Once you start becoming accustomed to the flavors of Thai food—the pungency and sweetness especially—hey quickly become addictive. Right now, I can hardly get enough of the rather magical combination of lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chile, and it happens to play a major role in this lightning fast recipe from Nigel Slater's Tender.
Why I Picked This Recipe: With a base of aromatics including ginger, lemongrass, chile, and scallion, the recipe was pretty much sold from the beginning. But I was also attracted to the combination of shrimp and greens, both of which cook so quickly that this recipe is essentially like a stir-fry.
What Worked: The sauce that this recipe produces is stellar: on top of the aromatics, the sweet-salty-pungent liquids mix with the earthiness of the greens and complements the sweetness of the shrimp. I found myself wishing for rice just to soak up what was left in the bowl.
What Didn't: By the time my greens were fully cooked, the shrimp had begun to become tough. Next time I'd remove the shrimp after sauteeing them and add them back in at the end, which would allow more control over the viscosity of the sauce and the texture of the greens. I altered the recipe to reflect this change.
Suggested Tweaks: More greens would have been welcome; next time I'd double the quantity. For a bulkier meal, a heap of white rice would also fit right in. Besides that, I wouldn't change anything: the combination of flavors is calibrated just right.
Adapted from Tender
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:15 minutes
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil
- 4 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 large stalks lemongrass, tough leaves peeled away, tender heart minced
- 2-3 fresh red chiles (or to taste), minced
- 4 scallions, roughly chopped
- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup Thai fish sauce
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 10 ounces Chinese greens, such as Bok Choy
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 cup basil leaves
In a large (12-inch) skillet or wok, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, lemongrass, chiles, and scallions. Cook, stirring often, until they are soft and the ginger has just begun to color.
Increase the heat to high and add the shrimp. Cook until colored on both sides, then add the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until the shrimp are just opaque. Remove them with tongs to a plate.
Add the greens to the skillet and turn them over in the pan as they wilt. Cook until they are tender and the sauce is somewhat reduced.
Add the shrimp back to the pan along with the cilantro and basil. Remove from heat as the herbs begin to wilt. Serve immediately in shallow bowls.