I went through a phase when I was younger when all I wanted to eat was chicken fingers and fish sticks. No joke. With all the amazing food out there I had narrowed in on two pre-cooked frozen food dishes and refused to branch out whatsoever.
At the time my parents were trying to introduce sushi into my diet. I think they were being a tad ambitious. If I’m only eating fish and chicken fingers there’s no way exotic sushi is going to even warrant a second glance.
And so it took years for me to gave Japanese food a try (we’re the best of friends now though), and the case was the same for Thai food as well.
By now, I’ve reevaluated my eating habits and essentially eat everything but chicken and fish fingers. I already wasted too much time eating those already, so those have been wiped from my diet forever.
I can’t remember the first time I had Thai food in the US but I can remember one Thai restaurant that really stood out in my mind.
Thai X-ing is a small family owned place in DC and I went there for the first time with my catering partners Emily, and Megan to celebrate a successful event. With a fixed menu and bring your own booze there aren’t many decisions to be made once you get there. Once I had one bite of the food there I knew where I would take my parents for dinner when they came to DC.
When they visited in normal dining logic they expected a standard restaurant, so naturally, when I led them to a dilapidated house on a random side street in DC they were beyond confused. My mom flat out thought I was joking.
I assured them this was the place and as we entered their shock continued. You see this restaurant literally feels like you are walking into someone’s home that’s been converted into a dining establishment, somewhat haphazadrly, might I add. None of the furniture matches, the place is cluttered, there are cats running around, birds in cages, you name it. Odd doesn’t begin to describe it.
You have to see through all this and wait for the food. Now that I have spent a month in Thailand in full honesty I can see this is the best Thai food I’ve had outside of Thailand and the closest to the flavors I’ve tasted and aromas I’ve smelled here in Bangkok.
They chef makes everything from scratch and I wouldn’t be surprised if he squeezed the shredded coconut himself to get fresh coconut milk.
From that meal there is one dish that stands out particularly in my mind – salmon and pumpkin in red curry paste. Now I don’t even like pumpkin and I was drooling as I was eating this dish. The tastes, the smells… it was simply amazing.
When my parents came to visit us in Phuket Thailand last week I was determined to recreate this dish. With fresh Thai herbs and spices in hand I set off to work.
While I’m sure my recipe is different from the Thai X-ing restaurant I now have my own squash red curry paste creation to drool over.
Simple amazing. Smooth and creamy, yet so aromatic your senses will just be tangled up. You’ve really got to make this!
- 1 acorn squash (or other squash), peeled and cut into large cubes, and cooked (boiled) until tender (15-20 minutes)
- 3 lemongrass, smashed and cut into 2-3 inch segments
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch piece of giner or galangal, diced
- 6-12 kaffir lime leaves, stem removed
- 3 dried red chilis, cut in half
- ½ lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (use soy sauce for vegetarian or vegan version)
- 2 cups coconut milk (good quality!)
- 1 tablespoon oil (soy bean, vegetable, canola)
- basil or cilantro to garnish
- Heat oil and add garlic, red chili, and ginger. cook until fragrant (1 minute).
- Add red curry paste and cook 1-2 minutes.
- Add kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and half the coconut milk. bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.
- Add remaining coconut milk and fish sauce. bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly until sauce has slightly reduced and thickened.
- Add acorn squash and lime juice. remove from heat. and mix until smooth.
- Serve sprinkled with basil or cilantro. Serve with jasmine rice.