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Dept. of Weird Smells In The Kitchen

Not So Much "Weird" as ... Really Awful

*enters, stage left, bathed in a soft sheen of culinarianistic effort*

Well, perhaps it's just the capsicum. 

Still, I'm almost obscenely pleased with myself for having made my own green Thai curry paste from scratch tonight. It's something I've wanted to do for ages, but haven't had the nerve.

Today, though, BB and I went out to the huge Korean-oriented supermarket in one of our near north Chicago suburbs, known as the H-Mart (no, I have no idea why it's called the H-Mart. I did reject the idea that the H stood for hentai, as my beloved couldn't help but suggest at one point) and picked up the last few remaining ingredients I needed to make the curry paste.

We also stopped in the store's massive food court, where BB enjoyed hot Korean beef soup in a bowl roughly the size of Georgian Bay (I'd recommended it to him from the last time we were there) while I chowed down on humongous Korean pork dumplings.. It was a fantastic Sunday date and set the scene for my cooking adventure when we returned home.

It was, however, an adventure not without a certain frisson of "first circle of hell" olfactory impact.

Why do I say that? Well ... first, I should say what was easy, and completely enjoyable. Mincing the galangal was easy. Chopping all the other items (the garlic, the green pepper, the hot peppers, the onion) was also easy, thanks to the different types of choppers I've collected - hurrah for adaptive technology so that people with bad arms and wrists can still cut stuff up in their kitchens! Grinding the cumin and coriander seeds and roasting them was easy. While there was a temporary crisis after I inadvertently got capsicum all over my upper lip and nose because I was an idiot and forgot to wash my hands after preparing the chilies, the fire on my face eventually died down.

Which left frying up the shrimp paste. And oh, dear, sweet lord in heaven, that shit smells foul.

I opened the newly-purchased bottle of shrimp paste and nearly ran from the kitchen. I thought it had gone bad. Once I'd checked to ensure that the bottle had been securely shut when I bought it, and the paste was, therefore, not rotten, but was supposed to smell like that, I had to take the amount needed for the curry paste and "fry until dry and crumbly."

It was like frying cat food.

My nose quickly gave up and died, so eventually the full brunt of the odor was lost on me. BB, however, who'd been napping in the bedroom, woke up and came out, wondering what on earth had died, cursed us, and gone to hell on the stove.

Not to worry, says I, it's just  fried cat food sauteed shrimp paste. He gave me a look, but was kind enough to stay in the kitchen and chat with me while I completed the paste.

Much to his surprise, and mine, the completed paste smelled fantastic. The cat food rotting gym socks beached minke whale shrimp paste damm it  was completely subsumed into the whole. I can only hope it adds some certain je ne sais quois to that whole. Because, truly, if I could get by without using shrimp paste ever again, I would be a happy curry-cookin' chef. Sadly, I suspect it will turn out to be integral to the taste.

God, I love cooking stuff!

(And no, I didn't get any writing done this weekend. But ... green Thai curry paste! Come on!)

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/219129.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2012 06:34 am (UTC)
Thou art a braver and stronger woman than I!!

And...you'll need to make me some if I ever swing 'round...before I get there...then warn me if I need Vick's VapoRub under my nose before approaching the house.


*Squishes you*
Apr. 2nd, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
Ah, Vicks VapoRub! I love that stuff; it always reminds me of my mother and grandmother taking care of me when I had pneumonia and chest colds and such. Even now, when I get sick, the smell of the stuff makes me feel just a little better.

Although it's possible that the fried shrimp paste might make it past the Vicks ....

Let me know when you're in the Chicago area, and I'll set a place at the table for you, my dear!
Apr. 2nd, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)

UGH. Well - sounds worth the risk!

Ohhhh, will do! Thanks!

Apr. 3rd, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
Apr. 2nd, 2012 11:49 am (UTC)
"beached minke whale" gave me my first smile of the morning.

