Posts Tagged: fish sauce

Aug 09

An Asian-American classic


Peanut butter is a great ingredient – both delicious and versatile. It’s one of those things that I sometimes forget about and find a jar lurking in the back of the fridge. I’m not a fussy one either – I’m just as happy with Sunpat as I am with the premium organic varieties, although it must be the crunchy one though.
I’m a big fan of the American classic PBJ – the combination of peanut butter and jam on buttered toast is a thing of greatness.  Peanut butter is the key addition alongside chocolate in my peanut butter brownie cookies.
They use it in the Victoria kitchen to make a fantastic ice cream – peanut butter is mixed into the traditional custard base and served on a devilishly dark cookie.

A chocolate and peanut butter milkshake is one of my guilty pleasures.

Peanut butter does make a great savoury ingredient too – and it was as a last minute addition to the classic South East Asian salad dressing of lime juice, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar that it now comes before you.

A very large pestle and mortar are ideal here, but a whisk and bowl would work equally well.  Feel free to replace the beef with grilled chicken or even fish.

Thai beef salad with peanut dressing

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 sirloin or fillet steaks weighing approx 200g each
  • 4 tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ a cucumber
  • 1 red onion or 10 thai pink shallots
  • A couple of handfuls of bean sprouts
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • Handful of chopped mint
  • 1 tsp ground rice (method below)

For the dressing

  • 2 tbs palm sugar
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1-2 bird’s eye chillis
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 tbs peanut butter


First make the ground rice. This is traditionally done with sticky rice but feel free to use basmati. Toast the uncooked rice in a frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until golden brown. Crush in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder until you have a fairly fine powder. Set aside.

Cook the steaks on a griddle to your liking – I’d suggest medium rare for this recipe.
To make the dressing, crush the chillies in a pestle and mortar. Use one if you don’t like it too hot. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and gentle bash it together. It will look like it won’t come together but then suddenly it will. Taste the dressing as it may need more fish sauce or lime juice.

Quarter the tomatoes, seed and dice the cucumber, finely slice the red onion and mix together with the bean sprouts and the herbs. Add half the dressing and toss to coat. Place the salad on a plate and then slice the steak and put this on top of the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, scatter over the ground rice and serve.

Jul 09

A Rick Stein twist on smoked fish


Having had the opportunity to interview the fantastic Rick Stein recently, I left just a wee bit inspired – and just about all my food since has been South East Asian in influence. I was just reminded of the zing, the freshness, the delicious combination of hot, salty, sour and sweet, along with the textural pleasures of crunchy vegetables and peanuts, rice, noodles and crispy shallots.

I was inspired by the idea he suggested for making a salad with our very own smoked trout and decided to give it a go myself. But the fishmonger had sold out of trout so I went for some incredible home smoked mackerel.

So I have no shame in admitting this is straight from the Rick Stein school of cookery – and a teatime treat it was too. The idea of frying the smoked mackerel gives it a wonderful texture.

Green mango salad with crispy smoked mackerel à la Rick Stein

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 smoked mackerel fillets or 2 whole smoked mackerel
  • 1 green mango
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, julienned
  • ½ a cucumber, seeded and julienned
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • A large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • A large handful of mint, roughly chopped
  • A large handful peanuts, roughly chopped

For the dressing

  • 2 limes
  • 3 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs palm sugar
  • 2-3 bird’s eye chillies

For the crispy shallots

  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 10 thai shallots or 1 red onion, finely sliced


Cut the mango into matchsticks – if you can’t find green mango you could leave it out or use a regular one, but it is worth seeking out. Mix with the rest of the salad ingredients and set aside.

Make the crispy shallots by heating the oil in a high-sided saucepan until a cube of white bread browns in a minute. Add the shallots (you may need to do this in two or three batches). Fry until crispy, a matter of a minute or two. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Make the dressing by finely chopping the chillies and mixing with the rest of the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved.

Fry the mackerel in a frying pan in a few tablespoons of peanut oil (groundnut), turning once, until crispy – roughly five minutes. Drain and set aside for a few minutes.

Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine. Flake the fish into the salad in 2 cm chunks, turning gently so as not to break up the flakes of fish.

Place onto a serving dish and garnish with the peanuts and a few more chopped herbs.

Apr 09

Snack on a multicultural sarnie



In these days of multicultural cuisine, tajines, curries and stir-fries grace British tables on a regular basis. Occasionally we stumble upon something a little more unusual, though.
After hearing about the Vietnamese banh mi I started to do some research and discovered there was only one place in town which offered them – and they were pretty disastrous. So I set out to make my own.
Banh mi may well be the ultimate fusion dish; the best of East meets West. The premise is simple – a baguette, halved and toasted, spread with liver sausage or pate, and a few slivers of grilled meat. Add fresh mint, coriander, pickled carrot, the Japanese radish daikon, long shards of cucumber and spring onion, then season with a dash of soy, fish sauce and fiery red chillies, plus a good splodge of mayonnaise.
It sounds like a cultural clash – but in reality it’s a fabulous melange. I shredded left-over duck into the sandwich because I had it to hand, but you can use whatever you fancy – chicken, pork, any cold cuts, even a British banger wouldn’t go amiss!
Banh mi (Serves 2


  • 100g daikon/Japanese radish
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • A handful of shredded meat – approx half a chicken breast each or equivalent
  • A few slices of liver sausage or around 50-75g liver pate
  • ¼ of a cucumber
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise
  • 4 spring onions
  • A small bunch of mint
  • A small bunch of coriander
  • bird’s eye chilli, according to taste
  • Half a baguette


First make the pickle. Peel and shred or grate the daikon and carrot. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour then squeeze out excess water.

While they are sitting, warm vinegar and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. Once cold, pour mixture over daikon and carrot and set aside. The result will keep in a jar for a few weeks. Leave for at least an hour or so.

Prepare rest of the ingredients. Deseed and slice cucumber into long strips. Cut spring onion into long strips, too. Finely chop mint and coriander. Deseed and finely slice chilli. If you want to soften its hit slightly, leave it in a little of the pickling liquid for the carrot for half an hour or so.

Warm baguette in oven and divide into two, then halve and toast lightly. Spoon on mayonnaise. Add ingredients one at a time – pate, meat, slices of cucumber, spring onion, a few pieces of the pickled vegetables, herbs and chilli.

Finally, season with a dash each of soy and fish sauce, wrap sandwich in greaseproof paper to keep all the goodies in and serve with sweet chilli sauce on the side.

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