Shrimp paste (gapi) is the true soul of Thai cooking, so don’t let the pungent aroma put you off and a little goes a very long way in adding real depth to the dish. Like all stir-fries, make sure you prepare all the ingredients before you fire up the wok because once you start cooking it’s all over in a flash.
- 1 tilapia, filleted and boned or other freshwater fish such as Murray perch, trout or catfish
- 1 tbsp fish sauce, plus a little extra, to taste
- pinch of white sugar, plus a little extra, to taste
- pinch of ground white pepper
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 2 makrut lime leaves, torn
- 2 long fresh red chillies, chopped
- small handful of snake beans, cut into 5 cm pieces, blanched
- 2 – 3 sprigs fresh green peppercorns
- 1 tbsp shredded grachai (wild ginger) small handful
- Thai basil leaves
- pinch of chilli powder, optional
- 2 coriander roots
- pinch of salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 fresh orange chilli, chopped
- 2-3 red or green Thai chillies (scuds), chopped or to taste
- 2 red Asian shallots
Shrimp paste stock
- 1 tsp gapi (Thai shrimp paste)
- pinch of grated palm sugar
- pinch of white sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cut the fish into 3 cm-wide strips pieces and place in a bowl with a dash of fish sauce and a pinch each of sugar and pepper. Toss to coat, then stand for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
To make the garlic paste, pound the coriander root and salt in a mortar and pestle until a paste forms, then add the remaining ingredients, one at time and pound until a coarse paste forms.
To make the shrimp paste stock, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to dissolve, then set aside.
Heat the wok over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the fish and cook until light golden and nearly cooked through. Remove and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic paste, makrut lime leaves and chilli and toss for 1 minute or until fragrant. Return the fish to the wok, then add the beans and stir fry for a moment. Stir in the shrimp paste stock and simmer until thick and aromatic. Add the green peppercorns, ginger, basil and chilli powder if using. If necessary, season with the extra sugar and fish sauce. It should taste hot, rich and salty from the shrimp paste and only just slightly sweet and aromatic from the makrut lime.