22 April 2012

Asian pesto

Yesterday late afternoon, we made our first trip to the massive Klong Toey market, a huge market right in the middle of Bangkok (off of Rama IV Road) and not far from us. This is a true local market - only a few farangs about - and is a great place to stock up on vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat, fish, curry pastes, household goods, toiletries and many more things. It was a bit intense with the heat, strong odor of durian fruit and tripe and the sight of pig heads, writhing fish and other scenes that weren't exactly vegetarian-friendly (!!!), but we had a great time and stocked up on all kinds of fruits and veggies for a fraction of the price that we would pay in the supermarket.

Among our loot were huge bunches of fresh coriander and mint. Looking at them and a stash of fresh basil leaves (a mix of Thai basil and regular basil) that we had sitting around, I knew that there would be nothing better than a pesto to capture the deliciousness of these fresh herbs. Not just any pesto of course, but one with an "Asian" touch with this particular mixture of herbs and some peanuts. I decided to give it more of a Thai twist by also adding some kaffir lime leaves, a bird's eye chile and Thai garlic instead of regular garlic. We first encountered Thai garlic during our recent Songkran weekend in Chiang Mai, where we took a wonderful vegetarian cooking class (more to come on that soon!). Thai garlic cloves are much smaller than regular garlic cloves, and there's no need to remove the skins. They are commonly used in making fresh curry pastes with a mortar and pestle, and in this case in my pesto.

Try this wonderful pesto, it's different and delicious! And very versatile too...here are some suggestions of how it can be used:
Mix into rice noodles, yakisoba noodles or your pasta of choice for a delicious pasta dish
* Blend with some cream cheese for a tasty dip for crackers or bread
* Use as the base for bruschetta
* Spread onto sandwiches or hamburgers
* Stir a heaping spoon or two into your spring vegetable soups for an Asian touch
* Use as a marinade for strips of seitan, tofu or chicken and grill

Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves and stems
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
4 cloves Thai garlic or 2 cloves regular garlic, peeled
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces (optional)
1 Thai bird's eye chile, chopped
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup water
Salt, to taste

1. Mix the first 8 ingredients (basil leaves to 1 teaspoon vegetable/canola oil) in a food processor until you get a choppy mixture.

2. Blend in the additional 1/4 cup oil and water. Mix until you get a fine paste.

3. Salt, to taste.


  1. This is a very creative way to make pesto. I can't wait to try it!

  2. You're in Bangkok now? You're travels go beyond impressing me. I saw the ingredents for this pesto and immediately though spring roll dipping sauce. Well, more like slather-it-on, have a little bit of spring roll with your sauce, kind of sauce.

  3. Very interesting sounding pesto! I like the fact it has peanuts in it too! I also love the idea of garlic that doesn't have to be peeled. I would like you to buy some for us when you come here - Mom

  4. Thai garlic! I will need to smuggle some home. Love all your ideas on how to use the pesto particularly the dip. Yum. This market (writhing fish and all) is all up my alley!!

  5. This is such a lovely fusion! I want this with some soba noodles!