Jane Teague’s Alaskan Adventures
On a trip home to Australia a few years back I had the pleasure of meeting Malaysian born Latasha Menon. She had come to my brother’s home to offer him an Asian cooking class, a gift to my brother from my sister. After an afternoon of cooking my brother’s home smelled wonderful and a large group of friends piled in through the door to celebrate the delicious dishes Latasha had instructed Mat how to cook.
Before the feast, however there was time for me to get to know Latasha and share some of our life stories. Malaysia was her original home and that of her husbands, but her parents had originally come from Kerala in Southern India. Her husband added another culture to the mix with Sri Lankan heritage. These flavors were reflected in her dishes and we were none the poorer for the distinct styles and flavors she blended so carefully.
Latasha had been on a cruise to Alaska so she was excited to talk about my life there. She was also taking her life in a new direction by making spice pastes to sell to people wanting to recreate her signature dishes in their homes. Her spice pastes are so flavorful and her recipes so guaranteed for success that I make a point of bringing her pastes back to Alaska with me on each trip to Australia. I also happily occasionally get a present in the mail from my brother in the form of a few jars of Latasha’s paste. Bear, moose caribou, halibut, shrimp and salmon all get a makeover with her fabulous blends of wet pastes.
My Alaskan kitchen is somewhat unusual for the large amounts of spices and condiments I keep. The ingredients I have, are carefully sourced and purchased in Anchorage on a yearly trip to the big city. Of course some spices ship from favorite companies such as Amazon, but ingredients such a kaffir lime, leaves, curry leaves and even pork belly come from Asian markets in Anchorage. I then freeze them to use year round. I know quality spice pastes like Latasha’s are not readily available in Alaska, but I would encourage the lovers of spice to experiment with pastes they may be able to purchase on the internet or from an Asian market in Anchorage. Fairbanks has recently opened an Asian super market and there is a Korean store there too. Safeway in Fairbanks, a supermarket, does a good job of offering some more exotic items in their produce department. Often one can find Thai eggplant, lemongrass and bok choy. Some of these ingredients can amount to a king’s ransom, but who can put a price on authentic cooking?
The recipe below uses Latasha’s Homestyle Seafood Curry Paste, which has a tangy tamarind flavor to it. In this recipe I use the sweet, large shrimp we are lucky to harvest in Alaska. However, halibut works nicely with this recipe too, being robust enough to stay together in a curry.
Sadly, there are some years when our freezer does not contain Alaskan shrimp. When we do harvest them we travel to either Wrangell in South East Alaska or Valdez. Time constraints and timing tend to dictate when we have these rich sea foods available to us. Without our own boat we need to team up with friends to harvest the shrimp. Some years it just doesn’t pan out.
When it does my daughter and I enjoy watching Dan work a shrimp rig. The man is a powerhouse of strength and the precision timing it takes to set the pots and then wind them back in is almost mesmeric to watch. His ropes are neatly coiled and he tosses the huge heavy pot into the boat as if it were a child’s play thing. Not one precious shrimp is lost and with his eye on the depth the pot often comes up full.
So if you can find fat shrimp try this delightful curry and if you are in Australia try Latasha’s pastes. You won’t be disappointed. If you live further North a small amount of spice paste can elevate a dish from mediocre to extraordinary. Thanks to Latasha for her pastes, but also her kind permission to reproduce her recipes.
Latasha’s Kitchen Homestyle Curry
- 1 kilo Alaskan shrimp
- 2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seed, softened with warm water
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 2 tomatoes sliced
- ½ jar of Latasha’s Kitchen Homestyle Seafood Curry Paste
- ½ cup of water
- Salt to taste
- 1 green, 1 red chili slit lengthways
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- Optional vegetables include 2 pieces of okra, 1 small long eggplant
- Fresh coriander or curry leaves
- Lemon or lime juice
- Coat shrimp in turmeric powder and salt and leave aside for about ½ hour in the fridge. Shallow pan fry when ready.
- Heat some oil in a wok and when oil is fairly hot add mustard seeds to splutter and crack open, then add curry leaves and the sliced tomatoes.
- Lower heat and add ½ jar of Latasha’s Homestyle Seafood curry paste (or a paste sourced in the Northern Hemisphere). Stir continually for 5 minutes
- Add ½ cup of water followed by the sliced green and red chilies and the fenugreek with its water. Cook for a further 5 minutes before adding any other optional vegetables along with the coconut milk. Simmer until the vegetable are cooked.
- Add the just cooked pan fried shrimp and simmer until the oil appears on the top of the curry.
- Add citrus juice, garnish with coriander and serve with rice on the side.