Thai Red Curry Clams & Mango because fruit is amazing in curries!
As promised: More about the impact Thailand and Thai cuisine had on me. And then a fantastic recipe and How-To Tips on cleaning and cooking fresh clams.
My trip to Thailand changed my life in a lot of ways. If you're familiar with Thailand at all, I spent some time in Chiang Mai at the beginning. It's a beautiful and spiritual area, with the most amazing Buddhist temples. It's artistic, laid back, and friendly. I met a couple fantastic fellow travelers, ate some incredible Thai food (I miss the “street meat”. The best Pad Thai I've ever had), and the fresh smoothies that I have not been able to recreate. I was lucky enough to participate in a 2-day silent introduction to Buddhism and meditation. That sounds funny: the monk spoke to us and we could ask him questions, but we weren't allowed to speak to a longer one.
I also signed up for a Thai cooking class which was phenomenal! The day started off early and we were taken to a market where they taught us about the different ingredients (like the differences in the dozens of different barrels of rice), let us wander around taking photos, and let us try fried bamboo worms – the first of many insects that I ate while I was there (FYI- they had the texture of cheese puffs and the faint taste of dried shrimp). From there we went out to the farm where most of the vegetables we ended up cooking with were grown. I made green curry paste from scratch! I think we made about 7 dishes as the day progressed. I highly recommend doing these kinds of classes while traveling! Whether it's with an organized business like the Thai Farm Cooking School that I went to, or buy a local a bunch of groceries and get the at-home experience. Now that's a cooking show I would love to host!
The food! So fresh. So flavorful! I loved it. I was surprised at how fulfilled I was with the local diet. In fact, one day a buddy invited me for a Western-style breakfast, and I felt like garbage afterward. I’ve never had problems with food, I was proud of my iron stomach. But what I realized was that this awful feeling actually was my “normal” back home. Brick-in-stomach and bloated. In the month that I was there, that was one of only a handful of Western meals that I’d eaten. Most of the time I was eating “street-meat”.
I. Felt. Great.
So when I came back home I really started analyzing food. I thought about the Thai diet and what made it so satisfying, healthy, and delicious. There are a number of aspects to this. There’s very little gluten or grains in general. The food is fresh: This fish was caught today- just pulled it off the boat; this fruit smoothie is made from a coconut that was just cracked open and fruit from that tree behind us… Wow. Real food lovers, and 100 Mile diet eaters, and anyone who loves tasty food: eat your heart out!!! Indigenous plants and fruits. Mangosteens. Rambutan. Jackfruit. Durian… not so much with the durian (they smell like vomit and have a disgusting texture as well). Fresh pineapples, bananas, mangos, coconuts. Oh. Em. Gee.
Another aspect of Thai cuisine is the flavor profile: it has everything! It’s sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy, crunchy, and even though there was no cheese, I didn’t crave it every evening! No cravings at all actually. There’s an Ayurvedic principle that emphasizes the importance of getting all the tastes in a meal, and how you won’t be left with any cravings the way I was used to being (even after being physically full).
It's interesting how there are so many food sciences and diets and philosophies and guidelines out there, yet it's the old ideas that seem to make the most sense (Ayurveda being a holistic system of natural healing and traditional medicine based out of India over 5,000 years ago, and the Paleolithic era ending around 15,000 years ago). And doesn't that make sense? Over the generations of surviving and thriving in the past compared to our present-day state of health. Something to think about. No really: think about it. How many people have never really thought about the food they eat and it's importance? I don't mean you. I mean the people who subsist on convenience foods and fast foods. Surviving on food-like products.
Fun discussions. Leave some thoughts in the comments.
Thai curries are so beautiful and tasty. Fresh clams are amazing.
- 6 lbs fresh clams
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 Tbsp galangal (ginger)(minced)
- 2 Thai green chilies (diced) *add more if you like it spicy
- 3 tsp red curry paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tsp lime juice
- 1.5-2 tsp fish sauce
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 medium stick lemongrass
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 cups bok choy
- 1/2 red bell pepper (chopped, 1/2 inch)
- 2 mangoes (cubed)
- 3/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
- garnish with limes (cut in half) and fresh cilantro
- In a large soup pot, melt ghee over medium heat.
- Brown garlic, chilies, and galangal until fragrant.
- Add curry paste and cook for about 3 minutes, browning the paste.
- Stir in chicken broth, coconut milk, lime juice, and fish sauce. Turn temperature down to simmering heat.
- Crack lemongrass by striking along the length with the back of a chef's knife.
- Add kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass (use like bay leaves- you don't have to eat them).
- Simmer cauliflower until close to the desired doneness.
- Add bok choy, mangos, bell peppers and clams. Cook until clam shells open (only a few minutes).
- Remove from heat, discard clams that did not open and lemongrass. Mix in cilantro.
- Serve over riced cauliflower and top with more fresh cilantro and cut limes.
- Don't forget a bowl for people to put empty shells and kaffir lime leaves in.
- Clams should be alive when you cook them, so all uncooked clams should close when you're handling them (they can be open in the water, but will respond when you tap on them). Any unresponsive clams should be discarded.
- Clean barnacles and dirt off shells with brush or kitchen scrubber.
- Keep clams in cool water with ice cubes, completely submerged, and keep dark (for 20 minutes to an hour. While they soak, they will spit out salt, sand and other particles. By adding a couple tablespoons of cornmeal or oatmeal to the water you can help the clams de-grit. You can rinse the clams a second time in a fresh bowl of cold water if desired.
- Clams cook very quickly (as most seafood), and overcooking will cause them to be tough and rubbery. Clams are cooked when shells open. Any clams that do not open after cooking should be discarded as they were not alive to start, and could be contaminated with bacteria, etc.
You're going to want around 1-2 lbs of clams per person.