Apr. 2nd, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
Heh ... I am very glad to be the purveyor of smiles! (And since I once was on a beach with a beached — and very dead Minke whale, I can attest to its odiferous nature.
Apr. 2nd, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Getting done writing and cooking in one weekend is over achieving.
Apr. 2nd, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
Says the woman who overachieves at a pace I a consistently in awe of. Thanks, though!
Apr. 3rd, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
Next trip to H-Mart, we wholeheartedly endorse the bibimbop. It was fantastic when we were there. You're supposed to stir in the egg but not to vigorously or you disturb the bottom layer of rice which is getting super crispy on the bottom of the bowl while you eat the rest of it. Nom!:)

I also cannot fathom how shrimp paste makes things taste so good since it smells so bad I hold my nose but it does.:)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, I've always wanted to try bibimbop! And I'm glad that someone else thinks the stuff is foul. Its ultimate nature as great ingredient is truly a mystery.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
There are various brands of shrimp paste, and not all of them are quite that aromatic. [Or maybe I'm missing some receptors. I love durian...]

I've made vegetarian/kosher Thai food, and using miso and soy sauce instead of shrimp paste and fish sauce works surprisingly well. [Also substituted cashews for peanuts since the person I was cooking for was allergic.]

Homemade green curry paste is truly awesome, I should do it again soon. Did you use coriander roots?

I mostly use either the Mae Sri or Mae Ploy prefab stuff, unless I'm cooking for a horde. I think the Mae Ploy is slightly better for green curry, but the Mae Sri comes in smaller quanta and more flavours. The Prik Khing is especially fabulous. That stuff, plus vegetable oil, pre-washed spinach, and boneless chicken thighs, is both incredibly fast to make and esculent. [The Thai Kitchen stuff is worse than nothing.]

The grocery store sounds wonderful. The Korean places here don't have much SE Asian stuff, but then again, we're not far from Chinatown, which has lots of Vietnamese grocery stores that sell Thai ingredients.

I miss you guys!

Apr. 3rd, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'll have to look for the less aromatic brands, then (although buying things in our local Japanese, Indian or generalized Asian/Korean markets sometimes means picking things up that have absolutely no English-language information on them.)

I didn't use coriander roots, but the recipe I used said you could substitute stems, so, since I had loads of cilantro, I did that instead.

I was delighted to find out that miso base didn't have any bonito flakes in it, as I'd somehow assumed (god knows why); I do have at least one vegetarian friend for whom I like to cook, and that knowledge could come in handy. (As could, on a different tack, the knowledge that Marmite is completely vetetarian, but can double for beef base in many recipes without even the most dedicated meat-eater knowing they've been duped. But I digress.)

It's been a long time since we've seen you in this neck of the woods, hasn't it?
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
A lot of Japanese soup has both miso and bonito-flake dashi in it, so it seems like a reasonable combination to me.

I found my jar of shrimp paste, it's Trachang Brand, from Tang Thai Chiang Fish Sauce Mfg. Co. Ltd. I got 185g for $1.39, although that was a while ago, the stuff allegedly expired in 2009. I don't think it really goes off, though. [Nearly used it up!] It's the very firm kind that comes in small plastic jars with a layer of paraffin on top of the paste. It seems a bit less rank than the softer stuff in jars, but YMMV.

I found a photo: http://importfood.com/spnf1301.html

According to the [bilingual! in French!] nutritional info, the stuff is actually a terrific source of iron, calcium, and vitamin A. Never would have guessed. Then again, they think a serving is 1 Tbsp.

I do expect to be in Chicago at least once this year, possibly twice, due to Chicon. They've got me doing fanzine lounge.
Apr. 6th, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for this information! (I'm not surprised that the information is in French, given that there's some remnant of French colonial history probably rattling about in the former "French Indochina".

I wish you luck on Chicon - you've got stars in your crown for volunteering. It's been years since I was at a worldcon, or any convention, frankly, except for an hour or so at Windycon a couple of years ago. But if you have a few hours free and can travel to the far north side, email me.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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