Eliminating distractions with Thai sauce

Try this: finish a book. Or an entire section of a newspaper. Lately, I catch myself wandering off by the slightest distraction — sometimes it’s an ad or a discount deal neighbouring a newspaper column (yes Porter, your marketing money is being used well). Sometimes I get sidetracked by remembering I can’t forget this thing, and while I reach for my iPod to add it to my reminder list, I also read the items before it and, oh yeah, I meant to tell so-and-so about this cool app I had bookmarked, and as I finish the text message, I don’t even remember the main topic of the article I was reading that set me off on this chase. A thousand years from now, anthropologists are going to see the cause of multiple talents and neuroses in their day by singling out one thing in our generation: attention deficit disorder.

During the holidays, we wish ourselves to rest. We’re just going to take it easy, play it by ear. Take a break from it all.

And then try as we may, there’s the old habit of checking inboxes, updating our statuses, and faster than Santa came down that chimney, we’re just as plugged in as we were before the holidays. Worse, the quietness of things switched off is a little bit unsettling. It’s indicative of their addiction to noise, I can hear those anthropologists theorizing.

Maybe the trick to grabbing and keeping your attention is to eliminate other distractions.

Finishing a book becomes practically an act of self-discipline — just flip page by page, one at a time, and let the reading pace bring you eventually to the back cover. For all the times we’ve “read” a book by scanning chapter headings, and even the way we jump between webpages, it takes so long to read from the top of the page to the bottom. A friend of mine finishes her book by setting aside an hour before bed to read. Part sleep hygiene, part slowing down, her habit is be cumulative but rewarding. If only I had the same discipline!

Last night, I made a Thai sauce that seemed to do what I could not — focus on one subject, and eliminate distractions. With more than five ingredients, the tangy sauce was really the protagonist in the dish. The sauce is where all the zing is, without competing with other flavours like a showdown of chefs, and tumbled over grilled salmon that I didn’t even marinate very much. Served in a setting of coconut steamed rice with roasted asparagus lightly tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper. That should be a straight-forward plot!

Thai salmon with coconut rice recipe (from About.com)

  • 2 to 4 salmon fillets or steaks
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup liquid honey
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (if you’re wondering which one, here’s an elaborate reference)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • zest of one orange
  • 3 or 4 tbsp coconut milk
  • cornstarch
  • Wash and pat-dry the salmon. On medium-high heat, grill the salmon. Don’t turn it over too often because the fish will flake and break. Instead, let each side cook for about 6-8 minutes on medium-high heat, or until the middle is no longer raw.
  • Combine the vinegar, honey, garlic, lemongrass, chili, fish sauce, soy sauces. Set about a 1/4 cup aside for the cornstarch, and bring the remainder to a boil in a saucepan. Lower heat and let the sauce simmer.
  • Add the zest, orange juice and coconut milk to the saucepan.
  • Spoon cornstarch into the sauce set aside, being sure to flatten any cornstarch balls before adding more spoonfuls. Gradually add the cornstarch mixture into the heated sauce, stirring the saucepan constantly.
  • Serve immediately.
  • This dish also goes well with coconut rice, which is simply made with 2 parts coconut milk and 1 part water. We had asparagus to make it a complete meal too, which can either be grilled or roasted in a 370ºF oven for 20 minutes.
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3 Responses to “Eliminating distractions with Thai sauce”

  1. Speaking of sauces… have you tried Umami paste? I got some for Christmas and it is intriguing and delicious, but I am still trying to figure out the best use for it….

  2. Is it the Taste #5 Umami tube? I’ve never tried it, but I imagine you can add it to dishes sparingly like how you would anchovy paste .. only umami has a more versatile flavour.
    It’s supposed to give a real blast of flavour which reminds me of Willy Wonka’s fantasy gum which tastes like a meal in a chew — let me know how you like it!

    • Best use so far is just to toss it with pasta! but it is also good just on a canapé. I see that PC makes it now too!

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