I’d done a number of fusion pastas in the past, marrying the famous Italian dish with Asian elements like mentaiko, pulled beef rendang and even laksa pesto. Then again, a school of thought believes that Italian pasta originated from China when Marco Polo travelled to more than half a millenium ago and brought it all the way back to the boot-shaped peninsula, making the noodle’s beginnings Asian in actuality! But others argued that that Marco Polo’s fabled travels to the Far East was nothing but an incredible tale and didn’t really happen. Well, I’m not about to open a can of worms here to debate the origins of pasta but whichever the case is, fusion pastas work well which is the only important thing here!
I was enjoying Tom Yum Goong just yesterday and with a small selection of other Thai dishes and just as I was thinking of cooking the remnant soup with some khanom jeen, an online pasta cooking and sharing event quickly initiated a change of plans and made me create this fusion pasta instead. Lead entirely by instincts, the recipe was forged within minutes, not wanting something too complex and elaborated. Pasta dishes are afterall meant to be quick meals with ease and simplicity being the main cause. Thankfully, the recipe worked reasonably well, though not without room for improvement of course. I’ll revisit it again when time permits me but for now, allow me to indulge in the 2015 version of tom yum goong pasta. Ideas and brain-storming from like-minded foodies for future renditions are more than welcome!
This dish is actually not intended, not this version at least. I’d wanted to cook ผัดกระเพรา Phad Kra-Prao Thai Holy Basil and Pork Stir Fry actually but I’d gotten the wrong basil! The real McCoy calls for holy basil, which is known as Bai Kra-Prao in Thai, and hence the name of the dish Phad Kra-Prao, with “Phad” to mean “stir fry” in Thai. And to add to the confusion, the latter is sometimes anglicised as “Pad” or even “Pat” or “Phat“. But I’d used Thai purple basil (sweet basil) instead! It is known as ใบโหระพา Bai Horapha in Thai and thus the “bastardised” version “Phad Horapha“. A quick search over the internet and I found that not the only one who’d made this “mistake”. Not sure if the creations by the others are accidental or intentional but whichever the case, it actually tastes really good with thai sweet basil as well! So it seems like ผัดโหระพา Phad Horapha is here to stay afterall!
Thai cuisine is up next for Asian Food Fest #2 and the contrast between Thai and Japanese food couldn’t be greater. Yet I love them both! For me, Thai food is all about the explosion of flavours albeit with little mouthfuls that go a long way. The prototypical impression many of us have on Thai food is its stong notes on heat and sourish palate profile. Thai cuisine liberally incorporates chili in many of its dishes so one is almost immediately hit by the impact from these little morsels of red firecrackers bursting in one’s mouth. Acridity and astringency introduced take form through the use of Thai green limes and/or tamarind pulp and together, they produce a wave of refreshing sensation against the heat, helping to subdue the latter slightly. Some say that it is really a competition of these two flavours but I choose to think that the amalgamation makes it multi-dimensional. Speaking of multi-dimensional, Thai cuisine is also heavy on the use of fish sauce, much loved for its savory hues and profound sense of umami flavours it transpires. In fact fish sauce, despite being commonly employed in Indochinese cuisines like Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian food as well, is synonymously linked with Thai food. And everything is balanced with a bit of sweetness from Thai palm sugar, a milder, and incidentally paler version compared to its southern cousin coconut sugar (gula melaka/gula jawa) used extensively in Straits and Indonesian cuisine. As such, Thai cuisine is really a big melting pot of flavours as well as aromatics. For me, one dish which epitomises the very essence of Thai cuisine has to be ส้มตำ Som Tam, its ever popular Green Papaya Salad.