When it comes to food, there are many things I dislike.
But I also have quite a few loves. Fresh veggies. Flavorful sauces. Spice. And I love nothing more than combining them into one meal. This is why I adore Thai and Indian food.
Husband and I haven’t had much luck making Thai or Indian food on our own. True, we’ve only tried it a few times. (One bad fish sauce experience ended our experimentation with making my all time favorite Thai dish.) True, our attempts have been halfhearted at best. (What? We have to make our own curry paste? Eh. Pass. Let’s pick up a jar of Patak’s rogan josh at the grocery instead.) True, we would much rather shell out $50 bucks to eat “authentic” Thai or Indian food at a restaurant. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make it ourselves, in our own home?
So. I am on a quest to find fairly simple recipes that taste like the yummy yummy goodness you can find at good ethnic restaurants.
In the meantime, I discovered a recipe that almost fits the bill.
It’s called “Fire Fry,” and it has it all. Great, flavorful sauce. Spice. Fresh veggies. (Okay – the recipe doesn’t really call for veggies. But I can’t deal with “meat only” meals… so I found a way to work them in.) Rice. AND – it allows me to use my wok.
I love this wok. (I’m sure you can get it elsewhere, but ours came from Crate & Barrel.) It is amazing. It heats up instantly. The lid has a “steam release” valve. Plus – drumroll please – it is ENTIRELY DISHWASHER SAFE. No wonder the folks at Breville call it “the ultimate technology in stir fry.”
Yes, it is the Best Wok Ever. And I love it. (Too bad I broke it. But that’s another story.) (Plus, it still works, so… that’s all that matters.)
Anyway. Back to the Fire Fry.
Husband and I discovered this recipe in a book called Red Hot Chili Pepper which I am pretty sure we bought for $3.99 off of a Borders clearance rack. We make about 2 or 3 recipes from the entire cook book. But the recipe for Fire Fry has made it all worth it!
Here is the recipe. My notes are in brackets. (Serves four.)
* 8 oz lean lamb filet (tenderloin) [Husband and I use beef – you can find really inexpensive cuts in your meat section, and you don’t need a whole lot. We just pick something that is very thinly sliced, because it cooks quickly. Or I’m sure you could use chicken or pork or whatever. The one thing is that you do need meat. I’ve tried this with just veggies, and it lacks the extra flavor levels you get from cooking meat in the sauce.]
* 1/2 cup plain yogurt [We use fat free yogurt. Probably the full fat kind tastes better, but if you start with the fat free kind, you’ll never know the difference. I promise. Oh – and you’ll want a little extra to use as garnish on the finished product.]
* 1 tsp grated fresh ginger [I just chop it into little bits.]
* 1.4 tsp ground cardamom [If you have cardamom in the pods, this works out to about 2.5 pods]
* 1 tsp crushed garlic [About two cloves. I LOVE garlic, so I often use double this amount. Mmmmm.]
* 1 tsp hot chili powder
* 1 tsp garam masala
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp corn oil [Am not sure what the difference is, but we use regular old vegetable oil.]
* 2 onions, chopped [I dice one large white onion.]
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 1/4 cups water
* 2 fresh red chilies, seeded and sliced in strips [I like to put half of these in with the rest of the veggies and half on top of the finished product. I usually leave in half of the seeds as well. But I love spicy foods.]
* 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and sliced in strips [I prefer to use Serrano peppers for the chilies, but jalapenos work in a pinch.]
* 2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves [This sounds delicious, but we have never tried it. Cilantro is expensive, and we rarely find a way to use it all before it goes bad.]
* [I also chop up about four bell peppers to use in the stir fry. I toss them in at the end for about two minutes, right before we eat.]
* [We also make a pot of rice with which to sop up the yummy yummy sauce.]
1. Cut the meat into thin strips.
2. In a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the cardamom, ginger, garlic, chili powder, garam masala, and salt. Add the meat strips and stir to coat them in the mixture. Cover and marinate in a cool place for about an hour. [It works just fine if you have only 30 minutes. But it definitely tastes more flavorful when you allow the meat to marinate longer.]
[Step 2.5 This is when I cut all the veggies. Washing and slicing the bell peppers takes a good amount of time. But there is almost nothing more beautiful than a pile of fresh bell peppers, sliced and ready to add to stir fries or salads. Yumsters.]
3. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the onions for 3-5 minutes or until they are tender and golden brown. [I don’t know what kind of crack the food meisters of this recipe book were smoking when they stir fried the onion. But one onion – not the two the recipe calls for – takes a good 7-10 minutes to get golden brown. At least for me. It’s possible I am going about it all wrong. Also, there is a fine line between “golden brown” and “charcoal black.”]
4. Add the bay leaf and then add the marinated meat with the yogurt and spices, and toss over a medium heat for about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the water, stir well, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the water has evaporated, stir fry for one minute. [This is where I change things up a bit. For one thing, I like sauce. So we don’t let the water evaporate completely. Also, getting the sauce to reduce TAKES F-O-R-E-V-E-R. So, we are impatient. Once it gets down to a consistency where it’s more sauce-y than watery, we throw in the bell peppers and half of the hot peppers. I hate soggy veggies, so I cook them for about 1-2 minutes.]
6. Strew the red and green chilies over the stir fry with the fresh cilantro. Serve hot. Offer a cooling yogurt dip if you like. [We just like to put a couple of spoonfuls of plain yogurt directly on top of the fire fry once it’s in our bowls.]
Once the peppers are hot but not soggy, we spoon the Fire Fry mixture into bowls of rice. I top with extra, uncooked hot peppers and a spoonful of yogurt. Husband sticks with just yogurt.