It’s so simple and so good, you will soon be dreaming up other ways to enjoy this delicious stir-fried dish. Thais love this pairing of plump pink shrimp with rustic chili sauce and fresh herbs. Another classic version uses hoi lai, a delicate little clam with a thin, beige shell sporting a chocolate-colored herringbone design. In Thailand, market vendors offer “kits” to remind you how quick and easy this dish is: Dozens of tall clear-plastic sacks, each brimming with a kilo of clams topped off with a flourish of fresh basil and a red chee fah chili or two. I have made this with Manila clams, using an extra half-pound to allow for the weight of the shells. Try it with scallops, strips of beef, or chunks of chicken as well. Use fresh mint or cilantro if you do not have fresh basil, or a handful of thinly sliced green onion in lieu of mint.
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or a wok over medium-high heat until a bit of garlic sizzles at once. Add the garlic and toss well until fragrant. Add the shrimp and toss until they turn pink.
Add the roasted chili paste, fish sauce, water, and sugar, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are cooked through and coated with sauce. Add the basil leaves, if using, and toss well. Turn out onto a serving platter, garnish with the red chilies, if using, and serve hot or warm.
© 2004 All rights reserved. Published by Chronicle Books.