Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cooking: Thai Red Curry Spareribs

Let me just say: wow.

I came across this recipe in the morning newspaper, and it sounded interesting, so off to the store to get some ribs.

Of course, I made a couple of modifications (which I will note in the recipe).

I left out the dried chilies, mainly because I and the Other One are wusses when it comes to heat. Next time, though, I'd probably add a little, although these turned out scrumptious without them (and red curry paste, after all, is made with chilies).

Thai Red Curry Spareribs
serves 2—3

3 tablespoons red curry paste*
2 tablespoons tamarind paste**
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce***
2 tablespoons organic sugar of your choosing
2 to 4 dried red chilies, chopped
pinch of salt
1 14oz can of coconut milk
1 rack baby back pork ribs (about 2–3 pounds)

In a blender or food processor, combine the curry paste, tamarind, oil, fish sauce, sugar, chilies (if using), salt and coconut milk. Purée until smooth; set aside.

Cut the ribs into 3- to 4-rib sections, then arrange them in a large non-reactive bowl (I used a gallon ziploc bag). Pour the curry paste mixture over the ribs, then mush them around to make sure they're well coated (if you use a bag, you don't get your hands all messy). Cover (or close bag securely) and refrigerate 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350°. Transfer the ribs to a roasting pan or large baking dish, spreading over them any marinade left over. (I also scattered 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges, over everything, tucking them down between the rib hunks.)

Bake about 1 hour, until meat is tender when pierced with a fork. (Mine took about 1 hour and 20 minutes; for the last 20 minutes, I turned them over in the sauce to coat the tops, then turned them back to their original position.)

Notes  on ingredients

* Red curry paste can be found in most large supermarkets in the Asian food section. If you are lucky enough to have a vibrant Asian neighborhood where you live, you can find many different kinds at Asian grocers.

** Tamarind paste is made, oddly enough, from tamarind. I found it in the Mexican section of my local supermarket. It is tangy and fruity.

*** Fish sauce can also be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets, or at Asian grocers. Despite its name, it doesn't actually taste particularly fishy, and is crucial to the cuisine of Southeast Asia, where it is often used in conjunction with a little sugar.

Here's what they looked like when they came out of the oven. Did I mention that the entire house smelled heavenly the entire time they were in the oven?

I cut the ribs apart, added some of the onion wedges, drizzled some of the pan sauce over, then dusted them with shredded Thai basil. On the side: black rice cooked with a chunk of ginger, and snap peas with carrots.

At first bite, I was underwhelmed, but then the complex flavors began to play on my tongue and soon I was loving them. I had placed a bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce on the table just in case, but we ended up ignoring it. These babies are tasty!

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