Cooking Class: Hurricane Scallops at Thai Tamarind
Cooking Class visits the kitchens of area restaurants, whose chefs share their popular recipes.
Growing up in the restaurant business in Thailand made opening an eatery here a natural choice for Panchiwan Tangkea, who moved to the Pittsburgh area 13 years ago.
She worked at her sister’s restaurant, The Red Orchid in the North Hills, but when Thai Tamarind in Bellevue went up for sale, Tangkea seized the opportunity to strike out on her own.
She and her business partner, chef Ken Suksawatnamchok, assumed ownership in August 2015 and made big changes in menu and decor.
“Everything we serve is authentic Thai,” Tangkea says of the curries and other classics Suksawatnamchok prepares, such as Tom Yum (lemongrass) soup, Yum Woonsen seafood salad, Prig Khing fried rice, and Pad Thai, the stir-fried rice-noodle dish served as street food in their native homeland.
“You can tell a good Thai restaurant by its Pad Thai,” Tangkea says. “A good chef will know how to cook the noodles so they’re not sticky or chewy, and the sauce isn’t too ‘liquidy.’ The sauce should accentuate the noodles.”
The hallmark of Thai cuisine is its complexity of flavors with sweet, spicy and sour often delicately balanced in the same dish, Tangkea says. “People who haven’t had authentic Thai food think it’s just spicy noodles and soups. But it’s much more than that.”
Appetizers include chicken satay, crab rangoon, plus spring rolls and rice-wraps with a variety of fillings. “Thai spring rolls are lighter, crispier and more flavorful than Chinese egg rolls,” she says. “They’re not as greasy.”
Entrees include clay pot shrimp, soft-shell crab in green curry sauce, grilled shrimp and scallops, and steak teriyaki. Several selections, such as A-Ge tofu and eggplant tempura, are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.
Curries are synonymous with Thai cuisine, and Thai Tamarind prepares the full range, including the rich, mild massaman, spicy red and green curries and panang curry, which has a peanut flavor. Curries are made from a paste of various ingredients, such as dried red chile peppers, kaffir lime peel, lemongrass, garlic, galanga and shrimp; they are cooked to a creamy consistency in coconut milk and served with steamed rice.
Thai Tamarind also features big-bowl rice-noodle soups with seafood, pork, duck, beef or chicken, and stir-fried rice noodles in dishes like Pad Kee-Mao, a spicy concoction of basil, bamboo and bell peppers, flavored with chile paste.
The restaurant seats 26 upstairs and eight outside. A downstairs room can accommodate overflow, as well as private parties for up to 30. The decor is eclectic, with its ornate tin ceiling, pendant lighting, hardwood floors, assorted antiques and Thai statuary.
“We didn’t want this to look like every other Thai restaurant,” Tangkea says. “We want it to be warm and homey.”
Deborah Weisberg is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Chef Ken Suksawatnamchok considers Hurricane Scallops his signature recipe. With its array of vegetables, this dish is as pleasing to the eye as it is tasty, Tangkea says. “Presentation helps the customer feel good even before starting his meal.”
The tempura flour, which is light, low-gluten flour, can be purchased at Asian markets. Adding ice cubes to the flour and water makes the flour more elastic.
10 1⁄2 cups water, divided
10-12 broccoli florets, steamed
10-12 zucchini pieces, steamed
10-12 canned baby ears of corn, steamed
10-12 bite-size cabbage pieces, steamed
16-20 carrot slices, steamed
16-20 canned mushroom slices, steamed
4 to 5 cups oil, for deep frying
1 cup tempura flour
3 ice cubes
4 slices of eggplant
10-12 sea scallops (size U/10)
Green Curry Sauce (see recipe)
White or brown rice, cooked
Bring 10 cups of the water to boil over high heat. Add the vegetables, except for eggplant, and cook for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep pan or deep fyer. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the tempura flour with 1⁄2 cup of water and 3 ice cubes. Dredge the eggplant slices in this mixture and then deep-fry for 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
In the same hot water used for the vegetables, boil the scallops for 1 minute. Remove from the water. Heat a lightly oiled grill on medium heat. Grill the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until browned.
Divide the steamed vegetables and scallops between two serving plates. Add the fried eggplant and season with the green curry sauce.
Serve with white or brown rice.
Makes 2 servings.
Green Curry Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1⁄2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chicken-flavored broth mix
2 to 3 lime leaves
Heat the vegetable oil and green curry paste in a small pan over medium heat until just smoking. Add the coconut milk and 1⁄2 cup water and cook slowly, stirring constantly until mixture returns to a thick paste. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.