Vegetables in Coconut Milk and Shrimp Paste

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This is a very basic Filipino recipe. I fell in love with coconut milk stews sometime in high school, and I’m still in love. I remember calling my mom a couple of weeks after I got married and asked her how to prepare this, since I had found some lovely hyacinth beans at the Asian store. I could not believe how simple it was, and how delicious! Every newlywed should know how to make this, it’s a lifesaver. You can use it for just about any vegetable there is, and you can also add things like fish or shrimp. If you don’t know what bagoong is and don’t really want to learn, don’t worry. You can always use salt or fish sauce.

1 can coconut milk
2 inches gingerroot, peeled and crushed (or minced)
5 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled (minced if desired)
1-2 tablespoons shrimp paste, or 1/2 teaspoon salt, or 2 tablespoons fish sauce
Thai peppers if you like things hot — I sometimes prepare half the dish in one pot and half in another, and I put the hot peppers in MY POT :D. Serranos or jalapeƱos will also work here.

Veggies, cut up — for instance:
1 pound green beans or yard long beans or other podded bean, cut into 2 inch pieces
1-2 pounds winter squash like butternut or acorn, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
okra or eggplant will work too
3 bunches spinach, kale, Swiss chard — all of these will work
Stuffed leaves (the aforementioned spinach, kale, or chard — with shrimp, or chicken, or a combo of pork and shrimp, or some smoked fish)

any or all of the above, in combo, will definitely work — if cooking large amounts you might want to double the coconut milk and other ingredients so you don’t end up with a dry stew. Although, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In some regions in the Philippines that’s exactly what they do — let the whole thing dry up a bit and allow the fat from the coconut milk to be released. Yummy either way.

You can also add things like cut up cooked pork (or increase cooking time if using raw pork), or raw shrimp — peeled or unpeeled, doesn’t matter. Fish pieces will also work, just watch that they don’t overcook and break apart. And of course, you can make it an exclusively meat dish — pork cubes with some fat in them will work perfectly, as will chicken thighs, boneless or not. If you want extra tanginess sprinkle in a few tablespoons of vinegar or lime juice.

The method is fail-safe — dump everything into the pot, bring to a boil, bring down to a simmer immediately, cover and let cook until veggies (and/or meat) are done, stirring occasionally. If using a combo of meat and veggies, cook the meat first, then add the veggies the last 10 minutes or so, so they don’t get mushy.

If you’re using hot peppers but don’t want the final dish to be too spicy, you can add the peppers during the last 10 minutes or cooking, and taste every few minutes or so. Take out the peppers when you’ve reached the level of heat you want.

So delicious over hot rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro if you like.

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