Friday, April 2, 2010

The Food Desert Project - Thai Fish Curry

For me, camping is a great opportunity to stretch those food desert project muscles: you never know what will be available to you, so it's best to pack everything in with you, and if those things are in cans, so much the better. I did a bit of research on "gourmet" camping and fish curries came up, but I knew a food desert wasn't going to have lemongrass or mint...until I realized that most drugstores now carry a wide variety of herbal teas. Sure enough, my local Walgreen's had a mint and lemongrass green tea.

I still had to do a bit of food-desert-fancy-dancing: first of all, Thai food depends on fish sauce for its flavor, a distinctive distillation of small oily fishes that are allowed to dry in the sun - so I subbed anchovies, readily available and somewhat similar in flavor.  This particular curry also needed turmeric, a high-antioxidant yellow spice with a slightly astringent flavor - not generally available in the food desert spice aisle, but yellow ballpark mustard gets its distinctive flavor and color from turmeric, so, with success, I tried a small amount of that.  This is another recipe that isn't low in fat or calories, but you'll note that it has almost a third of the daily value for each of the big micronutrients, (vitamins A, C, Calcium and Iron) fiber, and a whopping dose of healthy protein.  (If you can find low-fat coconut milk, it will alter the taste profile a bit and the results won't be as creamy, but it can reduce the fat by about half.)  Nutritional information.

So, I began by making a spice paste that sat in my refrigerator overnight (I've discovered that rehydrating dry aromatics with wine brings them much closer to their original state and really amps up the flavor) - mine didn't get the color I hoped because I realized at the last minute I was out of white wine and used red, so keep in mind that yours will probably be prettier.  Blend the following and marinate overnight in the refrigerator:

1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
1 tbsp minced dried onion
1 small bay leaf
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tablespoon whole cumin (or 2 ½ tsp ground)
2 tsp ballpark mustard
4 anchovy filets, rinsed and mashed
Chili flakes to taste
4 tbsp white wine

The next day, fry the spice paste in a small amount of oil until it is fragrant.

Add the following:

¼ cup canned fried onions
1 small can coconut milk (5.5 oz)
1/3 cup water

Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer until the coconut milk is colored and the mixture has reduced slightly. Being careful not to break up the fish too much, add:

2 small cans salmon, drained (or two pouches)
Canned potatoes, drained and quartered (if desired - or rehydrated sliced dehydrated potatoes)
2 tbsp minced canned red sweet pepper
1 small can peas (I cheated - I had fresh peapods from the garden, and so omitted this step and added them later to make sure the recipe worked)

Sprinkle with half the contents of a single lemongrass/mint tea bag. Heat the fish and vegetables through and remove from heat.

Serve over white rice with additional chili flakes. Enjoy.

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