Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thai Holy Basil Fried Rice with Calamari

We all have foods that we love dearly, and then there are foods we would make our last meal. On Top Chef this season (a show which I watch obsessively), one of the challenges near the end was to prepare for some celebrity chefs what they would desire for their last meal. Carla Hall, one of my favorite contestants, cooked for the wonderful Jacques Pepin. His requested "last meal" was squab and fresh peas. Comfort food for him. After Jacques finished the meal she had prepared for him, he said, "I think I could die happy after that." I actually cried! For me, that moment was so magical, I can't imagine having Jacques Pepin say those words about something I'd my opinion she won the competition right there.

So, what would my last meal be? Thai holy basil fried rice with calamari. Comfort food for me.

I love Thai food, and grew to love this dish eating at the King and I restaurant in Minneapolis. Their version of this dish can be ordered with beef, chicken, fried tofu, or calamari. I absolutely love the latter. You can prepare this dish with any of these proteins. I challenge you to try it this way!

You can find jasmine rice, frozen cuttlefish, fresh Thai basil, fresh Thai chilies and fish sauce at most Asian markets.

By the way, this dish is smoking-hot, fired up by Thai chilies. You can adjust the heat in your preparation of the garlic-red pepper paste.

Thai Holy Basil Fried Rice with Calamari
(serves 2-4)
1-2 T. canola oil
8 oz. cuttlefish (bodies and tentacles), bodies cut into rings, bony cartilage removed
~1/4 c. garlic-red pepper paste (see below)
1 qt. freshly-cooked jasmine rice
1 bunch Thai basil, leaves pulled from stems (but not chopped)
fish sauce and soy sauce to taste

Cook about a quart (finished volume) of jasmine rice. (See this posting for my technique for cooking rice.) Heat a wok over high heat. Working quickly, add the oil, cuttlefish and garlic-red pepper paste and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes to cook the fish about half-way. Add the rice and stir to mix. Stop stirring, and allow the rice to brown a bit. Scrape it loose, stir up, and repeat 2-3 more times, until there's a moderate amount of browned rice in the mix. Add the basil leaves, and pour in about 2 T of fish sauce and 1 T of soy sauce. Stir well (still over high heat). Taste for saltiness. Add more fish sauce if needed. Cook for a couple more minutes to reduce liquid, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Serve piping hot.

Garlic Red-Pepper Paste
2 T canola oil
1 head of garlic, separated, peeled, and each clove halved or quartered depending on size
1 whole red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2" dice
red Thai chilies to taste, stems removed, cut in half

The heat all comes from the Thai chilies. I use about 16-18 in mine, which is intolerably hot for most people; you can use as few as 4 or 5, and as many as you dare! Be very careful working with Thai chilies - they are the second or third hottest chilies on Earth, depending on who you ask. Their oil is exceedingly hot, and will burn your eyes, nose, mouth, or other sensitive parts.

Place all ingredients in a wok on low heat, and slowly roast for about an hour to 90 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Everything should be soft and well-cooked, and the garlic turning brown. Place in a food processor and puree. Freeze any unused paste for up to 6 months.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this fantastic recipe. I love cooking Thai food, but the cookbooks I find are either a) inauthentic or b) contain impossible-to-find ingredients. This recipe is going to join my small collection of "doable Thai".