There I was, the other week, discussing with one of my colleagues a cookbook which I’d heard from various sources was a little disappointing. Interestingly enough though, said colleague, a keen cook like me, was raving about it and after describing how he’d made several mouth-watering dishes, I vowed to make something out of it that very next weekend. What I chose to concoct was a departure for me.
Salads excepted, I have never been a big fan of fruit in savoury dishes. I was scarred for life by my Mother’s chicken curry with bananas and sultanas. Why would you do that to your own child? What was she thinking? There was obviously some logic there as she was very experimental but I never bought into it. It was far too sweet for my liking.
What finally tempted me back into this realm was some langoustine tempura which I had in a restaurant called La Vache qui Vole (there was a papier mâché flying cow complete with wings hanging from the ceiling of this establishment) in Martigny in Switzerland. The dish was served with a mango salsa. It was good. Very good in fact, and the mango, not too sweet or tart, was the perfect accompaniment to the tempura. I was hooked. Well I lie, I have been hooked on dried mango for a long time but I could take or leave fresh mango. When I came across a Vietnamese dish called Tom Sot Xoai in Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, I knew I had to try it. It was a revelation; it was fresh and flavoursome, with the mango and prawns brought into perfect balance by the fish sauce. An absolute must-make again.
Stir-fried prawns with mango (Tom sot xoai)
Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey
1 small underripe (but not green) mango
1 tsp cornflour
2tbsp vegetable oil
8g garlic, finely chopped
80g shallots, finely chopped
1-1 ½ red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
250g large raw peeled prawns
Juice of 1 lime
1tbsp fish sauce
Large handful of Thai sweet basil leaves
White pepper, freshly ground
Peel mango and slice flesh away from stone in the middle. Cut up roughly into 1cm pieces.
Mix cornflour with 1tbsp water, set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add garlic, cook for a few seconds, add shallots, cook for another 30 seconds. Add red chillies and prawns, turn heat up and stir-fry for approx 2 minutes, till the prawns are pink and just cooked through.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of water (less if using frozen prawns), lime juice, fish sauce and cornflour mixture and stir-fry for a few seconds till sauce thickens. Add the mango, cooking for a short time until heated through. Stir in basil and season with the white pepper. Serve with rice. Serves 2 generously.