Life takes us to some interesting places. A few months ago Danya and I were contacted by a Canadian production company who asked us to participate in a show they were doing on the food scene in Tel Aviv. We were stoked, sent in our audition tape and found out that we were two of the four people they had chosen to take part in the show. The premise of the show, called “The Foodie List” is basically to follow around four local food bloggers and interview them about their cities best dishes at their favorite restaurants, both high-end and low-end. When eating the dish, we were asked to talk about not only what the dish tasted like, but why it represented Israeli cuisine. We ate a ton last week, met some amazing people (the Canadian team and the other two bloggers, Kristof  and Inbal ), and really got to dig deep into not only how good our food is here, but why in fact it is at all.
It was quite challenging for me to think about food in that way, to have to dissect its meaning as part of the Israeli cuisine, and after eating eight dishes in 3.5 days, I came to some interesting conclusions. The first being that there may not even be such a thing as Israeli cuisine, but it is in fact a puzzle of many different influences, regions and people put together. The second conclusion was a more personal one. We finished the filming of the show with a meal and discussion (cameras rolling) at the famous Abu Hassan Hummus in Yaffo. Each of us gave our two cents about what hummus means to Israelis in general and on a personal level. Danya had mentioned that eating hummus at Abu Hassan had become somewhat of a family tradition, and that she was providing her boys with culinary memories that they could look back on.
That statement trumped me. All of a sudden I understood that living in the city allows children the opportunity to partake in the “foodie” culture. Danya’s three year old knows that Pad-Thai tastes like at the well-known Thai restaurant “The Thai House”, while I’m skeptical that my four year old even knows what Thailand is. Where I live, the closest restaurant is at least 15 minutes driving distance, and the amount of time that we go to a restaurants with our kids per month is lingering on zero to one. I grew up in the suburbs too, but our neighborhood was so diversified that we had a banh-mi shop, a taco stand and an authentic Chinese restaurant all within 5 minutes drive.
I wouldnt give up where I live for anything, but after being in Tel Aviv all last week eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at restaurants, I got home and surprisingly really didn’t feel like home-cooked food. And so, in a deep craze for the Red Curry dish from the “Thai House”, I started to look for a recipe. When I didn’t find one I just kind of made it up along the way and it came out so delicious, that I’ve made it three times since.
Red Thai Curry with Vegetables
This dish is really simple to make, and really doesn’t take much preparation at all. The entire trick to this dish is really having these ingredients on hand. I always have curry paste and fish sauce on hand. The rest of the ingredients are readily available at specialty markets. I made it veggie, but you could easily add chicken breast or sliced beef, although I have to say that even the veggie version is super hearty and filling.
Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
1 tbs. oil
3 tbs. red curry paste
300 ml. chicken stock or water
3 tbs. fish sauce
3 tbs. palm sugar or light brown sugar
1.5 cans coconut milk
4-5 Kaffir lime leaves
2 one-inch pieces of galangal
1-inch piece of fresh lemongrass (or about 2 tablespoons chopped dried lemongrass)
1-2 dried chili peppers (optional)
1 large onion, sliced
½ cup bamboo shoots
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into large cubes
5-6 fresh basil leaves
10 sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 green pepper, sliced
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 cup sugar-snap peas
- In a medium pan heat the oil over medium heat and add the curry paste. and cook for 30 seconds while stirring. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar and cook for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Reduce heat and add the coconut milk, kaffir leaves, galangal, lemongrass, chili peppers, onions, bamboo shoots and butternut squash. Cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat until the squash is softened.
- Add the basil, cilantro, green pepper, mushrooms and peas and stir to combine. Cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are softened, but not overcooked.
- Serve with jasmine rice and top with fresh basil and cilantro.