When you’re craving punchy, fragrant, tropical spice, Thai food is the answer. The Southeast Asian country’s penchant for garlic, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar gives Thai dishes their famous balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy.
But a lot of people love the flavour of Thai food without the three-chilli heat rating. That’s when you should opt for a dish that’s big on flavour but low on burn, like a massaman beef curry. Typically this dish is slow cooked until the meat is so tender it falls apart with a little encouragement from your fork. But for a weeknight hack that speeds up dinner, why not try a one-pot massaman beef curry that substitutes harder working cuts for a rump steak which is sliced and added at the end to maintain its juicy tenderness?
Not afraid of fire? Try a 15 minute green chicken curry. Start with a ready-made green curry paste base and then add fresh chicken, sliced veggies like capsicum and Asian greens, onion, and coconut milk. Lime juice adds freshness, brown sugar provides sweet balance and a dash of fish sauce rounds out the flavours with its salty tang.
If you’re going for the quick and satisfying stir fry option there’s a few key things to keep in mind. The three things essential to stir-fry success involve getting your wok properly hot before you begin; slicing your meat and vegetables really thin so that they cook quickly and retain their texture; and only adding your sauces at the very end to coat and season what’s in your pan. It can be as simple as this broccoli, chicken cashew number served on soft Hokkien noodles.
The great thing about Thai cooking is that you see the same ingredients again and again and they’re easy to keep around the house: citrus for sour freshness, fish sauce or soy for salt, and sugar – brown, palm and sometimes even plain white.
They are the base of a zippy dressing for a Thai beef salad, with the addition of sesame oil for a nutty flavour. The sauce brings together the slices of steak and the rainbow of fresh veg in the salad into one light, fresh and quick dinner option.
If you’re indulging in something a bit extravagant for your main, like pork belly or roast pork, you can balance out the fatty meat with a super fresh salad of watermelon, mint leaves, basil leaves and a red onion that has been sliced and quickly cured in a sharp Thai-style dressing. Or you can try giving your salmon and salad a thai makeover.
If you’re up for a challenge, why not try recreating the winning dishes from the recent Masterchef Thai challenge? There’s a whole fried bream with tamarind sauce, spatchcock with nam jim gai, deep-fried soft shell crab with red nam jim, kingfish on betel leaves, and eggplant green curry.