I love the sensibility that food summons. Different tastes and aromas have the ability to evoke memories of your childhood and overseas adventures, instantly transporting you back in time to a treasured place. Particular flavours and fragrances can unearth forgotten experiences, hidden beneath a veil of what is immediately present. I so cherish those moments when I unwittingly bite into something and am delighted by a vivid trip down memory lane.
The sweet and tart taste of mulberries immediately leads me down Memory Lane, where I make a right at Childhood Corner and find myself in my parent’s backyard, picking mulberries off of our mulberry bush with my brothers. Our purple stained fingers and mouths told my mother where we had been playing and what mischief we were up to. We would spend hours playing outside by the mulberry bush, creating fantastical worlds involving pirates and space ships, which we would turn into a play that my parents would watch (after they paid for their tickets, of course). I feel so lucky to have had two brilliant comrades growing up. I miss our theatrics and games.
The saccharine yet wholesome flavour of honey, banana and cinnamon on toast makes me feel like I am nine years old again, and in my parent’s kitchen. My dressing gown clad dad would assemble this heavenly combination for breakfast. It was his specialty, and even though it is very simple, no one can make it like dad.
The confronting, intense heat of birdseye chilli is a frequent and welcome visitor to my palate. It’s extroverted presence puts me back in the Thai countryside, sitting at the dining table in Baan Dada, eating whole chillies in an attempt to bond with the older boys at the home by proving how hardcore I am. Throat…on…fire…all the while shrugging, “that was nothing!!”
Whenever I take in the aroma of fresh seafood being cooked, I am once again in the vivacious markets of Ortygia and Palermo, Sicily. Mountains of weird and wonderful produce surrounds me. Marvellous melons, perfect peaches. Enormous and brilliant eggplants and tomatoes and lemons, oh my! Determined nonnas power their way to the front of the queue and instruct the vendor. This is their turf, don’t get in their way. Raucous and cheeky fishmongers yell and wink at you, parading their catch of the day. The intoxicating aroma of fresh seafood on the grill wafts through the market, over the heads of those seasoned nonnas, enticing you. I am in heaven in this cacophonous, vibrant world.
Thus is the power of food. It has the ability to nourish both your body and your soul, by arousing your psyche and allowing you re-live cherished, joyous times.
I wanted to post a recipe that evokes many beloved memories. I hope that it delights you as well. It is something that Ben and I make when we want to feel like we are back in Thailand, grabbing a quick lunch from a roadside café. It uses pork, which we found to be the most popular meat in Thailand. The balance of sweet palm sugar, salty fish sauce and sour lime alongside the heat of birdseye chilli is perfect, and quintessentially Thai. The fried egg on top really complements the sharp flavour of the mince, offering a soft, silky time-out for your taste buds. If you cook the egg so that the yolk is runny, it adds a delicious richness. The basil really makes this dish. In Thailand they use holy basil, however you can use Thai basil. I must admit, I have even used sweet/Italian basil in this dish. It isn’t the same, but it is still yummy! This dish is always served on steamed jasmine rice. To us, this is Thai food.
Pad Krapow Moo for Two
The name translates to stirfried “pad” basil “krapow” with pork “moo”. And “for two” means, as you guessed, serves two people. Plus, it rhymed and I thought it was cute.
3 tablespoons peanut oil (1 tablespoon for the mince, the other 2 for the eggs) – note, it does have a bit of oil. This is not something I cook very often, and don’t usually use this much oil in stirfries. However, to cook the egg in the traditional way they use this much oil. If I cooked this more often, I would look to remove the oil and forgo a bit of flavour to make it a bit healthier.
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 birdseye chillies, finely chopped (less if you don’t like a lot of heat)
250g mince pork (you can use chicken or beef if you wish)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons grated/shaved palm sugar (you can use white or brown sugar if you don’t have palm sugar)
1-2 tablespoons water
2 handfuls holy basil
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
I usually also serve it with steamed greens. You can add in green beans along with the garlic and chilli if you wish.
For the egg:
Heat a well-seasoned wok over high heat. Lower the flame to a medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Crack 1 egg into the wok, and fry whilst shuffling it around so that it doesn’t stick, but the edges go nice and crisp. You can spoon some of the hot oil over the egg so that the yolk cooks evenly. Once it is cooked to your liking (a runny yolk is really nice with this dish), carefully lift the egg out of the wok, put it on a plate and cover with foil to keep the egg warm. Add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok, and repeat the above steps with the remaining egg.
For the mince:
Add the final tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chillies until they become fragrant. Be careful not to colour them too much (they can easily burn). After ~30 seconds, or once lightly coloured and fragrant, add the pork mince. Stirfry until just browned all over. Add in half of the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Taste to assess what you need to add more of. I usually add all of what is listed, however your limes may be more juicy, etc. You want to balance the salty, sour and sweet flavours going on here. Play around with it – it’s fun! Once the flavours are balanced, add in a tablespoon or two of water, and simmer very briefly (~1 minute). If you overcook it, the meat can toughen. Stir in the holy basil until it just wilts, then serve immediately over rice. Top each bowl with one egg.
Yum! I’m hoping to cook this for dad soon, as he is keen to become more familiar with Asian flavours. He is flirting with the idea of chilli, however doesn’t yet fully appreciate its beauty. Hopefully I can pay him back for all the delicious mornings of honey, banana and cinnamon toast.