So, That’s What They Taste Like


A dish boasting such vibrant colors is bound to be packed with effusive flavors too, and today’s entry excels in both regards.  In taste and in tone, this curry is off the charts.  Good thing it wasn’t featured on an old Technicolor television set, or the poor equipment wouldn’t have been able to keep pace and probably would’ve exploded.

One of the reasons for this burst is a heretofore unexamined fruit, hailing originally from Malaysia (as is today’s dish), the rambutan:   Rambutans

Surprisingly, perhaps, once peeled, the rambutan is milky white in color, like a grape in texture, and similar to strawberries and honeydew in flavor.  Besides, the curry’s other ingredients more than make up the color. Turmeric and fresh pineapple (yellow), Thai peppers (red), cilantro and kafir lime leaves (green) are just some of the ingredients that make up the rainbow.

No doubt, the mind-expanding colors and the tastes they carry are one of the things that appealed to Saveur when it decided to feature the recipe for Summer Rambutan Curry on its website and in its July 2015 issue.

As mentioned before, rambutans are milky white when peeled, and are halfway in size between a grape and a chicken egg:Rambutans Peeled

The recipe follows typical Malaysian preparation techniques, including pounding the curry ingredients together in a mortar and pestle.  This part, while being exactingly authentic, is impractical (and messy) in most kitchens outside Southeast Asia.  A useful workaround, producing the same result, is to place the ingredients in a food processer, and pulsing it a few times.   Stopping far short of liquifying the ingredients, this method instead pulverizes everything rather coarsely, and releases their headline flavors to mingle.

It all comes together in the wok, all those striking tastes uniting to please every one of the taste buds, from sweet to sour; salty to savory, and so on, and so on.  Imagine how this wakes up the chicken.  Still, most of these flavors, while running the culinary range, are more or less familiar to most moderately curious diners.  Not so with today’s “secret ingredient.”  Want a taste that’ll surprise (pleasantly) even most East Asians?  Try the rambutan!

*****

Summer Rambutan Curry

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely torn
  • 3 red Thai chilies, stemmed (*1)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, and the core thinly sliced
  • 1 2-inch piece of galangal root, peeled and thinly sliced (*2)
  • 8 rambutan, peeled and pits removed (*3)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (*4)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced on the bias (*5)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar (*6)
  • cilantro leaves, torn, to garnish
  • lime wedges, to garnish
  • white rice, for serving

Put the ground turmeric, the garlic, the kaffir lime leaves, the chilies, the lemongrass and the galangal in a mortar and pestle.  Pound until you have a coarse paste. (*7)

Place a wok over a medium-high flame.  Add one tablespoon of the peanut oil, then add the pineapple pieces.  Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly caramelized, about four minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pineapple to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok, then add the onions.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown, about four minutes.  Add the paste you created earlier and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about two minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low and cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the volume reduces by half.  Stir in the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Add the pineapple and the rambutan, and cook until warmed through, about two minutes.

Turn off the flame, and stir in the fish sauce and palm sugar.  Put some rice in each of four shallow serving bowls.  Ladle some of the curry over each, sprinkle with torn cilantro, garnish with lime wedges, and serve.

NOTES:

1 – Use bird chilies if you can find them.  If not, a couple finger chilies, or even red Fresnos, will be fine.

2 – Galangal has a unique taste, though if it alludes the shopping basket, a similar quantity of fresh ginger will work.

3 – Can’t locate rambutan?  Don’t worry; a dozen 1-inch cubes of honeydew or cantaloupe should make do.

4 – Nay, I say!  Shallots are more palatable than are onions, and they’re bound to give you at least a little more color.  A lot more color if you select a deeply-hued shallot.  By the way, one large shallot = one medium onion.

5 – Instead, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Moister and much more flavorful.  Plus, if they’re trimmed properly, the fat difference is negligible.

6 – Pretentious food nerds like me always have a fresh container of palm sugar in the pantry, plus an open container in the fridge. Most people with lives outside the kitchen (i.e., you) don’t.  In that case, then, a similar quantity of light brown sugar is just dandy.

