Taro originated in the Bay of Bengal area of South East Asia and was carried to the east with trade. The furthest it travelled was to the Polynesian islands over 2500 years ago where it is a staple starch in the cuisine. Taro is popular as it is an easy crop to grow in moist climates, growing in fields that are similar to rice paddy fields. It is also popular in Africa where it is pounded into a starchy paste.
I adapted the presentation of this dish to a more contemporary style. The flavours are however the same and bright. The sauce is bright and pops with Thai flavours, chilli and tamarind. I also chose to roast the taro rather than fry them as in the original recipe. The result is a lovely dish, simple to make and bright with flavours.
This is a thin cookbook, filled with vegan recipes that are outstanding. Super simple recipes from traditional salads, fried foods, noodles and curries, like this one, make this my go-to cookbook for vegetarian Thai cuisine. Vatch, as he is known, has published several cookbooks, runs some excellent restaurants around the world and teaches Thai cooking at his school.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the taro:
10-12 small taro, peeled
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons oil
For the chilli sauce:
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-5 red chillies, chopped, or to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/2 cup water
1/2 sweet red pepper, finely diced
In a small wok or pot heat the oil on medium heat and fry the garlic and chilli till the garlic is lightly golden about 3 minutes. add the rest of the ingredients for the chilli sauce and cook till the red pepper is very soft.
Cool and add the mix to a small blender with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Purèe to a smooth sauce.
Put the sauce back in the same pan and cook on low heat till the sauce is thick and the oil begins to glisten on the surface. Taste for salt and spice. The sauce should be bold. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 375° F.
Toss the spelt taro with the flour, salt, pepper, and oil to coat well. Layer them on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes till the outside is crisp and the inside is soft. As a note, you can prep these ahead of time. To crisp them again, pop them in the oven for 4-5 minutes again.
Heat the sauce and spread it out on a shallow plate. Dot the roasted taro on the sauce. Serve immediately.