Wednesday, 31 October 2012

South-east Asia in a bag

The #foodiepenpals “club” never ceases to thrill, surprise and amaze me – although I cook for one day to day, food for me is also about sharing and that’s where #foodiepenpals just keeps delivering. I love putting a parcel together every month for the recipient I’ve been matched with and there’s also the anticipation of getting one in return from yet someone else.

There was extra excitement in store this month, as my parcel not only arrived hand-delivered but was also entirely homemade. Lex, aka LadyNom1, was passing through my neighbourhood so she dropped by for tea and a natter, while handing over this exotic-looking bag.

Lex writes the LadyNom blog and runs a supper club called Nomsensical in Altrincham, just south of Manchester. There are several supper clubs in my city although I’ve yet to attend one. We had a chat about these and she encouraged me to sign up for her next one. I then told Lex about Manchester’s legendary GastroClub, which she’d never tried yet. It’s currently on hold but hopefully she’ll book when it gets going again.

After she left, I dived into Lex’s bag of goodies, which contained four jars of handmade fresh dips and pastes from south-east Asia. She certainly knows her stuff, having travelled extensively in the region and cooked professionally there so these were all as authentic as can be. She’d very thoughtfully made up each jar in one-person portions for me – Cambodian amok curry paste, a Laotian spice paste for fish and noodles, a Vietnamese dipping sauce and a Thai curry paste.

She’d also included six (six!) pages of info about her travels and the food, plus a recipe for each item, also thoughtfully in one-person portions. Most of my repertoire is pan-European so I was delighted to receive such a fabulous parcel and couldn’t wait to get cracking in the kitchen.

I chose to cook the Cambodian amok first – you’ll have to ask Lex for the recipe, but it’s a mix of chicken and spinach or beet leaves steamed in coconut milk and her spice paste, which is based on coriander. For true authenticity, you’re supposed to wrap it in a banana leaf but I used her suggested method of steaming it in a bowl over a pan of boiling water instead. It was fragrant and warming, the perfect supper for a chilly, drizzle evening.