Monday, 10 March 2014

Thai'd-Up With Beans!

Fagiolini Thailandese & Pomodorini "Penang", con Sambal di Cocco, Limone e Menta
Penang Thai Beans & Tomato with Coconut, Mint & Lime Sambal

Thai beans... who knew? Actually, I DID know, but I had never bought them- nor eaten them for that matter. But there they were on Saturday, looking like natures green lasso's, and waiting to rope me in as I walked by Mrs. Wong's stall at the market hall. Oh, I knew they just tasted like... beans- but they are just so wonderfully fun-looking and incredibly long that I took a bag with me purely for novelty's sakes. 

At the same time, I thought it would be a shame to do something boring with them- after all, they did cost a little bit more and I can do the ordinary stuff, with ordinary beans, no? So I dreamed up this little combination, turning them into a yummy appetizer or side dish and making them a whole lot more fun than the same-old-same-old. Especially when you have fun ingredients to work with, both the act of cooking and the food that you prepare should give you real enjoyment!

As usual, the ingredients I chose to use were pretty ordinary... for me it is always more challenging and fun to do something extraordinary with them :-) That's just the way I am!

So- I had my bunch of beans, a Spring onion, some ginger, cherry tomatoes, fresh mint, chili and a lime. Also, not in the image below but equally important, some Thai Penang curry paste and a little garlic. And for a finishing touch a little Hoisin sauce and a sprinkle of sesame. Ok, that's it now- I remembered just in time!

I didn't want to simply stir-fry the beans and wanted to somehow get lots of flavor into them. So what I did was this- after washing, topping and tailing and halving them so as to make them a little easier to handle, I prepared a little flavor base out of 1 tablespoon of Penang curry paste, I finely chopped clove of garlic and 2 cupfuls of water. I stirred the curry paste into the water, added the chopped garlic
and brought it up to the boil before adding the beans. I tossed them around a little to get them coated, turned down the heat a little and pot a lid on the frying pan so that they could steam. 

I wanted to use just a small amount of liquid, so that all of the flavors would be absorbed into the beans, which is always the best way to get the most flavor into your food, rather than pouring all of the good stuff away if you let the vegetables swim around in lots of water...

In the meantime, I got busy making the sambal. I grated a small piece of ginger- just a 1" slice or so and popped it into a second, smaller, dry frying pan with some dried coconut flakes. Freshly grated would have been better... but you know what? I used what I had at home and the result was just fine anyway! I turned the heat on to medium and let the coconut flakes gently toast whilst I finely sliced the Spring onion and finely chopped a good handful of mint. I also removed the seeds from about 1/3 of the chili pepper and ground it to a paste with a little sesame oil, then added the juice of a whole lime... yowzer! But I wanted the sambal to taste refreshing and fresh- so I was brave!

As soon as the coconut was beginning to brown, I took it off the stove and added the chopped mint and onion and stirred them in well. I added the tangy, chili and lime juice and stirred everything together well, then seasoned it with just a little sugar and salt until the flavor was nicely balanced... and it was so wonderful and refreshing!

After 5 minutes of steaming, the beans were almost done, the water all but evaporated away... and the aroma just amazing! At this point I added the cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters and a little sesame oil, together with a splash of Thai fish sauce for seasoning. 

I gave the beans a good toss and then popped them back onto the heat, with the lid on, for a final 3-4 minutes- just time for the tomatoes to break up a little and become combined in the last of the reduced and rendered-down juices.

I served the beans up with a generous scattering of the tangy, citrus, mint and ginger flavored sambal- kept sweet and sour and tangy and mild in contrast to the spicy beans... it was a great combination!

A finishing touch was a drizzle of Hoisin sauce for a little extra seasoning and a scattering of toasted sesame seeds for a lightly nutty crunch... and yet another vegetarian star-dish was born! I really loved it!

The idea was good, the execution was simple and the result was pretty delicious! As of this evening I have a favorite new way to prepare beans as a side dish! And I hope that maybe you do too! ;-)

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