7 – As mentioned in the intro, a food processer is a great stand-in for a mortar and pestle.  Much neater too.  Give it maybe five or six one-second pulses, and I defy anyone, even a Malaysian chef, to tell the curry apart from something smashed in a traditional mortar and pestle.

49 thoughts on “So, That’s What They Taste Like

  1. Rambutan, huh? I’m curious if you peruse the Asian markets for inspiration, or if you flip through recipes and then hunt down the ingredients. Either way, your curry is quite photogenic and sounds delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you, Crystal!

      Would you believe the rambutans were at the supermarket? Granted, the store is the state’s second-largest, and as such, their “specialty” produce section is nearly as well-supplied as is the city’s market district. All without the parking challenges and the traffic issues one endures to venture downtown.

      Anyway, I had heard of rambutans before, but I didn’t pay them much mind as I figured they vanished once they got more than a coconut’s toss from Malaysia. Imagine my surprise to see them in the flesh here, in our sunny patch of England.

      When I got home, on to the internet I went, to look for ideas. Found one, the rambutans still were in stock…and here we are!

      Like

      1. I do not believe the rambutans were at the supermarket, especially in light of the fact that so far I haven’t located the Kanzis. Maybe that’s a Texas thing. To be fair, I saw where the Kanzis should be. They were all gone, which bodes well for the reason behind their absence. I’ll keep my eye out…for the rambutans, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. May your patience be gratified, Grasshopper. (Grass-cartwheel-er?)

        Actually, I suspect the virus’s lingering spasms still effect most food supply chains.. Thus, your supermarket has space “cut in” for Kanzis, but no apples yet. The situation up here is similar to yours, though it’s not quite so dire. Just yesterday, though, the variety’s place on the display racks held a whole lot of nothing, and I had to “settle” for Honeycrisps. Oh, the humanity!

        The supermarket does spoil me, evidence of this dotage in its usually superlative produce offerings, among other bounties. Perhaps Fate’s way of making up for the lack of “specialty” grocery options in this stretch of suburbia. The city does boast a number of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but they’re all out of practical range. Similarly, there are Wegman’s up and down the coast, but none within an hour or so.

        Stay faithful, my friend. We’ll outlast this COVID nonsense, and when we do, we’ll enjoy renewed access to the world’s gardens.

        Like

      3. I’ve come back to respond to this one a few different times and always smile—one for your voice in my head as you say grasshopper—two for me sitting on my butt in the grass. Point on patience noted. Oh darn, honeycrisps.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Nice, Crystal. Either one’s fine.

        Though that puts “Kung Fu Fighting” on repeat in my internal soundtrack. The change-up is nice, though, as the playlist’s previous occupant, “Fly Me to the Moon,” was getting real old.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tamara!

      Hey, I wanted to tell you – I’ve tried commenting on various entries (on your site) for a couple weeks now, though every time I post the comment, it disappears. No “Waiting Moderation.” Nothing. Just Poof!, gone.

      I still can “Like,” your articles, and have done so frequently, but beyond that, just silence.

      Didn’t want you to think I’ve forgotten your blog. In fact, I visit every day I’m online, and your writing always inspires a response, but you’d never know that from the internet’s pre-emption. This happened once before, a couple years ago, with someone else. Turns out, my comments were going straight to Spam. for whatever reason. Wonder if that’s what’s happening here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keith, thank you! I will check my SPAM Folder. WordPress has a mind of its own at times. I will check my settings. I have found the same issues when I try to comment on others posts, too. It’s frustrating because I’ll write out a long response and they never get it, apparently.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Tamara. Recently, my comments have been short, mainly with a view to seeing if your site was back. Stuff like “Test” or “Hi, Tamara.”

        Before that, though, they were more extravagant. As in, paragraphs. You’re spot-on in labelling it “frustrating.” Sometimes I’d be thinking and typing away for twenty minutes, then, Poof! Nothing.

        Neither here nor there, not really, but that’s something that’s wrong about technology in general – the lack of information. I understand everything isn’t instantaneous or automatic., and I don’t expect it to be.

