Recipes: 'The Spice Merchant's Daughter'

These recipes appear in The Spice Merchant's Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen by Christina Arokiasamy, (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2008).

Basil Fried Rice
Serves 2

Basil leaves are readily available throughout the year at most Asian supermarkets. When shopping, I always pick a bunch, knowing that I am able to use this fragrant herb to make a quick fried rice dish for the family. The fresh basil leaves lend richness with hints of lemon, clove and anise to the rice when added at the last minute. This dish is packed with flavor and nutrition, combining the tender, juicy shrimp with the herbs.

3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 small serrano chiles, seeded and chopped

3 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 cups Perfect Jasmine Rice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed fresh Asian sweet basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat a wok or large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat for 40 seconds, and then add the oil around the perimeter of the wok so that it coats the sides and bottom. When the surface shimmers slightly, after about 30 seconds, add the garlic, chiles, scallions and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and stir-fry until it turns orange, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, using a spatula to break up any clumps of rice, and mixing the ingredients until well-combined, about 4 minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar, and cook for a few seconds.

Add the basil and cilantro leaves, and cook until the leaves begin to wilt, about 30 seconds. Transfer the rice to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Garlic Prawns
Serves 4

The island of Phuket, Thailand, just an hour across the Andaman Sea from Malaysia, is undoubtedly my favorite destination on my visits home. Every year in May, Phuket celebrates its Seafood Festival to attract visitors during the rainy season. You'll find quite a few open air seafood restaurants displaying the catch of the day over crushed ice laid out on buffet tables. In the evenings, these restaurants set up large woks on the street and cook up a variety of prawn dishes to attract passersby. I simply adore this Phuket-style dish; the aromatic flavors of the basil come alive, pleasantly intense with a little hint of sweetness from the sweet soy sauce.

3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

10 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound medium prawns or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns, crushed

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce

3 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped

1 cup fresh Asian sweet basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat a wok or large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat for 40 seconds and then add the oil around the perimeter of the wok so that it coats the sides and bottom. When the surface shimmers slightly, after about 30 seconds, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until golden.

Add the prawns and cook, stirring, until bright orange, 4 minutes. If you have too much liquid in the wok, which comes naturally as the prawns cook, raise the heat to high to evaporate the liquid.

Add the white peppercorns, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce and scallions, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Toss in the basil leaves and cook until wilted, 1 minute. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving platter, and serve immediately.

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The Spice Merchant's Daughter

Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen

by Christina Arokiasamy

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Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen
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