dish.

Here it is served on top of barley, the low glycemic alternative to the more typical Jasmine rice.

F550exr  100iso  1/35  -1/3ev

Very strong fluorescent counter lighting above and behind this dish casts that shadow. But the food is well lit and that’s what counts. Delicious barely covers it. Of course, to keep calories and fat under control, I only allowed myself a coupe of tablespoons of the sauce, but it was magnificent.