        However, a progress report would be nice. Something which indicates “Working on It” or “Refused.” Lacking even those rudiments, I’m left wondering if I really clicked on that icon, of if my PC has a virus, or if the internet/router is experiencing a temporary outage, or if the blog is down…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just notified another writer that I was unable to leave comments on his site. He was surprised and asked me which post was not allowing me to interact. I told him the title and he is looking into it. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Nice, Tamara.

        This writer, in turn, will notify a couple bloggers whose sites are ignoring his comments, and so on, and so on….

        A little at a time, we’re making the internet more user-friendly!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Some people come onto blogs to start fights, so I stopped some comments from getting through via my settings. Perhaps I stopped ALL Comments, by accident. I have fixed the problem by permitting all comments. I’ll just delete any spiteful ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I likely have mentioned this before, Tamara, but my “numbers” here recently have been disappointing. Not that I’m doing this entirely for the applause, but I do have my share of conceit. Moreover, culinary experimentation is rewarding and it is fun, and it also is time-consuming and it is expensive. Having the curtain rise to an empty (or nearly-empty) house discourages the venture. Particularly as things had been going so well until last fall.

        Anyway, a friend suggested Instagram and/or Pinterest as a way to see the audience growing again. After giving it thought, I believe I will, after a few things are resolved over the next few months. However, this friend also warned trolls hide among the newcomers. This coincides exactly with your point.

        Thus, I must prepare for some viewers telling me this entry looks awful. Or that I have no business “expropriating” another culture’s food. Worst of all, perhaps, are the know-it-alls. Those who can’t wait to point out that something comes from Tajikistan, not Uzbekistan! Not to advance the conversation either, but for the dismal pleasure of playing “Gotcha!”

        Still, the trolls should be in the minority. Most, though, will help put viewership on the upswing again.

        You seem to have more followers than do I, Tamara. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I’m sorry, Keith; I just saw this comment. I do not think you will receive many trolls on a recipe blog. There is not much controversy stewing in this subject.

        Controversial blogs gain more followers and trolls for obvious reasons. Sometimes blogs are watched simply out of spite. Lol.

        I have much to say on this subject in answer to your question and will attempt my return tomorrow to help in any way possible.

        Pinterest would be your best bet since many recipes are explored on this site. Let me know if you open a Pinterest account and I will follow you and even repost some of your entrees and deserts onto my own Pinterest site.

        Sometimes I lull away from blogging and my numbers drop. When I return and blog consistently, the viewers increase. Of course it is fun to have readers! Nothing conceited about this desire.

        I know many ways and resources to increase other’s visits but I have been too busy as of late to take on the endeavor or interest.

        You can also open up your own page on Facebook and give this a try. I have over a thousand or so followers through this avenue. But I opened it up about a year ago. I haven’t posted on there for a long time.

        Maybe we can cohabitate on my page and your posts can be about “delicious meals of self-care to those who have experienced Narcissistic Abuse”. Lol. Of course, we would word it better. 💫

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Thank you much, my friend! Your generosity overwhelms, enriching as it does both present circumstance and future dreams.

        It may interest you to know your advice and my other friend’s coincide nearly exactly. I’ll ask you the same question I did her, namely, is there any reason I can’t do both?

        You haven’t seen them yet, but I’ve purchased on Spoonflower many fabrics which really will highlight, I think, what I have planned. In most cases, the designers involved have asked to show them on Instagram their artistry in use. Glad to comply, but I understand Pinterest is much friendlier to the independent blogger.

        After my personal schedule clears in a few months I intend to explore both options. With, one hopes, your advice.

        Trolls are the one small area (in multiple senses) where your observations and mine may differ. Seems to me, some people hang out just to cause trouble, no matter what the forum. From insulting the work and my motives, to showing the world how stupid I am, a few will try to vault over the fence by pushing me into the mud. I know it’s coming, and I also know it’ll be exceptional.

