Stir-fried curry-coconut vegetables (or Thailand, my love!)
This is my first big trip to Asia. I have been living in Scotland for months with my friend Vero. We saved all our money, I have two jobs. In short, I struggle to be able to afford this fabulous experience.
The day before, while waiting at the airport, I called from a phone booth in Thailand to book our first night (we are far from the facilities we have now). The gentleman answers me quickly, simply asking my name. My night is reserved. I was not asked for my phone number, nor for payment… I am experimenting for the first time with this system based on trust… We will see what happens!
On the plane, my first flight this long (15 hours from London), I freaked out. I wonder what possessed me to choose such an unusual destination (come on?!! Thailand, unusual?!). Given my departure from London, I am mainly surrounded by English people, and English people drink… The on-board attendants who served them so kindly end up letting them go and help themselves in their closed space. People drink as much as they want. And I don't understand how these charming Thai women manage to stay so smiling, and above all, why they don't say NO to all these requests for alcohol. I'll understand soon enough...
During this long flight, without TV, with very unstable lights, and surrounded by disturbing people, I imagine a girl who becomes schizophrenic because of the cultural difference. In short, I arrive in Thailand with a knot in my stomach… I AM AFRAID!!
To get to the hotel, you have to cross Khao San Road. THE famous street in Bangkok where everything happens. There are a ton of tourists, gorgeous handcrafted souvenirs, oh so many ladyboys, restaurants galore – with ridiculously low prices, AND AMBIENT AMBIANCE! Well let's see, I'm not alone at the end of the world trying to control a certain mental illness that would like to show up because I would be too destabilized, I'm in PARADISE!!
That's it, I'm in love. In love with simplicity, in love with this child-hearted people, in love with their pleasure in serving the other. What an inspiration! Thais, as in most Southeast Asian countries, have figured out how to charm, how to organize, how to make life easier for tourists. The customer service there, it smells even better than a rose. It's just perfect! In their culture, saying no is not done. Getting angry in public, even less… I understand airplane madness better now.
After 3 fabulous weeks of exploring, experiencing, seeing magnificence, I have to leave. I have met people that I will never forget. I laughed like never before, I had a unique complicity with complete strangers. I have seen mountains greener than the Desjardins logo. I have seen more beautiful beaches than in my wildest dreams. I tasted the chaos of Bangkok as much as the tranquility of the sumptuous islands. I ate, ate and ate, each time delicious food, for ridiculous prices. In short, my heart is heavy. I DO NOT WANT TO LEAVE! I chat with the guy at the hotel, who offers to change my plane ticket for a few dollars. I'm thinking. Christmas is coming in a few days, and it's been 10 months since I saw my family. Reluctantly, I'm coming back.
A few days later, I am in my living room, very cold in Quebec, trying to absorb my shock of the return. Watching the news, I suddenly see images of Thailand. We are in 2004.
I'M IN SHOCK. A tsunami has just devastated much of Asia, including the south of this magnificent country. For me, it's the end of the world.
I think back to all my encounters. From this friendly elderly Canadian couple who had chosen for the first time to spend the winter in the Thai islands, to the French friends with whom we shared intense hikes in the great tropical heat, to all the Thais with whom I spent my evenings laughing. I think back to the paradisiacal landscapes, to the unique vibe that makes you forget all worries. My paradise, it is now devastated.
All these people, I don't know what happened to them. I also imagine that they may not have survived, nor their authentic bamboo bungalows. Certainly, every time I think of each of them, every time I eat Thai, it's like a contemplation. I pay them a little tribute, in my own way.
I never went back to Thailand. But the unique and human flavors of this country will have marked my taste buds forever. And even today, eating a Thai dish brings me back to this paradise that will have followed in the footsteps of my travels in Asia. The paradise of children's hearts.
So here is an easy recipe, adapted to the Quebecois, for a rainbow moment (much better than Lucky Charms!), just to make you feel, you too, in this country with unique charms...!< /p>
PHOTO CREDIT: Kathleen Bosc
*My trip to Thailand: Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Kho Phi Phi – Kho Lanta – Krabi
Travel is very good by train or plane.
Caricoco vegetable stir-fry
For about 6 people
- 400ml coconut milk
- 200ml of water
- 2 pieces of galangal
- A few pieces of lemongrass
- 2 to 3 keffir lime leaves
- 1 tbsp. red curry paste
- 1/3 cup Singapore curry
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 3 tbsp. groundnut oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 bell peppers, cut into strips
- 4 carrots, julienned
- 8 green onions
- Salt, to taste
- Coriander, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions.
*For a non-veg version, add shrimp, chicken, fish, beef… whatever you want!
- In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk and water. Add galangal, lemongrass and keffir lime leaves. Leave to infuse between 5 and 10 minutes, over low heat.
- Add the red curry paste, Singapore curry and maple syrup. Simmer another 5 minutes.
- In a wok over medium heat, dry roast the peanuts to give them some color. When you have good smells of peanuts rising to your nose, remove them.
- In the same wok, heat the peanut oil over high heat. Sauté the garlic and peppers for about two minutes, stirring constantly. If the mixture becomes dry, rather than adding more oil, add a little water (to make a smoke show!!).
- Add the carrots, sauté another two minutes, still over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Turn the heat to low, add the green onions, mix well. The vegetables should still be crispy. Season well.
- Strain the coconut milk – red curry sauce over the vegetables over the wok. In short, you have to pour the sauce into the wok but without the pieces of galangal, lemongrass, keffir that have infused. Let cook for 5 minutes over low heat. The vegetables will cook a bit more, but we don't want them "mouch-mouch"!
- Add salt to taste, adjust maple syrup if you prefer sweeter and add cilantro.
- Garnish each bowl with rice, Caricoco vegetables and peanuts on top.