This past week La and I journeyed to Montreal for a long weekend. It was rainy all weekend, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, eating and drinking our way around the city. Everyone knows the European influence on Montreal is strong, and we situated ourselves right in the middle of the “French Ghetto” (at least this is how it was explained to us by our host). We tended to focus on African and Asian foods, however, almost completely circumventing this omnipresent European influence. We visited the famed Marché Jean-Talon, which was really wonderful–but ended up walking away with several items from nearby groceries that we haven’t seen before in North America: a dried and preserved Algerian beef (thanks for the introduction, pseudoerasmus), fresh Thai green peppercorn (prik thai aun พริกไทยอ่อน), and a flower used in spicy dips and soups in Thailand, dok salid ดอกสลิด or dok kajon ดอกขจร. More on the beef and flowers later. Today we are back in Philly, cooking with fresh green peppercorn, a first time for us in North America.
These were labeled as “legume” from the Marché Orientale St-Denis (just around the corner from the St-Denis exit of the Jean-Talon metro stop).
In Thailand, green peppercorn is most commonly used in stir-fries and curries. When used, it is used in the format above, no chopping or shucking is necessary. The flavor is like grassy-fresh version of black pepper. I should mention that most Southeast Asian-focused markets have a canned version of this in brine. We haven’t had satisfactory results with that in stir-fry cooking. Consistency is too soft.
Tonight we are trying a typical Thai dish, pad prik gaeng gai ผัดพริกแกงไก่ “fried curry paste chicken” or perhaps better known as pad pet gai ผัดเผ็ดไก่ “spicy fried chicken”. We used these green peppercorn, 1-2 tablespoons of red curry paste, about 3/4 lb of chicken cut bit-sized, 2 long green chiles, some fish sauce, some sugar, some torn kaffir lime leaves (see image below).
Finally, we used some frozen krachai rhizome, cut into near matchsticks. This was a key ingredient, worthy of its own post, and detail will come later. For now, here is the label of the bag we used:
UNLESS you bought a container of congealed olive oil and strips of meat (khlea خليع), I think what you got was sheets of sun-dried beef or gueddid كديد not
At a supermarket khlea would look like this
At a souq it would be this :
( though that’s rather touristic, normally it would just be kept in buckets )
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I asked the shopkeeper of the Algerian Market what it was and he said it was dried beef packed in fat. The word “khlea” never came up. He acknowledged its use in Moroccan cooking but said they cook with it differently. He said he just boils it a bit before eating. It certainly looks like the top image. The beef is quite salty. I fried it with some with eggs yesterday and it was pretty good, whatever it was.
But was it pungent ? I’ve heard the Algerian version is salty and mild. In the Moroccan the pungent is more stressed than the salty…
Those fresh green peppercorns look so beautiful. Have you ever tried pickled green peppercorns ? It’s a South Indian thing, rarer in the North.
No, it wasn’t as funky as I thought it might be. It was tasty though, as a salted jerky. I have not tried peppercorns pickled. How are they used, in cooking, or just eaten like that?
I’m catching up on a few your posts, David. Your Thai green peppercorn dish looks amazing, and the peppercorns themselves *are* really beautiful, like little clusters of tiny green grapes. Your photos are quite stunning, too. What kind of camera are you using?
Thanks a lot Wendy! The camera is just my old pocket digital of about 7 years. Nothing fancy. I’m a pretty crummy photographer compared to say, La, but the most important thing I’ve learned is how to use the macro function to take pictures of things very close up. On my camera that function symbol is a little flower.
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Where did you find the krachai? I just hit two Asian markets looking for fresh. It didn’t occur to me to look for frozen.
Hi JBT, I’ve only used frozen krachai. I haven’t seen fresh krachai in the states. I have no complaints about the frozen variety. It isn’t quite as crunchy as fresh after it is thawed, but the flavor is good.