Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thai Turkey and Double Basil Stir-fry

Growing up in a small town in the South you will typically have a hamburger spot (my hometown favorite is in a gas station called T-Models Pit Stop in El Dorado, Ark.), several pizza buffets, fried chicken drive-thrus, "meat and threes" (my family used to go to one in a flea market on Friday nights), catfish stops and barbeque joints on most corners. As far as "foreign" food goes, you are lucky if you have a Chinese and a Mexican restaurant in your hometown. So although I had plenty of wonderful food to eat as a youngster, I had never tasted Thai food until I moved to Boston in my mid-twenties.

Thai food abounds in the Northeast. One of my friends is an East-Southeast Asian food junkie - meaning Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Mongolian. So we did the rounds in Boston and I picked up a few techniques and ingredients to apply in my own home cooking. This dish is a healthy and tasty Thai stir-fry that gets high rotation in my recipe file.

I used a julienne peeler to make feathery strands of carrots for this dish, but a thin slice (think matchsticks) will work just as well. To slice the basil, I stack the leaves one on top of the other then roll them tightly. Next I slice the roll across the width to get ribbons of basil - the culinary term for this technique is chiffonade. I used both green and purple basil leaves in this recipe because I love having lots of color in my dishes.

Adding fish sauce to this dish gives it another layer of flavor, but it is not fishy. Be sure to use a low-sodium tamari or soy because you will have a super salty dish due to the addition of fish and soy sauce, even without adding extra salt.

I have been stalking the noodle aisle at my local Asian grocer again. Brown rice vermicelli is used in Thai cooking often, so I thought it would be the perfect complement to this stir-fry. If you cannot find the vermicelli, this dish could be served over most other noodles or steamed rice - brown is best.

1 pound fresh turkey breast, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon safflower oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 small red chili peppers, finely chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
Juice of one small lime
1 handful of basil leaves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 handful of purple basil leaves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 pound brown rice vermicelli

In a wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add turkey to hot wok; cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add shallots, garlic and peppers; cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add carrots, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice; cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Add both purple and green basil leaves; cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Follow the package directions for boiling the brown rice vermicelli. Serve the turkey and basil stir-fry over the vermicelli.

Serves 4

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