        See, Tamara, I need the audience to grow again. When I started blogging almost exactly five years ago, readership was limited to family, colleagues and to other friends. After an initial flurry of support, they visited only occasionally. Consequently, my numbers were dreadful. In one entire month, at the low point, six people (total) visited. They provided no comments, or even ‘Like’s, either. To be fair, all readers then were personal acquaintances, and they provided feedback in person.

        Then, mirabile dictu, outsiders (which included, then, you) started noticing, and we were ascendant. Progress continued such until last summer, when it peaked. Now, just a year later, I’m back down to 30%. This decline came despite me doing exactly what I understood to be crucial – posting consistently.

        It’s been every Sunday (and, occasionally, Saturday) since 2016, yet we still are headed in the wrong direction. I appreciate you understanding I’m not “arrogant” in hoping for an appreciable audience. I mean, I still will love to cook, no matter what. However, the curtain raising each week only to reveal more people heading for the exits is…well, disappointing.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I am empathetic to your paragraph about the trolls. I have had many of them and they spout the most horrendous smut. It is their life to cause trouble from their cynicism and distaste over their own lives. WTF??? Spewing hate over a recipe blog??? Seriously, trolls have No Life, and their own hate motivates them. Such bores.

        I am sorry over your disappointment in the low flow of viewers but when your workload outside of the blog decreases, you will surely find ways to increase your audience. There are many ways; it just takes time.

        My visits wax and wane per season, mood, and subject matter of each post.

        Are you adding Tags and Categories (15 count in total)? Titles are extremely important as I believe they come up in search engine more readily than even the Tags and Categories.

        When you have more time, I have many tips and ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Once again, thanks Tamara!

        Definitely good advice, to wait a bit until the schedule clears. Much as I’d love to start exploring social media – started yesterday, more like – present circumstances allow only a glancing effort, and that just won’t do, will it?

        As far as casual viewers go, there still are plenty. These are the window shoppers, those who glance in, but who never interact.

        Yes, it is reassuring to know they still visit, but I’m interested instead in people like you, those who take time to comment and, as we’re doing here, to chat. Most of you still are here, but about a third aren’t. Hence, the search for more, elsewhere.

        I really appreciate all the attention and advice you’re providing, Tamara, and maybe we’ll pick up this conversation later. However, it’s close to midnight (here on the East Coast) and, as I wake at 5AM for the morning commute, I best be on my way for now. Talk to you later!

        Liked by 1 person

      11. If you have a Facebook site, let me know your name on there and I’ll show you my page. It has 4,000+ followers. In the past, I found this exciting. But lately I am sort of 🥱 about it. 💤. Guess I need some new inspiration.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Sorry Tamara, but for the moment, WordPress is the extent.

        Naturally, Pinterest and Instagram await, though those are stories for another day.

        4,000 followers? Seriously? I have fewer than 5% that, and I’ve been at this since 2016. Of course, your numbers aren’t surprising, though I do understand Facebook requires investing monstrous time to keep those kinds of figures going.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. No, once you have a following, you just throw out a few memes or quotes now and then and they eat it up. Yes, if you ever go on Facebook, I’ll show you my page. I actually post to the Facebook page once every 6-8 weeks… just got bored of it. But the followers remain and increase. They like the fact that the memes are funny and original.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Agreed, Tamara. That, they are!

        First will be Instagram and Pinterest. Depending on how they produce, others may follow.

        Before this blog, my online activity was limited to email and to casual surfing – YouTube, sports scores, Amazon and the like. When a friend to whom I sent pictures told me I needed to start a blog, I figured it’d require a tech savvy far beyond mine. Then I learned about WordPress.

        The ensuing four years were good to me; the last year, though, not so much. Thanks again for helping me find the sunshine once more!

        Liked by 1 person

      15. I used to have IG. If you create an account, please let me know and I will make one too. And when you want other help or ideas to increase your audience, let me know!

        Try changing your tags once in awhile.

