I love the variety and flavours of Thai cuisine. Most of the dishes are easy to make at home and – unless you’re pounding your own curry pastes – don’t take much time to prepare. Here are two dishes you can cook in minutes.
Crab meat with yellow chillies, long beans and kaffir lime leaves
This is my attempt at making a dish I’ve eaten and loved at Krua Apsorn, a restaurant I visit almost every time I’m in Bangkok. Serve it with steamed white rice and a stir-fried vegetable dish and you’ll have a satisfying meal.
The chillies for this dish are sold at shops specialising in Thai ingredients. They are smaller than banana chillies, yellow to orange in colour and the flavour is so mild I consider them as much a vegetable as a spice, and therefore use them in fairly large quantities.
500 grams uncooked crab meat (I use frozen spanner crab meat)
8 long beans (also called snake beans)
8-10 Thai yellow chillies (about 100 grams in total)
2 medium-sized garlic cloves
6-8 small kaffir lime leaves
20ml Thai fish sauce
5 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp finely ground white pepper
About 30ml cooking oil
If using frozen crab meat, let it thaw in the fridge. Cut the long beans into 1cm pieces. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise, then scrape out and discard the seeds. Chop the chillies and the garlic, then pound them in a pestle until they are roughly crushed. In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, sugar and white pepper.
Heat a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, add the cooking oil. Put the kaffir lime leaves in the wok and stir-fry until they darken slightly (about 15 seconds), then put them in a bowl. Heat the wok again, add the long beans and stir-fry for about a minute. Put the long beans in the bowl with the kaffir lime leaves. Heat the wok again and add a little more oil, if needed. When the wok is hot, add the chilli and garlic mixture and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Mix in the crab meat and fish sauce-sugar-pepper mixture and stir-fry for a few minutes, or until the crab is almost cooked. Add the long beans and kaffir lime leaves and stir-fry until the crab is fully cooked. Taste for seasonings and adjust, if needed. Scoop the mixture into a dish and serve immediately.
Gai pad krapow (minced chicken with holy basil)
Many supermarkets sell minced white chicken meat, but it’s difficult to find minced dark meat (leg or thigh), which is what you need for this recipe. If you have a meat grinder at home, use it to prepare the chicken for this dish; otherwise, you’ll need to hand-mince it using a very sharp knife. Don’t try to grind the meat in a food processor – it will turn to mush.
Serve this with steamed white rice. If you like, top each individual serving with a fried egg, cooked so the yolk is still runny.
500 grams boneless, skinless chicken leg or thigh meat
4 garlic cloves
6-8 red bird’s-eye chillies
6-8 small kaffir lime leaves
30 grams holy basil leaves
25ml dark soy sauce
25ml oyster sauce
10ml Thai fish sauce
½ tsp granulated sugar
About 50ml cooking oil, or more if needed
Mince the chicken meat in a meat grinder, or by hand-chopping it. Chop the garlic and shallots. Cut the bird’s-eye chillies in half lengthwise and scrape out and discard the seeds, then chop the chillies. Rinse the kaffir lime leaves and holy basil leaves, then blot them with paper towels.
Heat a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, add 50ml of cooking oil. Add the kaffir lime leaves and stir-fry briefly, or until they darken slightly. Remove the kaffir lime leaves from the oil and put them on a plate. Heat the oil again, add the garlic, shallot and chilli and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, then mix in the minced chicken. Stir-fry over a high flame, breaking up the clumps of chicken with a spatula, and cook until the meat loses its pink colour. Add the holy basil leaves, soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar and combine thoroughly. Scrape the mixture to the centre of the wok, turn the flame to medium and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked, stirring occasionally. Stir in the kaffir lime leaves, then taste for seasonings and adjust, if needed. Scrape the mixture into a dish and serve immediately.