I’m starting to feel like I moved to the tropical equivalent of Seattle. It sure rains here a lot. I had to venture out in virtual monsoon conditions this morning on my way to work. There was no point wearing shoes so I squelched my way through rivers on the street in my rubber thongs. I love the rain but I’m also looking forward to the Sunshine State earning its title which should happen more as the tropical summer ends and the moderate, sunny winter months begin.
I lived here about 15 years ago before I headed off to Canada. I was 18 years old and going through my hippie alternative phase then. I was pretty broke and gallivanted about in tie dyed skirts over netted petticoats with my feet shod in army boots and a smattering of glitter on my face. Those days are long behind me now, much to my mother’s relief no doubt.
I was a vegetarian for about 10 years when I was younger and upon seeking a share house at one point I found an ad in the paper for a vegetarian household. I met the 2 guys living there who were in the late stages of their studies and ended up moving in with them. They were great and boy could they could cook. And I soon realised I couldn’t. They took turns at cooking and shared their feasts with me and other lucky drop ins. I remember having Javanese eggplant dishes, red beans and rice, colourful salads and an array of curries.
The day came when it was my turn to cook and I was a little intimidated and nervous. I’d decided to cook an Indian vegetable and chickpea curry with rice. To add to the pressure we had additional guests for dinner that night. I made the fatal errors of cooking something I’d never made before in addition to not reading the instructions properly. I cleverly added a whole jar of curry paste to my vegetables and chickpeas with but one can of coconut milk to dilute it. My mistake didn’t become evident until I’d proudly served everyone and we sat on the long timber dining table to eat. Despite everyone’s attempts to pick at it, the dish was inedible and I was mortified.
It’s true that mistakes are the best way to learn and I can assure you I’ve never made that mistake again. I think of that night and happily reflect on how far I’ve come with my cooking. Not to say there isn’t room for improvement. Trial and error reigns supreme in the kitchen.
Speaking of trial and error, this dish is a concoction I created upon discovering a healthy kaffir lime tree in my new backyard much to my delight. I love their smooth leaves with their exotic fragrance. I decided to inject some meatballs with some Thai flavours and crafted a vibrant noodle counterpart. I was really happy with the result, it was a light dinner that was healthy and zinged with freshness.
The combination of herbs wafted an intoxicating perfume up from the bowl. This salad dressing is so simple and is pretty much my base for any type of Asian salad. Mr Market Basket loves it and could drink it by the glass. You can easily tweak it to add any extra flavours you might like such as ginger, chilli, garlic etc. I liberally doused the meatballs with some sweet chilli sauce because I’m just a condiment kind of gal. You could omit or include as per your preference.
Thai Chicken Meatballs
1 stalk of lemongrass (white part only), finely sliced
1cm fresh ginger, finely grated
1 green onion, finely sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
500 grams chicken mince (free range if possible)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sweet chilli sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded
100 grams rice vermicelli
2 carrots, peeled
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Handful of coriander leaves
8-10 mint leaves, roughly torn
Put lemongrass, ginger, green onion, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, sugar, fish sauce and chicken mince in a bowl and mix until well combined.
Form mixture into small balls on a plate and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Make the dressing by combining the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil and kaffir lime leaf. Mix well and refrigerate.
Soak the rice vermicelli in boiling water for about 5 minutes then rinse in cold water and strain.
Create curls of carrot and cucumber with a julienne grater (avoiding the seeds in the cucumber. If you don’t have a julienne grater you can just grate the carrot and cut the cucumber into fine strips.
Mix the noodles with the carrot, cucumber, red onion, chilli, coriander and mint and refrigerate.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frypan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until golden brown all over (about 10-15 minutes).
Dress the salad and serve with the meatballs topped with sweet chilli sauce.