Growing up in New Hampshire, Thai food was just not on the radar. Today, thankfully there are a few more options around my hometown, but in the 80s/90s, the extent of ethnic food was some woefully Americanized Chinese and some slapdash Tex-Mex. I must have had my first taste of Thai sometime around grad school — I’m not quite sure — but I do know that I was instantly hooked. There’s so much to love — the rich coconut milk, spicy curries, the acidity of lime and freshness of Thai basil. I loved the variety and the different flavors you just don’t experience when you’re eating super traditional American food. Today, you could convince me to have Thai food any day.
I’ve found it’s impossible to make Thai food at home that tastes as good as what you can get in a good Thai restaurant, but I make an attempt every now and then (especially when I can get good ingredients at the great ethnic food stores in NYC). This recipe from Tyler Florence is a solid showing. It’s got lots of coconut milk going, with ginger, lemongrass and Thai basil. The peanuts on top add a great crunch and richness.
The rice in this dish is actually really great — and I’m not a rice girl. The addition of arugula adds some interesting spiciness, and the dried apricots are a great hit of sweetness.
- Despite all the ethnic food stores here, I couldn’t find kafir lime leaves. I had to go with regular lime.
- Go to the effort of finding Thai basil. It’s quite different from the traditional Italian basil — the flavor is really amazing. I even saw Thai basil at the greenmarket today.
- Don’t overcook the shrimp. I had to cook them a bit longer than indicated in the recipe to cook them through. Look for them to curl and turn opaque.
- Have some Thai chile sauce on the side that you can mix in to add a little heat to this.
Coconut Shrimp with Basmati Rice, Apricots and Lime
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and smashed with the side of a large knife
- 2 Thai chiles, chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, white parts only, chopped into small pieces
- 4 shallots, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 quart coconut milk
- 2 kafir lime leaves, or one lime, halved
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
- Handful of arugula leaves
- 1.5 lbs medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 small can straw mushrooms, drained
- 4 fresh Thai basil sprigs for garnish
- 1/4 cup salted, roasted peanuts for garnish
- 1 lime, quartered, for garnish
First get the sauce going: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ginger, chiles, lemongrass, and shallots and cook until the shallots are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, sugar, coconut milk, and lime leaves and give it a stir. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minute, until the sauce is reduced by about one third and thickened.
While that’s cooking, jump to the rice. Combine the rice, salt, and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the apricots, scallions and arugula.
To finish, add the shrimp to the pot with the sauce and simmer gently just to cook through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the straw mushrooms and stir. Spoon the rice into the bottom of 4 bowls. Spoon the shrimp over along with the sauce and garnish each bowl with basil, peanuts and a wedge of lime.