Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beans & Cabbage in Coconut Sauce

A couple months ago I was whisked away to Singapore, a place I have been dying to go to ever since I read Calvin Trillin's article in The New Yorker about the street food scene there. The country, and the food, did not disappoint. There's no doubt in my mind that I would be content going from hawker stand to hawker stand forever and ever eating my way through fish ball noodle soup, chili crab, and washing it all down with freshly-pressed sugarcane juice.

One of the oddest (and memorable) meals we ate was called Nasi Lemak which is a dish that has many components to it. As the man in charge kindly explained to me, you start with coconut rice and the "gravy" which is a burgundy red chili sauce. To that most people add a fried egg, fried chicken and some stewed green beans in coconut milk. There were many other items to potentially add including: tofu cakes, fish cakes, hashbrowns (I know, so weird) and most alarming, hot dogs.

I thought of the delicious soft stewed green beans that were piled on my Nasi Lemak plate when I saw heaps of fresh beans at the farmer's market the other day. I figured I could try my hand at recreating them and somehow got it right on the first try. At the last minute I decided to add red cabbage, which is growing in my garden, to the beans and it was a terrific combination. Although, I must warn you, the cabbage turns the sauce an unappealing murky mauve shade but just don't look directly at it and everything will be fine.

Because the vegetables are stewed, and the whole point is to cook them until they're soft, this recipe can easily be made ahead and reheated the next day. I suspect they might have been even better the next day as they had time to soak in the delicious lemongrass-scented sauce.

For 4 servings:
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
  • Large pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallot
  • 1 red chili, minced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 14 ounces light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup chopped, roasted unsalted cashews

With a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, lemongrass and salt together. This will take a bit of work and some sweat. Really, it might work in a food processor as well but I was trying to be authentic. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, chili and lemongrass paste to the oil and stir-fry until fragrant and soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the cabbage and saute for a couple minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the beans and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and brown sugar and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce. Serve, sprinkled with the cashews.

1 comment:

jacqui said...

This sauce sounds really interesting, I'm tempted.