A Taste of the Far East

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey

Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey

Culinary maestro, Rick Stein, lets us in on a few far eastern dishes…


Celebrity chef Rick Stein has explored the culinary delights of Britain and France but for his latest TV ‘food odyssey’ the much loved cookery writer and chef travelled further afield – to the Far East.

On arrival in Asia, Stein steered clear of the beaten track and tourist hot-spots; instead he sampled from local chefs, family-run restaurants and street vendors and roamed through the markets of Phnom Penh and the kitchens of Kampot in search of recipes to spirit the rest of us to the Orient.

Here Stein shares two of the dishes he discovered on his latest culinary quest with CD Traveller.


Beetroot curry


Serves 4

Theldala - Beetroot Curry

Theldala - Beetroot Curry

I ordered quite a few beetroot curries when I was in Sri Lanka because I am very fond of beetroot and it is a good example of how the Sri Lankans can turn any vegetable into a memorable dish. I liked the creamy dishes with lots of coconut milk, but this was a welcome change, more like a stir-fry, where the beetroot remains slightly crunchy. It’s known locally as a theldala. I’ve used coconut oil but you might find the flavour a little too powerful. If so, use vegetable oil instead. This is also nice made with carrots cut into batons like the beetroot.

750 g raw beetroot, trimmed of their leaves
3tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
7.5cm cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
10-12 curry leaves
2 green cayenne chillies, thinly sliced
150g onions, finely chopped
15g garlic, crushed
1 tsp Unroasted Sri Lankan curry powder
1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
125g chopped tomatoes, fresh or from a can
1 tsp lime juice

Peel the beetroot and cut them across into 7-8mm thick slices. Then cut each slice into 7-8mm wide batons.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon and curry leaves and leave to sizzle for a few seconds until the mustard seeds start popping. Add the green chillies, onion and garlic and fry for 5-6 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Stir in the curry powder, chilli powder and turmeric, cook for a few seconds then add the beetroot, tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the beetroot is just tender but still very slightly crunchy. Add a couple of tablespoons of water during cooking if it starts sticking to the base of the pan, but ideally leave it to cook in its own juices.

Uncover, stir in the lime juice and serve.

Pad Thai noodles from the Ghost Gate

Serves 2-3 as part of a Thai meal

Pad Thai Noodles

Pad Thai Noodles

This recipe comes from a slightly macabre part of Bangkok, the Ghost Gate. It’s in Mahachai Road, a gate into the crematorium next to the Wat Skate temple where, traditionally, executed criminals were taken, but so too were lots of ordinary people. Unsurprisingly, at a location where family and friends would gather, food stalls sprang up and now, even though the crematorium has long gone, the best pad thai noodles remain. This dish is originally from China and like so much street food all over Southeast Asia, it is not the cooking of the indigenous population but that of immigrants and itinerant workers, who, as in industrial revolution England, would have had few resources to cook at home. Justifiably, this is one of the most famous Thai dishes, a delicate balance of the soft noodles, the crunch of nuts and bean sprouts, and the yin and yang of sweet, salty, hot and sour flavours. I noticed there that the pad thai seemed a lot redder than other versions – this is simply the addition of sweet chilli sauce, which is why they are often considered sweeter than most other pad thai noodles.

10 large raw unpeeled prawns
3tbsp vegetable oil
175g dried 5mm-wide flat rice noodles (banh pho)
15g garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp crushed dried chillies
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp Tamarind water
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp dried shrimp
1 tbsp Thai preserved radish, chopped (optional)
50g roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
4 spring onions, halved, then finely shredded lengthways
50g fresh bean sprouts
2tbsp roughly chopped coriander
Lime wedges, to serve

 Peel the prawns, reserving the heads and shells. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat, add the prawn heads and shells and fry gently for 2 minutes so the oil takes on the flavour of the prawns. Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve set over a small bowl and press out as much oil as you can with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Drop the noodles into a pan of unsalted boiling water, turn off the heat and leave them to soak for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Drain, rinse with hot water and toss with a few drops of oil to stop the strands sticking together.

Heat the prawn flavoured oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the garlic, crushed dried chillies and prawns and stir fry for 2 minutes until the prawns are just cooked. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir fry for a few seconds until they just start to look scrambled.

Lower the heat, add the noodles, fish sauce, tamarind water, chilli sauce and sugar, and toss together for a few seconds until the noodles are heated through. Add the dried shrimps, preserved radish if using, peanuts, spring onions, bean sprouts and coriander and toss for another minute. Spoon onto warmed plates and serve with the lime wedges.


For more recipes such as Pho Bo (a Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and Geng Leuong Sai Gung Lai Sai Bua, a Thai yellow curry made with prawns and lotus shoots that you won’t find in restaurants, check out Rick’s latest book, Rick Stein’s far eastern odyssey (BBC Books, £25).

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , , ,