There's this wonderful Thai restaurant near the CC's old workplace which has a dish that the CC is obsessed with.
It ticks off all the right notes - funky, umami, complex with enough heat to set your mouth alight and yet, in that precise Thai way, it works!
The CC has had plenty of opportunities to "reverse engineer" this particular dish. It looks like a variation on the equally famous pad prik khing.
The CC is totally a sucker for the green peppercorns that come in the dish. They are not easy to find but you must get the ones pickled in brine not in vinegar.
There seemed to be a complex metallic note behind it, and the CC figured it the old fashioned way when he spilled some on his shirt. It was fresh turmeric. The CC was out a shirt but had gained a recipe. Cosmic balance and all that.
4 kaffir lime leaves (sliced very fine)
4 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
2 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 lemongrass stalk
1 small turmeric
2-3 Thai bird chilies
sugar (to balance the taste)
2 squid (read notes below)
6 Thai eggplants (quartered)
8-12 long beans (cut into 1" pieces)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
3 tbsp green peppercorns
Note 1: You will need a mortar and pestle to pound it to a paste. A food processor is simply not the same.
Note 2: Traditionally, the paste may require more or less ingredients depending on the quality thereof. For example, the CC only used 1 chili pepper since it was super hot. You need to taste and adjust based on the ingredients you have.
Note 3: The squid are cut into 1.5" x 1" pieces and cross-hatched with a knife. They will curl up and quickly cook in the stir-fry.
Note 4: The stir-fry goes at a rapid pace. You will need to have everything ready.
First prepare the paste. In a mortar and pestle, pound all the ingredients together to a fine paste. You may need to add more fish paste to loosen the sauce, or a little more sugar if it feels too salty. The paste should be thick, pungent and definitely have a bite from the chilies.
Heat the peanut oil until it is shimmering. Add the paste and fry for a bit. Add the eggplants and continue frying for 2 mins. Add the bamboo shoots and the long beans and fry for 2-3 mins. You may need to add 2-3 tbsp of water to loosen the sauce at this point. Add the squid and the peppercorns. Take off the heat as soon as the squid curl.
Top with the basil leaves.
Serve at once with jasmine rice.