Friday, November 23, 2012

Khao Tung Na Tung (minced pork and shrimp dip) recipe

Khao Tung Na Tung is one of the tastiest Thai appetizer in the realm of Thai cuisine (in my opinion).  Khao Tung refers to the deep fried rice crackers.  Na Tung is a part of the name that doesn't make any sense on its own. Literally, it means 'face up'.  Altogether, the name refers to a dip made with coconut milk simmered with spices, ground pork, shrimp and peanut served with fried rice crackers.   It's a harmony of savoury, coconut-peanutty flavour with a note of sweetness.  I've been so fond of the flavours and deprived from it that every single time I go back to Thailand, this dish was a must at every single Thai restaurant I visited.  I don't know why I never thought about learning how to make it until this very moment.  I guess because I thought the flavours were too complex that I'd ever be able to achieve it.  But one spontaneous night, I tried making it, and it was successful.  It didn't take me all night either.  The prep time was only 15 mins and cooking time was about less than half and hour.  I cheated with the rice cakes and bought packaged ones from Yaohan.  But that just made my life a whole lot easier.  The whole thing came together nicely as a dish.  So, if it was simple enough for me to freestyle my way through, it's only right I share the recipe of this wonderful dish everyone.

1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
1 dried chili
1 tbsp. coriander roots
1 tsp. black pepper
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup ground pork
1/2 cup minced shrimp
1/4 cup ground peanut or cashew
2-3 tbsp. fish sauce
2-3 tbsp. sugar
1 shallot

Using a pestle and motar (the old school way), ground garlic, dried chili, corriander roots, black pepper into a smooth paste.  Don't have the tools? Blend the ingredients in a food processor.
Heat coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Let simmer until the fats start to separate.  Add the mixture of spices and stir until mixed well.  Add ground pork and shrimp.  Simmer until cooked, make sure the meat doesn't clump together.  Add shallot and peanut or cashew.  Stir and let simmer.  Season with fish sauce and sugar.  It should taste savoury, nutty and a little sweet.  Once the mixture is mixed well together and it's tasting pretty good, it's ready! Turn off the heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with rice crackers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Taco Luis

The story of how Taco Luis got started would inspire many ambitious individuals with an entrepreneurial soul to go out there and just take a risk.  Though I won't elaborate in case I get the facts wrong.  I have heard numerous positive stories about how one hardworking man from China created this successful family-run taco joint.  

As I spend most of my time staring at the food court at Lansdowne mall, I often see that, day after day, there is only one vendor that always has crazy line-ups while the surroundings are nothing but a wasteland.  I got introduced to the Tater tots deluxe just months ago and became addicted to it like novacane.  It's nothing like Taco Bell/Taco Time junk.  First, the large take out box weighs like a rock.  Once opened, it is literally exploding with so much toppings.  You would find all kinds of vegetables you'd expect in a salad, plus pickled carrots and peppers, a slab of seasoned ground beef or chicken, a generous load of cheese, sour cream, guacamole. Don't be fooled by the aesthetic and my lack of skill to make the photo any prettier looking that what it was.  Buried at the very bottom are world's crispiest and tater tots and there are just so many of them! I don't know how but they stay amazingly tasty and crispy.  The tater tots have become my staple 'fix' from mundane days.  Lather them up with their signature salsa (also so amazing I swear there's a 'special ingredient'), I can almost guarantee you would finish the whole plate up and still crave for more.  This meal is an epitome of "food high", just mind-blowing on so many levels and you forget the feeling of being full.  For just about $6 + taxes, there is no way someone wouldn't be so satisfied by another meal of the same calibre and value.   
Exploding scrumptiousness
Taco salad, also massive
Taco combo, more tater tots goodness

Taco Luis (Lansdowne Centre) on Urbanspoon