I have to admit I really don’t know how to cook authentic Thai food. I live just a few minutes away from the Richmond district of San Francisco so I have easy access to some of my favorite Thai restaurants, but once in a while I do like to try my hand at it, using the ingredients I have around. (Which happens to include kaffir lime leaves grown by a friend that I keep in the freezer)

This is a great sauce to make a large batch of when you have a busy week coming up; it can be used to make a variety of dishes. Try poured over your favorite protein and veggies and rice, quinoa, or rice noodles, or thinned with a bit of water or broth for the base for soup with spinach, or any leftover vegetables you like. I even poured some over leftover brown rice and microwaved for a few minutes for breakfast one morning.

If you are using rice, start cooking it while you prepare the sauce. I chose to steam my vegetables for this dish, so I got those started at the same time. You could also roast or stir fry your vegetables and tofu/tempeh with a bit of oil, salt, and garlic instead. You want your veggies to be cooked really well for this dish, not al dente, so the sauce can permeate your toppings.

Use the veggies you have on hand or that are your favorite. Here I used cauliflower, pumpkin, mushrooms and tofu. The sweetness of the pumpkin is a wonderful combination with the flavors of the sauce, and the seeds, roasted with a bit of oil and salt, makes for a nice crunchy (and nutrition-packed) topping.

Thai-Inspired Sauce

Ingredients (for approx 5 servings)

1 can light coconut milk

fresh ginger or galangal–a large knob, enough to result in about 2 tablespoons when crushed

2-3 cloves fresh garlic

3-4 scallions

1 fresh chile

2-3 kaffir lime leaves (if you can find them)

1/2- 1 cup fresh herbs, finely minced (any combination of cilantro, basil, mint, lemon grass)

juice from one lime

2 teaspoons turbinado sugar (or maple syrup, or agave)

salt

Directions:

While your rice is steaming and your veggies are cooking, prepare the sauce.

Roughly chop the garlic, ginger or galangal, chile, scallions,and add to a mortar and pestle with a bit of salt. (You can use a food processor for this step as well) Crush the ingredients well, then add the kaffir lime leaves and continue pounding to release their essential oils.

Add these ingredients to a saucepan with the coconut milk, sugar, lemongrass if you are using, and a dash more of salt. Simmer on low/medium low to combine the flavors, but do not bring to a boil. When your rice is steamed, and your vegetables are very tender, add the fresh herbs and lime juice to the sauce and take off the heat. Taste and adjust your seasonings.

For each serving, put a scoop of rice in a bowl, and top with your vegetables and tofu. Pour about 3/4 cup of the sauce on top, sprinkle with additional fresh herbs and roasted pumpkin seeds if you are using, and serve with more lime wedges and hot sauce.

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