17 July 2012

Southwestern risotto

It's hard to believe that it's been almost 6 months since we made the big move from Paris to Bangkok. We're pretty much all settled in, loving our apartment and neighborhood, meetings lots of nice people, enjoying work and relishing the heat and sunshine (though we're technically at the beginning of the rainy season now, we only have quick afternoon showers and an occasional all-out downpour). Needless to say, we've been feeling uber-stimulated when it comes to food, discovering the full range and deliciousness of Thai food from its street food to fine dining incarnations. I admittedly haven't posted that many Thai recipes since moving here, but rest assured that this is only because I'm in a learning phase, absorbing all kinds of new flavors and dishes to share with you soon!

One of the interesting things about life here is that even though most people LOVE to eat, they don't cook very much. It's much cheaper and more convenient to eat on the street as I've mentioned before, and in addition many apartments and condos in Bangkok aren't equipped with proper kitchens. Ours is though (of course!) and when we recently hosted our first dinner party here, people seemed to be amazed at how stocked our fridge and pantry are, how many kitchen gadgets we have and how we actually cook proper meals on a regular basis (though we do eat out much more here than we did in Paris - for the obvious reasons).

I was thinking about this recently when I was standing behind a hot stove stirring this risotto...who in Bangkok actually MAKES risotto (especially knowing that there's something like 300+ Italian restaurants here, many of them quite good)??? I'm sure there are some who do, but I can guarantee that many more would if they knew how delicious and satisfying a homemade risotto can be...especially this one! It has a decidedly "Southwestern" U.S. or Tex-Mex flavor with corn, red bell pepper, pickled jalapenos and pepper jack cheese. Any of these ingredients can be substituted or omitted if you can't find them where you are, though here "exotic" ingredients like the jalapenos and the pepper jack cheese can easily be found at expat-oriented supermarkets, luckily. I initially balked at the price of arborio rice here, but then Luis suggested that Japanese sushi rice might work just as well for risotto...and it certainly does!

Serves 4-6

tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (I used red onion, any kind will do)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn kernels
1 1/2 cups arborio or sushi rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 cups warm vegetable broth (or 8 cups warm water with 2 vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in it)
1/3 cup pickled jalapenos
1-2 tablespoons whipping cream, half & half or light creme fraiche (optional)
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
2-3 tablespoons shredded pepper jack or other cheese of your choice

1. In a large pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent.

2. Add the corn kernels and mix well. Saute for a couple of minutes more and then add the rice. Stir well and cook until it is just beginning to toast.

3. Pour in the wine and stir well.

4. Once the wine has just about evaporated, pour in about half a cup of broth. Stir constantly until the broth is almost all absorbed and then continue adding broth half a cup at a time and stirring. The entire cooking process should take about 20-25 minutes, depending on your stove.

5. When the risotto has almost finished cooking, add the jalapenos and the whipping cream/half & half/ creme fraiche (if using). Stir well.

6. Remove from heat and serve garnished with fresh coriander and cheese.


  1. Glad you are settling into your new life and still cooking! I have never made risotto, and really never had it that I loved.... but I love all the flavors you have here, I might have to give it a try!

  2. What a change in culture! Very interesting that it's cheaper to eat street food than cook. I love street food when I can find it, but it's not common here in the southwest so it's still cheaper to cook than eat out. I do love your fusion of Italian and southwest in your risotto! I'll have to try it because I love anything spicy!