Holiday Standbys, Christmas Edition: Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts
Andy Ricker isn’t cooking a traditional Christmas dinner this year. He won’t even be stateside for the holiday, spending it instead in Northern Thailand. That doesn’t mean he won’t be making this dish come the end of December.
“I grew up eating brussels sprouts at the holidays, so this is a no-brainer,” said Ricker, who opened the original Pok Pok in Portland, Ore., in 2005 and now has seven restaurants in Portland and New York City as well as a recently released cookbook.
In Thailand, the dish is made with khanaeng, a local vegetable similar in look and flavor to both brussels sprouts and bok choy. “Imagine a brussels sprout unfurled, with longer leaves,” said Ricker. Otherwise, the recipe is a direct translation of the classic. “If they had brussels sprouts in Thailand," this is how they would cook them, he says.
In his restaurants, Ricker sources the brussels sprouts from local farms and recommends home cooks buy theirs from the farmers market. “This time of year you can get a whole branch of sprouts, making the dish quick, sustainable, and easy,” he says.
To make the stir-fried brussels sprouts, or phat khanaeng, the sprouts are briefly blanched to take off their raw edge, then stir-fried and tossed with a combination of oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy, and white pepper. The Chinese-Thai combination of flavors renders the dish subtly sweet and salty, allowing it to merge seamlessly with a variety of holiday flavors. It's a fitting addition to any holiday table, wherever in the world it may be.
Phat Khanaeng (Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts)
Serves 4 to 6
10 ounces brussels sprouts—bottoms trimmed, outer leaves removed, and sprouts halved lengthwise (about 2 cups)
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons Thai oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon Thai thin soy sauce
Pinch ground white pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove—peeled, halved lengthwise, and lightly crushed into small pieces with a mortar and pestle
4 small fresh Thai chiles, preferably red, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pork stock or water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts, and cook just until they’re no longer raw but still crunchy and bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on their size. Remove the brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon or spider, and drain well. (If you’re not stir-frying them right away, shock them in ice water.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and white pepper.
Heat a wok or large skillet over very high heat. Once hot, add the oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the garlic. Take the pan off the heat, and let the garlic sizzle, stirring often, until it’s fragrant but not colored, about 15 seconds.
Put the pan back on the heat, and add the brussels sprouts and chiles. Stir-fry—constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients—for 30 seconds to infuse the sprouts with the garlic flavor. Add the oyster sauce mixture (plus a splash of water, if necessary, to make sure nothing’s left behind in the bowl), and stir-fry until the brussels sprouts are tender but still crunchy and the liquid in the pan has almost completely evaporated, about 45 seconds.
Add the stock, then add the sugar and stir-fry until the brussels sprouts are tender, with a slight crunch, and the sauce has thickened slightly but is still very liquidy, about 30 seconds. Transfer the vegetables and sauce to a plate in a low mound, and serve.