Okay, so you won’t get any points from the 100-mile diet club with this recipe, since okra is grown in the South and the shrimp I got in Chinatown was caught or farmed probably in… the South. But you will have enjoyed a classic southern combination while satisfying your craving for spicy Thai basil stir-fry. Which is a gastronomic feat of very trifling importance bordering on nonsense. It’s Friday…
I’ve found that fresh and spicy Thai basil stir-fry dishes are easy to prepare once you have a few spices on hand: fresh chilli peppers (I used jalapeno because it was on hand; serrano would be good as well), a lime, some ginger, garlic, scallions and, of course, basil. The secret is not to use too much of any one spice (like the chillies), so that when combined, they create a harmonized whole. A dash of fish sauce is a welcome addition if you want to get a smack of pungent flavor. I did have a bottle of it around, but somehow forgot to use it in the cooking process; in the end, I didn’t miss it too much.
I substituted wild garlic stems (which taste similar to chives) for scallions since I’d plucked a bunch of them while foraging
Thai Basil Shrimp ‘n Okra
(makes 2 servings)
1/2 – 3/4 lb medium to large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup okra, fresh or frozen and thawed, sliced to 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp finely minced ginger
1 Tb finely sliced chilli peppers
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
1-2 scallions, finely sliced
4-6 basil leaves
1 tsp sugar
1 Tb fish sauce (optional – or substitute with water)
juice of 1 lime (about 1-2 Tb)
2 Tb oil
Salt and pepper
After shrimp are peeled and de-veined, season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and let marinate while you chop and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Combine fish sauce (or water) with sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet with minced garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add chili peppers. Add shrimp and let cook on one side for a minute or so. Add okra and stir everything. Add scallions, lime juice, and fish sauce/water with sugar and stir thoroughly. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Finally, stir in basil and serve immediately over rice.
(for 2 servings)
1/2 lb shrimp (at $4.50/lb): $2.25
1 cup okra (frozen): $1.00
1 jalapeno: $0.25
1 lime (at 5/$1): $0.20
1 tsp minced ginger: $0.15
1/2 tsp minced garlic: $0.05
2 wild garlic shoots (foraged): $0
5 basil leaves (from my plant): $0.30
sugar, salt, pepper, oil: $0.15
Five brownie points: Shrimp and other shellfish have enjoyed no great comeback in recent years after being chastised for their relatively high cholesterol. But they’re a delicious indulgence, and when eaten in moderation, in decidedly light dishes like stir-fries, they can do you no more harm than a few egg yolks. Okra is a great partner for this dish since it carries an abundance of vitamins like A, C, Iron and Calcium.