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.
1Heat 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.
2Reduce 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