To use an overly used and abused phrase, you can’t swing a dead cat in Portlandia without hitting at least 3 Thai restaurants. Thai food here is about as ubiquitous as hipsters and Prius’ so it’s rather ironic that I’ve yet to find a place to get my Praram Long Song on. พระรามลงสรง or Praram Long Song translates loosely to “King Rama taking a shower” but for some reason turns up on menus as “Swimming Rama” or sometimes even “Swimming Angel.” Despite the fact that it’s essentially the Americanized Thai equivalent of General Tso’s Chicken, I find that the creamy, sweetly savory peanut sauce really hits the spot. Usually this would be served with pork, beef, or chicken as the protein but I’ve decided to have some fun with chickpeas by roasting them first in a tangy, spicy rub and tossing in some kabocha squash cuz that’s what looked scrumptious at the market. By roasting them they get a firm, chewy, almost meaty texture and the lime zest helps to cut through some of the richness of the peanut sauce. Often times you’ll see different kinds of greens as the bed for this dish ranging from broccoli to spinach so since mâche greens (also known as lamb’s lettuce) have a home in my veggie bin, it also has one in my bowl. I like the delicate texture and slightly nutty flavor and unlike many greens, there’s a refreshing lack of bitterness. I’ve yet to find a briny substitute for fish sauce taste-wise so despite all the veggies, this recipe is still 3 feet from being vegan. You could substitute soy sauce but it changes the flavor enough that I’m not willing to give up my liquid sardines 😉 And in case you’re wondering about how proteinaceous this meal is, 1 serving contains about 11g (7.25 g from chickpeas, 3 g from peanut butter, 0.4 g from the kabocha, and 0.4 from coconut milk) and 12.2 g of fat and 7.5 g of fiber so approximately 500-ish calories per serving. Not bad 🙂
Seriously, tamarind concentrate?
1) Like many SE Asian dishes, this recipe has some fairly exotic ingredients but never fear, they’re not impossible to find and worse comes to worst, you could always make some relatively close substitutions. Tamarind is a tangy, sweet tropical fruit that lends itself well to sweet and savory preparations. As you can see from the photo, I got mine during a trip to the Caribbean (Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines) but you can often find tamarind (in paste or concentrate form) in Mexican grocery stores, well-stocked Asian markets with a Thai section, Indian grocery stores, and of course, the interwebs. If that’s not an option, you could also make your own faux tamarind concentrate (which will of course taste “same same but different” ;)) using prune juice concentrate or strained prunes (yup, baby food) in a 5:1 ratio of prune to lime juice (5 tsp prune to 1 tsp lime juice) which has that sweet, tangy taste.
2) Since I’m too lazy to make my own curry paste, I’ve found a brand, Mae Ploy, that makes a very good red and green curry paste. They make other flavors like massaman and yellow curry which I’ve yet to try but probably taste good as well. It’s pretty easy to find on the internet as well as at Asian markets, actually even some of the local American stores here carry it in their Asian foods aisles.
1 14.5-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 400F. Gently pat chickpeas dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels. In a gallon-sized zip bag combine chickpeas and oil. Seal and shake to coat chickpeas with oil. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl (so you don’t have one huge clump of cayenne on 5 chickpeas) then add to bag and shake to mix. I like to leave some air in the bag before I seal it so that the contents have room to jumble around. Bake baking sheet till chickpeas are golden and are firm enough that they roll away when poked with a fork ~40 minutes. Leave oven on for roasting the kabocha. (Actually, I just roast the chickpeas and kabocha together on different sides of the same baking sheet since they use the same temp and cooking times.)
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 c kabocha squash, skin removed and in 2-inch chunks
3/4 c light coconut milk
1 tbsp red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy brand) if you eat very mild, decrease this to 1-2 tsp
1 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp fish sauce (I prefer Three Crabs brand)
3 tbsp unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter (my local grocery store has a machine that will grind roasted nuts into peanut butter, w00t!)
1-2 tbsp water
2 c mâche greens or baby spinach
With the oven at 400F and using the same baking sheet used for the chickpeas, toss kabocha in 1 tsp oil then roast till golden brown and easily pierced with a fork ~40 minutes. Remove from oven and turn off oven as you won’t be needing it anymore.
In a small saucepan heat coconut milk over med-hi heat till the coconut oil floats to the surface ~1-2 minutes. Add curry paste and cook till fragrant ~1-2 minutes. Stir in sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce.
Mix in peanut butter and gently simmer till it’s thickened to the consistency of honey if it’s too thick add 1-2 tbsp water (I like to use water that’s been rinsed in my coconut milk measuring cup to pick up any extra coconut flavor). Serve over kabocha and chickpeas on a bed of spinach and steamed rice. I like to add 1/2 c kabocha, 1/4 c chickpeas, 1/2 c greens per bowl and 1 c steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.