Magic Curry Kart

Magic Curry Kart Man

Magic Curry Kart guy (above) had a Burning Man fundraiser at the Bryant Street Sports Basement today.  I went and had a tofu red curry (below).  Five bucks for a take-out container of curry on rice.  The vegetables tasted fresh and the price was right.  I like the extra touch of cutting the carrots into star shapes.

curry

I noticed that Magic Curry Kart man used Mae Ploy red curry paste, a common mass-produced Thai curry paste.  The curry itself was made by frying the curry paste in some coconut milk, and then adding the tofu and vegetables, and seasoning with sugar and fish sauce.  Chicken curry was also available.  Maybe it was vegetarian fish sauce for the tofu curry, because I noticed a second bottle of liquid on the cart.  There is shrimp paste in Mae Ploy curry paste anyway, so it’s definitely no vegan if you are strict about that sort of thing.

Another thing I noticed was that the curry was very thick.  I don’t think water was added to dilute the curry, which is commonly done.  It was a bit on the thick side for my taste, and the rice was a bit mushy in places and hard in others.  But all in all, you can’t beat the price, and the concept is great.  And you can’t go wrong supporting a local micro-business.  Follow Magic Curry Kart on Twitter to find out where he will show up next.

buddha

Magic Curry Kart on Yelp
Blogpost about Magic Curry Cart on Mission Mission
SF Gate blogpost on food cart mini-trend

Little Saigon Deli

I had lunch today at Little Saigon Deli, a Vietnamese banh mi shop in the Financial District/SoMa area of San Francisco, near the waterfront and the Bay Bridge.  I had regular pork sandwich and a green coconut waffle lunch combo ($5.50 for any sandwich and waffle). The sandwich consisted of tender and fatty pork belly offset by plenty of fresh vegetables and a bit of a kick from chili peppers, all in a crunchy-chewy baguette.  I went with Parker, a fellow Creative Commons intern, and the Vietnamese sandwich guy asked him if he wanted chilies, but he didn’t ask me.  Maybe it’s because I’m Asian and Parker is white, so it’s assumed that I can handle the heat?  Dunno, but the heat was definitely welcome.  I have no idea why the coconut waffle is green (lightly tinted, not shockingly green), and it didn’t really taste all that strongly of coconut, but it was good.  In fact, I was so hungry that I ate most of the waffle on the walk back to the office, before I even had my sandwich.

Little Saigon Deli

Photo by Sheenie L., via Yelp

Little Saigon Deli
Vietnamese Sandwiches – Snacks – Desserts
131 Steuart Street, Suite 101
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 284-7375
Monday – Friday
8 AM – 4 PM

Indian Ocean Crab and Prawn Curry

crab and prawn curry

I served this curry as the main course at my dinner party last night.  It’s based on Jamie Oliver’s Southern Indian Crab Curry from his book Cook with Jamie.  I kicked it up a notch (to borrow a term from another TV chef) by adding some fresh prawns and some Southeast Asian flavors like shrimp paste and lime leaves.   That’s why I call it an “Indian Ocean” curry, because it’s food from an imaginary sunny island between India and South East Asia transported to a dreary, rainy island between the Hudson and East Rivers.

  • olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 heaped teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 5 green cardamom pods, crushed and husks removed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and finely sliced (2 jalapeños turned out pretty mild, I would put in 3 or 4 next time, but I’m evil)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste (get it at Bangkok Center Grocery or Kalustyan’s)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind concentrate (Kalustyan’s again)
  • 1 large pat of  butter
  • one 14-ounce can of coconut milk
  • juice of 2 lemons or limes (I used 1 lemon and 2 limes)
  • 2 lime leaves, stem removed and thinly sliced (Bangkok Center Grocery again)
  • 1 pound of uncooked prawns, shelled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • one 1-pound can of crab meat
  • fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or palm sugar (Or to taste. Bangkok Center Grocery and Kalustyan’s carry palm sugar)
  • a few splashes of fish sauce
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat three splashes of olive oil in a large pan and add the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, onion, jalapeños, and shrimp paste.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fry on medium heat for 4-5 minutes until lightly golden, then add the turmeric, butter, and tamarind.

After about 2 or 3 minutes, pour in the coconut milk and a can-full of water. Bring to a light boil and turn to low heat and simmer away for 5 minutes so.  Then add the lemon/lime juice and lime leaves and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Add the prawns and crab meat simmer for 4 minutes or until the prawns cook through, and taste. Season with salt and pepper and a little more lemon juice if you think it needs it.  I also added a few splashes of fish sauce and a bit of sugar at this point.

Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro and lemon or lime wedges if you like.  Serve with some fluffy white rice (jasmine or basmati).

See also:

Saturday Brunch: Scrambled Eggs Curry

Eggs and curry.  Two of my favorite things combined in one dish for a Saturday at home brunch treat.  This came out a bit soupier than regular scrambled eggs, with the eggs forming an über-rich curry-scented “sauce.”  Perfect for dipping bread into.  This recipe could easily feed two people, but I was hungry and had nobody to share with, so I ate the whole thing.

I was thinking of trying this again some other time and adding a couple handfuls of lump crab meat in at the very end to create a luxurious crab and egg curry that would absolutely be begging for some champagne to wash it all down.  This would go great with some anchovies or smoked mackerel thrown in too.  Well, enough speculation, here is the basic recipe.  If you get around to trying it with crab before me, let me know.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 really small onion or a shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of chopped red bell pepper and mild fresh chili pepper
  • Half teaspoon of curry powder (I make my own from whole spices that I mix, roast and grind, but store-bought should work just fine)
  • 1 handful of baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 handful of plum/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 eggs, beaten with juice of half a lemon
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, torn up for garnish

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger, garlic, onion, peppers and curry powder until the onions are translucent.  Season with some salt.

Add the bok choy, tomatoes and green onions and sauté until softened.  Turn the heat down to low.  Add in the eggs and stir until partially set.  Just remember, this is more of an eggy curry sauce than firm curds of scrambled eggs.

And for dessert, a fruit plate:

This was my first time trying a donut peach, which is like a normal peach, but smaller and looks like a donut.  I noticed a slightly more intense peachiness in the flavor too.

Bluefish Curry

Bluefish Curry

This dinner is a improvisation that I put together last night (Saturday, 9 August 2008). I would characterize this meal as Mediterranean-meets-Malay-in-a-Manhattan-love-affair. Full of flavor, yet light enough for a balmy late-summer weekend evening.

The locally-caught wild bluefish and the veggies are from FreshDirect, while the seasonings come from my eclectic pantry of global flavors and some extras from my last WholeFoods excursion. You will need a mortar and pestle for this project. I got mine I guess you could also use a food processor, but I prefer the meditative tactile quality of the mortar and pestle. Besides, a mortar and pestle is much easier to clean than a food processor and is a good form of stress relief and DIY aromatherapy.

Ingredients and Prep

Sauce

  1. Six cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  2. A two-inch segment of ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  3. One-third cup of unsweetened dried coconut
  4. Five to six anchovy fillets in oil, along with about one tablespoon of the oil
  5. Two teaspoons of Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste (or substitute with fresh chili peppers if you have them, but in that case, add more sugar)
  6. Half teaspoon of brown sugar
  7. One teaspoon of tamarind concentrate (AKA tamarind paste
  8. One and a half teaspoons of turmeric powder
  9. Two-thirds cup of boiling water
  10. Juice of one lime
  11. Salt & pepper to taste

Vegetables and Herbs

  1. One medium zucchini (courgette), cut into bite-sized half moons
  2. Two handfuls of grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved
  3. Four green onions (scallions), cut diagonally into 1.5 inch (4 cm) segments
  4. One handful of fresh basil
  5. Four to six kaffir lime leaves, cut into a chiffonade

Two wild bluefish fillets (10-12 ounces/280-340 grams each, substitute any firm, oily fish), scaled, deboned and rinsed in cold water and dried with paper towels

Cilantro (fresh coriander) to garnish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit (220 Celsius).

Bash up the garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle. Add the coconut and bash up some more. Add sauce ingredients 4 to 8 one by one and mix thoroughly. You might need a spoon or a spatula to help you out at this point. Add the boiling water and half of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt since the anchovies are already salty. Mix to incorporate.

Just barely coat the bottom of a 10 x 10 inch casserole or baking dish with some of the sauce mixture.  Put the bluefish fillets into the baking dish skin-side down.  In a large bowl, mix together the remaining sauce mixture and the vegetables and herbs.  Spread this mixture on top of the bluefish fillets.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Serve with rice and some simply sauteéd greens. In the picture above, I have mixed-grain rice and bok choy and carrots sauteéd with garlic, ginger, and a little dried chili pepper.

Drink Paring

I had some Varanda do Conde, a Portuguese vinho verde with this meal. I nice tart rosé or a nice cold lager would work too.
Varanda do Conde