        Here’s some good ones: foodies, foodie, diet, health, culture, creativity (your posts are creatively written), creative writing, blogging, recipes, lifestyle, thriller (food can be thrilling), objectify, comfort food, self-care, global, cuisine, exotic (good one, there!), breakfast, lunch, supper, dining, hunger, satisfaction, satisfying, meals, culinary, experience, baking, cooking, guests, dinner party, influences, addiction, craving, banquet, thriving, thrive, homemade, preparation, home cooking, sauces, italian, american, asian, japanese, splurging, purpose, creation, healthy, consumer, consumerism, provider, money (good one!), budget meals, ETC.,.

        If you use “money” in your tags, say something in your post about money such as “an inexpensive meal”. Or, a meal for every budget.

        You might make your Categories into the specific countries where the meal originated; or whether they’re Hot Foods or Cold Foods, ETC.,.

        Some titles that seem to really work is when you go off of emotional experiences (such as Chasing Away The Blues With Blue Cheese Salad) or asking a question, such as “Why You Will Love This Recipe” or “How to make a Great Presentation With This Dish”, ETC.,.

        Try to show a pic of a cute animal holding a specific food, or with its face smashed into a cake. Just look up specific things on search engine, and then look under images of your request.

        Just some ideas, my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Thanks much for all the advice, Tamara!

        It means worlds to me that you’re so giving of the valuable lessons it took you years to learn. Some of it will wait in reserve until I venture forth into social media in October?, December?, whenever, though much of it will present before that.

        For example, the tags. Starting soon, I’ll pepper my descriptions with some of the tags you suggest. The deficiency to date, I think, is in my treating the tags too literally, as in a listing of the ingredients, and of the source material, and nothing more.

        You’ve revived my thinking, though, and I look forward to expanding the possibilities.

        Much else to consider, too. Something tells me I’m going back to your email quite often in the months to come. Again, all the gratitude in the world, Tamara!

        Liked by 1 person

      17. My pleasure, TA; you are my favorite commenter so I owe you my time when I am able to part with it despite chores, eating, hydrating, ETC.,. That sounded funny. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      18. Ah, thank you, Tamara! 🤗

        I’ll have you know, I’m not an “emoji” kind of guy, and when I use one it’s noteworthy. Well, there is this one 🧐, though he waits for our next monocle-related conversation.

        Oh, “hydrating?” What are you, a fern?

        Liked by 1 person

      19. Oh yes, by the way; smart thoughts on your “tags”. I can give you some top rating tags from my own blog as long as you don’t publish the comment containing this small treasure. It’s secret information. Haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      20. About the animals?

        Well, for what it’s worth, right now I plan to give my “Thor” a supporting role in an upcoming entry.

        Except, he’s a cat. He lives at my mother’s house too (much more room there). Still, he fits right in with an angle I intend to take.

        Someday, though, your Thor will meet my Tiger (Don’t snort at the unoriginal name; that already was in place when I adopted him from the shelter.)

        Liked by 1 person

      21. Pennsylvania.

        See, I though you were on the West Coast. From the Northwest originally, I thought, then Cali. Huh, how did I ever get that one wrong?

        Anyway, around here, the sun sets around 8:20PM.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Really, you?

      Maybe, in the old days, before you freed yourself from certain unfortunate…dominations. Now, however, I get the impression you’ve broken so many chains, so many restrictions.

      Maybe a “wallflower,” still, by your definition, but not as much so as you once were. Today, you’re all about reintroducing yourself to the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a wallflower due to shyness, apprehension, introversion, and lack of street-smarts. These are also reasons why I choose people of bad influence to be my friends. But when I become aware of it, I disengage and “nothing” them… eventually. Predators are like sharks. When they smell the blood of vulnerability, their radar gets triggered. I grew up in an environment which resulted in my lack of common sense and sense of worldliness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah Tamara, I see.

        Your impulse places undue priority on those traits which compensate for what it feels you lack. Thus, it seeks out those whose opposites are cranked up to eleven. You point out, of course, people with such outsize personalities aren’t good for you. Not good for anyone, actually.

        The nice thing about blogging, though, is that it encourages those such as ourselves, those who tend to be more contemplative. It allows us to grow, to develop and to express ourselves. All without the extroverts’ seeming boom-boom-boom of loud instantaneousness. And thoughtlessness.

        Liked by 1 person

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