Clams Stir-fried with Roasted Chilli Paste
Though I long to recreate its singing flavours I've always been slightly daunted by Thai food. The recipes always seem so long and complex and contain so many ingredients.
If you feel the same you're going to love Baan, the latest book from Kay Plunkett-Hogge who was born and brought up in Thailand and makes its sensational food miraculously simple. It's like having a personal cooking class in a book.
This simple recipe for stir-fried clams - Baan_Hoy Lai Pad Nam Prik Pao - is typical. "For a dish that takes so little time to make, this tastes surprisingly complex" writes Kay. "The sweet clams, rich chilli paste and fresh basil create a perfect balance of flavour."
Serves 2–4 as a part of a meal
500 g/1 lb 2 oz clams
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2–3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp nam prik pao (roasted chilli paste - see below)
1 tbsp nam pla (fish sauce)
1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
2 long red chillies, sliced diagonally
a handful of Thai sweet basil leaves (If you can’t find Thai basil, you can use regular basil instead)
In a colander, rinse the clams well under cold running water, discarding any open ones that refuse to close after a firm tap with the back of a knife.
On a high heat, heat the wok until it’s very hot and add the oil. Add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the clams and the nam prik pao, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes.
One at a time, add the nam pla, sugar, 2 tbsp water and the chillies, stirring them in well after each addition. Continue to cook, stirring all the time, until all the clams have opened (discard any that remain closed).
Finally, add most of the basil and stir it in until wilted.
Serve at once, with the last few basil leaves scattered over the top.
There are so many brands of nam prik pao on the market and it will keep in the fridge for ages. My preferred brand is Mae Pranom. As a kid, I used to eat it spread on thick white bread... Try it!
What to drink: Kay intriguingly favours big reds like shiraz and shiraz/viognier with her food but I'm not sure I'd follow suit with this clam dish. Go for one of her other suggestions, a versatile grüner veltliner instead,
From Baan by Kay Plunkett-Hogge is published by Pavilion at £20. Photography © Louise Hagger.
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