Friday, July 30, 2010

Jeff Corwin

One of my most favorite food shows is Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin. That goes without saying that one of my favorite food personality is of course Jeff Corwin. Jeff was known as an animal conservationist through the programs The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin's Quest on Animal Planet where he is also an executive producer; and Going Wild with Jeff Corwin on the Disney Channel. When he's not busy saving wildlife, he moonlights as food traveler for the Food Network.

Jeff takes us to the farthest reaches of the world looking for the weirdest cuisine and the oddest ways of preparing them. He presents it with humor that makes you love him more than the food he presents. He's travelled to the countryside of England where he fished in the mud searching for eels; to Scotland where he was made to eat Star Gazzy Pie-- a pie made from the heads of the sardines, gills and all; to Mexico for the oddest corn bread recipe and to others like Morocco, Bangkok and New Zealand.

I wish I can tell more about this "papable" Jeff Corwin but all I know about him is what I see on TV. So check out this funny foodie and traveler at The Lifestyle Network (check local listing). Or visit the Food Network website for the in depth information about him. (I don't want to plagiarize!)

Here's one of his favorite recipes:

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum) with Grilled Thai shrimp

Jeff Corwin

Recipe courtesy Jeff Corwin


  • 1 large or 2 medium green papaya (see Cook's Note)
  • 1/2 pound green string beans
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, nam pla
  • 4 tablespoons palm sugar, available in most Mexican, Latin or Asian supermarkets, or substitute brown sugar, or white sugar
  • 2 large carrots (peeled and shredded to the same strip-size as papaya)
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped mint
  • 4 tablespoons dried Thai shrimp, optional
  • 2 to 4 Thai chiles also called prik chiles, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • Jeff's Thai Grilled Shrimp, recipe follows
  • Jasmine sticky rice, or steamed vermicelli rice noodles, optional, as an accompaniment


Peel the papaya (I use a standard vegetable peeler), then slice papaya in half and scoop out black, slippery round seeds and some of the stringy flesh, but be careful not to scoop into good, firm flesh for the salad. Shred the papaya on a mandoline or a box grater. Set aside.

Snip off the tips of the green beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat and add the beans. Cook until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and quickly add the beans to ice water. Cut the beans in half, about 2-inches in length and add them to a large bowl.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar, until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the shredded papaya, green beans and carrots until well coated (I like to use tongs for this). Toss in the cilantro, mint, and dried shrimp. Then mix in the hot chiles, to taste. Let salad stand for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours, covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, mix in most of the crushed peanuts, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish. When serving, mound the salad in center of a plate and sprinkle the remaining peanuts on top. The dish can be served on its own, or with Thai Grilled Shrimp and Thai jasmine or sticky rice, or with steamed vermicelli-rice noodles.

Cook's Notes:

- Green papaya is an unripe papaya, the flesh is very firm, and greenish-white in color (not orange-red, soft and sweet like a ripened papaya). Green papayas are available in most Asian (especially Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese) grocery stores. Check your local Asian shopping center. If you can't find unripe green papaya, you can substitute unripe mango (very hard, woody and sour to the taste or very firm, unripe zucchini, or you could mix the two. If you go with these, follow same directions as with papaya).

- Thai fish sauce (nam pla) is available in most grocery stores. When you first open the container and smell, it may come across as a bit fishy, but trust me, it is often the most important ingredient in S.E. Asian cuisine.

- Peanuts: I prefer to toast my own, it's far easier than it sounds. Heat a large fry pan over high heat for 1 minute, then add whole raw, skinless peanuts. Turn down the heat to medium-low and keep constantly stirring and flipping the peanuts in pan, make sure you don't scorch them, but it is fine for them to get browned little heat (toasted) spots. If you smell acrid-smoke odor, then you are burning them, the aroma should smell almost like fresh peanut butter. Should take around 7 to 10 minutes to cook them. After 7 minutes take a few nuts and let them cool, taste them, if they are crunchy then done, if still a little soft and raw tasting after cooling then toast some more. You can toast a pound in advance and store them in a zip lock bag or glass jar for a couple of months or so. Once you start toasting your own peanuts you'll never buy jarred ones again, but if you don't want to toast your own then you can use unsalted, dry roasted peanuts. For the papaya salad, loosely crush the nuts. I usually do this by placing nuts in a resealable plastic bag or in between a few layers of paper towel. Then roll with a rolling pin or smash with a mallet. Again, loosely crushed, NOT crushed to point of being crumbed or to near peanut butter state.

- Dried shrimp: Some western pallets find this a little too exotic and fishy to the taste, but for me Sum Tum isn't Som Tum without dried shrimp. It you are a wee bit leery about using the dried shrimp then just add a tablespoon or 2, or serve in side dish and let diners add them to their own plates.

- Thai chiles: These are the small, 1-inch long red and green peppers that are VERY hot. If not available you can use jalapeno or habanero peppers. I mince chiles with the seeds. Traditionally Sum Tom or papaya salad is a very spicy dish in Thailand.

Jeff's Thai Grilled Shrimp

For marinade:

  • 1/2 cup Thai sweet chili and garlic sauce (recommended: Mae Ploy now available in most grocery stores)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup ponzu sauce, or substitute the juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Splash Thai fish sauce, nam pla
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 or 5 sprigs mint, leaves removed and finely chopped, or substitute Thai basil
  • Handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 pounds large shrimp

Preheat grill to medium heat.

In a large bowl whisk all the marinade ingredients together. Add the shrimp and let marinate for up to 1 hour. Grill the shrimp 4 to 6 minutes each side until they begin to curl, get pink in color and firm up. Do not over cook or they will get rubbery. Brush the shrimp with the marinade during grilling. Put the remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Cook the marinade for at least 2 minutes and serve it as a sauce on the side. Serve the shrimp with the papaya salad.

Cook's Note:

This marinade/sauce is great with chicken thighs and pork tenderloin. If using chicken or pork then double the marinade recipe, marinate for 4 hours, and grill accordingly.


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