Friday, April 9, 2010

CSA week 18 - Gulai kacang udang

a.k.a. Sumatran shrimp and green beans

I think this is the first dish I've made with green beans and coconut milk. First one that I've blogged about anyway. It struck me as an odd combination, but I do recall seeing green beans as part of a lot of coconut-milk-based curries. Googling turns up Thai dishes with them paired along with some Malaysian and some Caribbean ones too. I'll have to put those on the to-do list when I get some more beans.

This particular recipe, according to The Indonesian Kitchen cookbook, is a typical Sumatran dish in that it's hot and acid without sweetness to balance as you'd find in a lot of other Indonesian cooking. I don't think it was quite as challenging as advertised, though.

1 14 oz can coconut milk
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk lemon grass, crushed and/or slit open
1 teaspoon salt
1 salam leaf
1 small piece of laos
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, sliced
1 fresh hot chili pepper, sliced and crushed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 pound string beans, cleaned and broken into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small tomato, diced

0. Brine the shrimp and the string beans.[Don't skip brining the shrimp. They cook too fast to take on any flavor from the sauce (or add any either). The original recipe called for simmering the shrimp for a full ten minutes which would solve that problem but create a worse one if you ask me.]

1. Mix everything but the beans, shrimp and tomato into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

2. Add the green beans and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato and cook for 5-10 minutes more until the tomato has started breaking down and the green beans are tender. Add the shrimp and cook 1-3 minutes until cooked through.

Fish out the lemongrass, salam leaf and laos. Serve hot or warm over rice, garnished with crispy fried onion (or shallot or garlic), sweet soy sauce and chili-garlic sambal.

I couldn't get a good picture in the bowl since the sauce drained down into the rice. Here it is finished but still in the pot.

The sauce is richly flavored, spicy, creamy and fragrant with lemongrass and laos. A very nice complement to the shrimp, too. But the green beans are a spash of khaki against all that color. Blah in and of themselves and they don't really connect with the flavors in the sauce. Really disappointing. I should have brined them too maybe. I bet it'll be better tomorrow when the flavors have blended a bit.
OK, it's tomorrow and the dish is substantially better. Both the beans and the shrimp have absorbed a bit of flavor and the sauce has picked up a bit of depth too. Also, I hit it with a big shot of sriracha which did it no harm. I can now recommend this dish; just make it ahead and reheat.

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