Thai cuisine never ceases to amaze me. The variety of textures, shapes, and colors is a feast for the all the senses. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I can’t think of a better style of cooking to share with someone you care about. One of the fastest ways to a person’s heart is definitely through their stomach.
This dish originally called for tofu, which my wife, Kathy is not fond of at all. Tofu is one texture she cannot, shall we say, appreciate. I set out to find a substitute. Something that mirrored the color and appearance of the original ingredient was needed. The final selection surprised even me. Of all things, humble cauliflower rose to the occasion.
The main Thai ingredient in this dish is roasted chili paste. It is spicy of course, and also has a deep and complex flavor.
Cauliflower, with its mild flavor is a perfect compliment. In this case, opposites definitely attract! The bumpy surface gives the overall dish a great visual appeal. A splash of fish sauce, known as nam pla, gives the dish a distinctively Thai flavor.
The original recipe calls for onion and zucchini. I also added some red bell pepper to highlight the color of the chili paste. Together, these three vegetable lend a sweet influence to counter the fiery chili paste. Of course you can tone down the heat by adjusting the amount of chili paste to suit your preference.
This dish works nicely as a vegetable side dish. To make it more of entrée and move it to the center of the plate, add in a handful of shrimp. For a vegetarian version, simply stick with tofu in place of the cauliflower. To go fully vegetarian, substitute 2 oz. vegetable stock, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, and a pinch of salt for the fish sauce. Serve with steamed jasmine rice. If you are feeling ambitious, add coconut ginger soup to the menu along with a cashew nut salad. A cup of Thai tea from Yogi Teas will top things off nicely.
Let a Thai meal bring you closer to your Valentine. I encourage you to prepare the meal together and share in the smells, colors, and textures of this delightful cuisine. Afterward, you can experiment on each other with Thai massage.
Cauliflower in Roasted Chili Paste
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
3-4 Cloves Garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wedges
1 /2 Cup Red Bell Pepper, cut 1″ long into strips
1 Cup Zucchini cut into semi circles
2 tsp Roasted Chili Paste
1 Tbs Fish Sauce
2 Cups Steamed Cauliflower florets
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and toss in the garlic, onion and red bell pepper. Cook until translucent, about a minute.
Add the Zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally until shiny and tender, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat and add the chili paste and fish sauce. Toss well. Add in the cauliflower and toss until coated and heated through.
Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.