One of my favourite things to do when I'm home in Kerala is to trawl through mum's cookbook collection, usually much to her dismay. She is territorial about her cookbooks the way lionesses are about their cubs. She hovers close by, getting impatient by the minute, while I try to ignore her and find an interesting read to see me through my vacation. This time, she gave me a few minutes alone with her books and I almost whipped out my phone to Instagram it, and then chickened out. I would have made for a terrible spy.
We drove down to Cochin a few days ago, and although it took us 12 hours we went prepared — I made Nigel Slater's banana bread, and salsa for the several bags of Doritos mum had picked up for the road. Can we talk about how exciting it is that Doritos is now available in India?! Foodhall stocks the imported version, but it's usually stale and just makes you more sad about whatever it is that you were sad about and made you spend Rs. 500 on a bag of chips in the first place.
Now that we're back home, I've slipped back into my old routine, and it's almost like I never left. I wake up at 7, curse myself for the nth time for not bothering to pack my aeropress, drink tea instead, and then sit down to work for a few hours. After breakfast, mum and I usually get into the kitchen to cook and we're there until lunchtime, trying recipes out for the blog, or just for the heck of it. After lunch, it's nap time because when in Rome..., after which we sit outside for an hour or so, pretending to read while swatting mosquitos. At about 7, we start prepping for dinner — I'm trying very hard to bring back soup dinners, and my parents are obliging, albeit a little reluctantly. After dinner, we watch Jamie's Super Food, which on a good day, is followed by Simply Nigella.
One of the first things we tried out when we got back from Cochin is a Thai kabocha and egg dish called phat fak thong sai khai. It comes together in 20 minutes, and besides cutting the kabocha, is also relatively hands-free. I found the recipe in one of mums cookbooks, and tried it out more out of curiosity than anything else. I've never eaten squash with eggs, and it sounded like one those dishes you're either going to love or hate (spoiler: I loved it). The dish is really subtle even though it uses a whole tablespoon of fish sauce and smells like a fish market while cooking. The kabocha, which is also called Japanese pumpkin, is a sweeter, less stringier, less moisture-filled sibling of the regular pumpkin and when cooked, it's earthiness comes to the forefront. The texture — one stop away from mush, makes it a perfect topping for toast — the new and improved avocado toast, if you will. If there's a Thai person reading this and rolling their eyes, I apologise. I should mention that this is typically eaten with rice or something called rice soup, which really sounds like the best of both worlds, doesn't it? But, if you find that you wake up one morning wanting a pick-me up with your toast, I'm sure the culture police will not mind.
Notes: If you'd like a little zing, top with chilli flakes, although to be honest, it's flavourful enough without it. We've added some here simply because it photographs better.
We also discovered that it tastes delicious with a dash of chilli jam. This is a common condiment in Thai cooking — you can buy it from a well-stocked supermarket, or even make some at home.
We've added 1 tbsp of fish sauce here. Each brand however, has a different intensity, so start with 1/2 tbsp, taste, and add more if needed.
For a vegetarian option, use soy sauce and if you have it, a vegetarian oyster sauce made from mushrooms.
Stir-Fried Kobacha with Eggs
Barely adapted from Simple Thai Food
250 g kabocha, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, miced
1 tbsp fish sauce*
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
chilli flakes (optional)
Heat oil in a skillet over medium flame. Add the garlic, and fry until fragrant.
Add the kabocha, the two sauces and enough water to just about cover the surface of the kabocha.
Cover and cook until the kabocha becomes soft, about 15-20 minutes. Remove lid and cook for a few more minutes until the water evaporates.
Make a well in the centre of the skillet and pour the eggs into it. Scramble for a minute until set, and then mix together with the kabocha.
Turn off flame, add chilli flakes and serve warm.