The Fab Four: Palm sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and sambal oelek.
My favorite go-to dish is Easy & Simple Curry, which I have made — at this point — probably hundreds of times.
The ingredients are fairly uncomplicated — loads of fresh ginger and garlic sauteed in coconut oil, plus whatever veggies you have in stock (or in the garden!) and any protein you like. I generally make it with shrimp or chicken. To give it a hint of Thai, I use a bit of coconut milk. But the real flavor machines in this dish are pictured above…I refer to them as the Fab Four: Palm sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and sambal oelek.
Substitute alert: If you can’t find palm sugar, which is made from the sap of blossoms of palm trees, you could use agave nectar or brown sugar or just plain sugar (in that order of preference). If you can’t find fish sauce, then don’t attempt this dish. If you can’t find oyster sauce, it’s actually less of a deal killer than no fish sauce — but oyster sauce lends a delicious richness to the final product (and besides which, it’s easy to find, so just buy it). If you can’t find sambal oelek, you could use its more popular cousin, sriracha (which is made by the same company, Huy Fong). But please note that sambal oelek is much better for cooking, whereas sriracha is meant to be a condiment.
While I generally use Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce, in part because of its pretty bottle, I recently decided to try an organic version, which is the all-natural Wok Mei oyster sauce pictured above. Jury is still out, and I must experiment some more before proffering my final opinion. (Spoiler alert: I think I still prefer Lee Kum Kee.)
In any event, whichever versions you use, the Fab Four give this dish its beautiful sweet, spicy and salty notes…which make it a very streamlined version of a proper Thai curry.
To make Easy & Simple curry, chop up 5 cloves of garlic and 2-inch piece of ginger, and sautee in coconut oil. Add your fish sauce, oyster sauce, sambal oelek and palm sugar so it looks deliciously thick and dark:
Next, it’s time to add about 1/3 of a cup of coconut milk (feel free to add a bit more…). If you use canned coconut milk, you can always freeze what you don’t use..
Next it’s time to add your bell pepper, which in these photos has been elegantly julienned by the hubs, who is much better at that sort of thing than I am. I usually add my protein (chicken or shrimp) at the same time, as bell pepper takes awhile to steam. Allow to cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.
When you’ve got everything looking pretty good and cooked through, it’s time to add your bok choy…give it a quick stir, then take off the heat.
Serve your Easy & Simple curry over jasmine rice…delicious! Finished product and full recipe is below. If you try it, email me a photo (in the unlikely event you’re a random stranger, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will gladly feature on this blog.
Easy & Simple Curry
2 tbsp oil (I use coconut oil, but you can use any veggie oil)
5-6 cloves garlic (diced)
2-inch piece of ginger (diced)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tbsp Sambal Oelek
3/4 tbsb palm sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk (feel free to use a bit more)
3/4 lb shrimp OR 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
bunch of bok choy, chopped
(serves 2 people)
Heat the oil and add ginger and garlic, stirring for a minute or so. Add fish sauce, oyster sauce, sambal oelek and palm sugar; stir well. Pour in coconut milk. Bring to boil. Drop in pieces of shrimp or chicken. Add bell pepper. Allow to cook through, stirring frequently. Add bok choy at very end. Serve over jasmine rice. Delicious!