We like Mark Bittman in our house. The Minimalist's weekly column in the New York Times is read religiously, and his recipes hit our table on a semiregular basis. Margy, in particular, favors his fun but simple ideas when it's her turn at the stove. Me, I tend to be suspicious of any dish that's too quick to the table -- but lucky for me Bittman's 20-minute cooking times often seem somewhat… shall we say… unrealistic.
And so it was with his chili shrimp, from the Times a few Wednesdays ago. (I'm pretty sure he said the dish was an adaptation of a popular street food in Singapore, chili crabs.) But I can thank our food processor for the delay, at least in part. It just didn't feel like fully mincing the blissful conglomerate of ginger, garlic, shallots, and fresh chilies that the recipe called for, so I had to finish the job by hand. Which is funny, since I damn near bypassed the instructions to use a food processor and started with a sharp knife in the first place.
So on one hand we have this powerful little spice paste, and on the other we have the ingredients for the sauce: tomato paste, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Do you see where I'm going with this? Let me list these ingredients one more time:
This list is pure bliss to lovers of Asian cuisines, which Margy and I most decidedly are. (Though I appreciate all kinds of food, I can find turn-offs on, say, a French menu, but I'll be happy with just about anything done well at just about any type of Asian restaurant.)
How was the dish? Even better than I'd hoped. It was hot as hell thanks to my arsenal of mixed fresh chilies (you could make it as fiery or as mild as you wanted) and sharpened even further by the fish sauce and lime juice. Sweating happily at our little kitchen table on a cold fall evening, Margy and I were seeing psychedelic visions of the Malay Peninsula.