Every fish recipe I have encountered in Ap Lei Chau, whether based on fresh or salt-cured fish, includes a sprinkling of fresh ginger and spring onion. The Thai prefer sauces and dips, which they prepare separately, packing more aromatics flavours than could find their way into a steamer, starting with that one specific ingredient which is everywhere in Thai cooking and nowhere to be found in Chinese recipes: sugar. At times, it seems that the fundamental equation of thai cooking is to start every recipe with sugar and chillies and then go in one of two directions: coconut or lime. Whatever Harry Nilsson says, don’t put the lime in the coconut.
Rose explained it all to me in Phuket, over the course of a half day workshop. Learning the rudiments of Thai cooking: the best idea I ever had. I now dream of Thai green sauce.
This classic Thai sauce recipe is meant to be tweaked. The ingredients are always the same, but proportions are meant to be adapted to indiviual taste.
Ingredients, for 2 people
> fresh lime juice (equivalent of 2 limes)
> 2 fresh red chillies (Rose used 5)
> coriander leaves (2 spoonfulls)
> palm sugar (1 spoonfull)
> nuoc man (a couple of dashes)
> garlic (4 cloves)
In a mortar, start by crushing the garlic, then the chilies, the coriander and the cane sugar; reduce to a paste. Add the nuoc man and the lime juice. Stir and serve in a dipping bowl, with all manners of fish and seafood; great with sticky rice.
This sauce doesn’t keep if unrefrigerated; mixed with fish or chicken stock, the Thai serve it as a soup.