Gulai Pakis Recipe

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Gulai Pakis, sometimes gulai paku, is a delicious Indonesian classic dish of fiddlehead ferns cooked in a rich coconut sauce spiced with chiles, galangal, and ginger. Fiddleheads are available in late spring and throughout the summer in gourmet stores or Asian markets. They look like deep green coils and are technically the stage of a fern before its leaves open fully. Select the tender, smaller ones (no more than about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) with the least amount of tail end. The bigger they are, the more fibrous they are.

Fresh or frozen galangal and turmeric can be found in Southeast Asian markets or on the Internet. If you cannot find fiddleheads, substitute yard-long beans or regular green beans, and cut into 2-inch-long pieces.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and minced
  • 1/2 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 ounce galangal, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, root end trimmed, outer leaves and tough green top removed, inner 6-inch-long bulb finely ground
  • 1/2 ounce fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated; or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 4 or more red Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, finely ground
  • 3 candlenuts or macadamia nuts, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Indonesian or Thai shrimp paste
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup or more tamarind extract
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (2 pairs)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fiddleheads, well washed and drained, tail base trimmed
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir-fry the garlic, ginger, galangal, and lemongrass until fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, chiles, ground coriander, cumin, and candlenuts, and stir-fry for 2 minutes more. Add the shrimp paste and stir-fry until 1 to 2 shades darker, about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and tamarind extract, and bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, add the kaffir lime leaves, adjust seasoning with salt, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add the fiddleheads and continue to simmer until they are tender but firm, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with rice on the side and with any grilled fish or meat.

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.
Simon & Schuster