Really Drunken Noodles
Ok, so I’m not going to bother with the requisite “Sorry I’ve been such a negligent blogger, blah, blah, blah…” anymore. Apparently, I’m just going to post when I’m going to post and we’re all going to have to accept that. That being said, let’s get right into it! And get ready for a long one; I’ve gotta make up for lost time.
Last week, a coworker of mine told me about a beer Ballast Point Brewing had released recently to celebrate Holiday Wine Cellar (North County San Diego’s premier liquor store) and its 46th anniversary. The beer is Indra Kunindra–an India-Style Export Stout with curry, coconut, kaffir lime leaf, cayenne, and cumin. The recipe was from local homebrewer Alex Tweet; Alex won Holiday’s 2nd annual homebrew competition in late 2010 and his prize was for Ballast Point to brew his wining recipe on a commercial scale. This beer interested me on two levels. First, it sounded frickin’ delicious and second, it’s a supremely local beer–crafted by a San Diego resident, brewed by one of the best breweries in San Diego County, and only available at one San Diego retailer. It’s a treat reserved exclusively for those of us who are already afforded more beer opportunities than most. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a shame that most people are not going to have access to this unique brew but I do like that I get to feel just a little special every time I take a sip.
So I picked up a couple bottles at Holiday on Saturday: one for drinking and one for cooking–as soon as I had read the description on the bottle I knew I was going to be blogging about this one. I brought a bottle to a friend’s house to share and everyone agreed that Indra Kunindra is a phenomenally different beer. It has a subtle sweetness from the coconut, a delicate curry fragrance on the nose, and a pleasant bite from the cayenne. I quite enjoyed it but there was a lot going on on my palate, so I was totally satisfied savoring my five ounce pour. My drinking companions all thought that a Thai yellow curry was the dish to showcase this beer but I disagreed. I thought that by cooking the beer with even more coconut and curry, you’d just negate the presence of the beer altogether. But the flavors did obviously lend themselves to Thai cuisine, so instead I chose to do a take on my absolute favorite noodle dish, Pad Kee Mao, otherwise known as Drunken Noodles.
Drunken Noodles don’t traditionally contain alcohol; they’re so named because of the desire you’ll have for a cold beer after tasting this spicy dish. Never having worked with fresh Thai chiles, I was extremely conservative with the heat. I only used two chiles but, if you’re the adventurous type, use as many as you can handle. Personally, I like to keep things mild so that I can pile on the Sriracha later. And as far as protein goes, just use your favorite or whatever’s on sale at the market. I got a screaming deal on chicken breast, so that’s what I used. And I fried up some tofu to throw in as well, because I love the play of different textures. If you don’t like it, don’t whine at me, just leave it out.
Really Drunken Noodles
1/4 c. Black soy sauce
1/4 c. Golden Mountain Sauce
1/4 c. fish sauce
1/4 c. Indra Kunindra, room temperature (if you’re lucky enough to be able to get it. Otherwise use Maui CoCoNut PorTeR or any other sweet porter or stout.)
3 Tbsp. Canola oil
1/2 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1 inch cubes
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Fresh Thai chiles, to taste (I used 2 and it was extremely mild)
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 eggs, beaten
1 large chicken breast with rib meat, sliced thinly
1 lb. fresh wide rice noodles, rinsed and separated (if fresh noodles are unavailable, cook equivalent amount of dried noodles according to package directions, drain, and set aside)
1 c. bean sprouts
1 c. Thai basil leaves
In a small bowl, whisk together the sauces and the beer. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet (or a nice big wok, if you have one). Toss in the tofu and fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.
Add the garlic, chiles, and green onion to the hot oil and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Toss in the onion and bell pepper and stir fry for 3 minutes until the onion is just beginning to soften. Push the veggies to one side and add the beaten eggs to the other side of the pan. Use a spatula to stir and scramble the eggs until just set. Add the chicken to the pan and stir fry until cooked through.
Once the chicken is cooked, turn up the heat slightly, pour in the beer sauce, and add the fresh noodles. Using tongs, toss the noodles, vegetables and chicken with the sauce. Throw in the tofu and toss. In the last 30 seconds of cooking, add the bean sprouts and basil and toss. Cook until the basil is just wilted.
Serve immediately. The beer gave the dish just the slightest hint of curry and a sweet richness that balanced the saltiness of the soy sauces. It was actually remarkably easy to turn out a really nice looking, restaurant-style dish, so don’t be intimidated by Thai cooking if, like me, you’ve never attempted it before. And any ingredients you’re unfamiliar with you will be able to find at any Asian market or well-stocked specialty store.
But we’re not done! For good measure, I did a yellow curry as well:
Thai Yellow Curry
1 Tbsp. Canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 chicken breast with rib meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
Yellow curry paste, (2 Tbsp.-1/4 c. depending on your taste and the strength of your curry paste)
1 large potato, peeled and diced small
1 1/2 cup green beans or long beans, trimmed and broken into 2 inch piece
1/2 lb. extra-firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 can coconut milk
3/4 c. porter
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on the outside. Add potatoes, beans, and tofu to the pot. Add curry paste and toss with veggies and chicken to coat.
Add coconut milk and beer to pot and stir to combine.
Bring curry to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked through, about 2o minutes. Serve with jasmine white rice (or brown rice if you like a little extra fiber, like me). I think I was correct in my prediction that the beer would get lost in the dish. The spice of the curry and the sweetness of the coconut milk buried the subtle flavor elements of the beer. The stout did contribute a rich color to the curry, however, and that was nice. As for pairing, I’d serve this meal with a crisp craft lager, something to counteract the spice and let the flavors in the dish really shine. Enjoy!