When I was a kid, “Asian” food at home meant either ramen noodles or beef and broccoli stir-fry. That’s it.
Granted, I still love ramen and that stir-fry, but it’s amazing to think that the culinary traditions of an entire continent got modified and whittled down to those two items by the time they hit NoDak. I picture pad thai falling off the boat in the Pacific, tandoori chicken getting stranded somewhere in California, Korean BBQ getting left behind in Wyoming – a trail of panko breadcrumbs thinning out until just two remaining dishes land on the front steps of my childhood home as the sole survivors in the Darwinian test of meat-and-potato Midwestern palates along the way.
Mmm. Meat. (Note the paper towels: new technique a la Julia Child - dry the meat before cooking for better browning. So simple. So smart.)
It should be no surprise, then, that I have a hesitation to try my hand at anything outside my Anglophile, Euro-centric, more-cheese-please kitchen repertoire. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean – I love this stuff, but it’s all foreign territory when trying to cook it on my own. So forgive me if I take baby steps, one ingredient at a time.
I finally got a bottle of fish sauce. I can’t tell you how many times I saw an interesting Asian recipe, but then saw fish sauce in the list of ingredients and just passed it by. What is fish sauce, you ask? You really want to know? From what I gather, it’s fermented anchovy juice. I wouldn’t chug the stuff (although my younger college-attending brother probably would for five bucks), but in small doses it’s supposed to add a level of umami, of savoriness to the dish. Italians use parmesean and anchovy paste for this, Thai people use soy sauce and fish sauce. I gotcha.
We’re still hooked on curry thanks to Mr. Delicious curry wraps, but I’ve had trouble getting a decent curry flavor at home. Finally, I think I’m getting darn close. The key: curry paste instead of curry powder. Using coconut milk as a base, I mixed in fish sauce, curry paste, and lime juice – ta-da! Venison with curry sauce.
Yes, we ended up dipping pieces of venison right into the gravy boat. It was that good. Promise I’ll keep my fingers out of the sauce when you come over for dinner, k?
Venison with Curry Sauce
Beef is the obvious substitute here. The sauce is another wonder adapted from Fine Cooking mag. Fish sauce and curry paste can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. Check the natural foods section for coconut milk, if you don't see it in the Asian section as well.
1 to 2 lbs. venison steak
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 Tbls. canola oil
2/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbls. mild curry paste
1 Tbls. lime juice
1/2 Tbls. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Crushed red pepper to taste (optional)
Dry steak with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the steak until browned but still quite pink in the middle. Don't overcook venison or you'll get hockey pucks!
Transfer steak to a platter. Keep skillet on the stove and turn heat down to medium-low. Add 1/3 cup of water and scrape up any brown bits. Add coconut milk, curry paste, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and fragrant, about 5 mins. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve up steak, sliced and covered with curry sauce.