Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shrimp Laksa

We just had a fantastic week with good friends visiting from Melbourne, soaking up the Sydney sun on various beaches and eating and drinking a little too much at some of our favorite spots. Tonight called for a bit of a detox, something light but vegetable-heavy. I thumbed through some cookbooks and came across a bookmarked recipe in The Best of Bill Granger for Light Laksa. I've been meaning to try it, and the hubs agreed this was just the kind of thing we were after. We changed up the recipe to suit what we had on hand and our preferences, and the result was delicious. Best of all, it came together in about 30 minutes flat.
Shrimp laksa, infused with red curry, coconut, and ginger 
This Malaysian-style soup is not too spicy at all, it's filling and hydrating, and it's chock-full of veggies and protein-rich shrimp. It's the kind of soup that requires a spoon and a fork (or chopsticks). First date food it is not... we'll be washing the placemats tomorrow, and I had to give the table a pretty thorough wipe-down after we splattered soup all over ourselves and the surrounding perimeter of our bowls.
Shrimp laksa full of vegetables: bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and eggplant
with ginger and mukrat lime leaves
You could easily leave the shrimp out if you're looking for a vegetarian version, or try subbing cubes of firm tofu. Makrut lime leaves are easy to come by in Sydney at our local fruit and veg shop. I'm not sure how accessible they are elsewhere, but ask your grocer if they stock them, as they really are key in bringing all the flavors together. This laksa would be welcome during the icy weather up in the northern half of the world at this time of year, and perfect anytime down in the south. I leave you with warm wishes and the rosy pink tulips our friends left us with before they returned to Melbourne yesterday...
Christmas time = tulip season in Australia

Shrimp Laksa
inspired by The Best of Bill Granger
serves 4

2 cups chopped eggplant
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoon rice bran oil (or other vegetable oil; divided use)
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
4 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
2/3 cup coconut milk 
6 makrut lime leaves (3 whole leaves, and 3 leaves thinly sliced for garnish)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 bunches baby bok choy
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups prepared thin rice noodles (vermicelli noodles)

To serve:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
lime slices
3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
fish sauce (optional)

Heat a wide sauté pan over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon oil, and add the eggplant and mushrooms. Sauté until softened and eggplant is cooked through, about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add the red curry paste, and stir around with a spatula until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, ginger, and the three whole lime leaves. Turn the heat up to high, and bring the broth mixture to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

Add the shrimp and the cooked eggplant and mushrooms to the broth mixture. Continue to simmer until the shrimp turn pink, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the baby bok choy and bean sprouts, stirring carefully until the bok choy leaves begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

Distribute the prepared rice noodles into four bowls, and ladle the laksa over the noodles. Serve immediately with bowls of brown sugar, lime slices, thinly sliced lime leaves, and fish sauce, allowing everyone to season their laksa to taste. (We found that about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar was plenty; add a couple drops of fish sauce if you think it needs to be saltier; the sliced lime leaves are a must!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving down under

Happy December, all. I hope all the American folks had wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations, at home or abroad, with family or friends. For the first time since we've lived in Sydney, we had friends visiting during Thanksgiving, so it was a treat to invite them over for a friendsgiving feast. Each of us contributed a family recipe, and the results were delicious. 
Thanksgiving dinner 2013: a delicious combination of family recipes
from friends visiting Sydney
Besides turkey baked with a paprika dry rub, my mom's cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, roasted brussels sprouts with lemon mustard parsley dressing (from the great White on Rice Couple blog), and my friend's great-grandmother's sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar-pecan streusel, we also had some mouth-watering desserts. 
chocolate chip pecan pie, mini and uber-mini pumpkin pies, vanilla bean whipped cream
Instead of one big pumpkin pie, I made a few personal servings in 4-ounce le cruset dishes and mini-pie-shots in espresso mugs-- these topped by a dollop of my friend's vanilla whipped cream were just right... paired slices of her boyfriend's homemade chocolate chip pecan pie (sans corn syrup!).  
gooey chocolate chip pecan pie (no corn syrup here!),
and an espresso-sized shot of pumpkin pie with vanilla bean whipped cream
More importantly than enjoying some fantastic food, however, we all learned a little more about each other through the shared family recipes, which sparked conversations about quirky traditions and stories from Thanksgiving holidays past. I haven't spent Thanksgiving with my family in Texas in nine years, but have had some great meals with friends in England and Australia every year abroad. This year might have been one of my favorites. 

Thankful for friends and family, and the incredible people I've been able to meet (and food I've been able to eat!) in my expat travels over the last decade. And thankful for you for stopping by-- may you continuously find things for which you are thankful wherever life takes you.