Thai food in the dark!

Dinner last night was quite an adventure. Just before people started arriving (there were only three guests) the power went out and we had to come up with a plan B just in case it didn’t come back on for a while.

A few years ago when we had a power outage Dennis and I decided it was time to purchase a barbecue that had a side burner in case we were ever in the position of having to live through an extended power outage. When the power first went off yesterday, I was thinking we’d have to cancel dinner and go to one of our favourite little restaurants, but then I thought about it and decided the barbecue was there and we could continue our plan with a twist. We changed the menu a bit but stuck with the original theme.

I had decided earlier on in the week that this week’s theme was going to be Thai food. We have a friend from Malaysia who comes to visit each year and one year he showed up with two cookbooks, one from Thailand and another from Malaysia. I have loved everything I’ve made from these cookbooks so I thought we’d try some new ones.

In North Vancouver we have a little Asian shop down at Lonsdale Quay called the “Pepper pot” where you can get most of the things you would need for any kind of Asian meal. I headed down to this shop in the afternoon to purchase some ingredients for dinner. When I got to the checkout, the lady asked me what I was making and I told her a fish curry. She looked at my selection of items and told me the dish would not have much flavour without some herbs so she fished under the counter and gave me some Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, Thai coriander and a few red peppers. She said if I added these to the dish the meal would be wonderful. Of course I thanked her profusely and headed along to the fish shop to complete the shopping for dinner.

Here are some photos of the herbs in case you have not seen them before. I do use kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and red peppers in most of my Thai cooking but I’m not sure I have used Thai basil. After this dish (which was amazing) I’ll be using it more often.

thai basilkaffir lime leaves

Thai basil                                                                Kaffir lime leaves

thai corrianderred pepper

Thai Coriander                                                     Red Pepper

I had just started to make the coconut curry on the stove before the power went off so we had a bit of a head start.    The rice was sitting in the pot with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves waiting to be started and I had chopped a variety of vegetables up earlier in the afternoon ready to use.    The one thing about Asian cooking is its much better to prepare everything in advance, including measuring out the ingredients and chopping vegetables.  The dishes we were making for dinner last night are very quick to cook but it takes s a few minutes to chop and measure.

My niece Gillian and her friend Chris were guests last night.  Gillian was in charge of appies and boy did she deliver.  When they arrived there was not a light to be seen (except for our candles and lamps) from the bottom of Seymour Parkway through to Deep Cove.  We had put a few lit candles outside so at least they knew we were home but other than that it was a bit of a challenge navigating their way to our front door.    Mom didn’t arrive until after 6:30 and to be honest I was beginning to get worried something had happened to her.  As it turns out, she missed the turn to our street and ended up having to back track her way to our place.  I wasn’t out driving but both Gillian and Mom said it looks very different without any lights when they were driving to our house.  There’s a gas station a couple of blocks a way that is the usual signal that you’re close but with everything in the black I can imagine it was very strange trying to get positioned where you are.

Back to dinner.

I took two foil roasting pans and put the coconut curry in one of them and some coconut oil, garlic and onions in the other.   We started off sautéing the onions and garlic until they were soft, added the stalks of gai lan(chinese broccoli) and carrots and continued cooking for 3 minutes.  Originally we were going to have a bean stir fry and vegetable stir fry but because of the power outage I decided to do just one vegetable dish.  Once the carrots and gai lan had softened a bit, I added some shitake mushrooms and the leafy portion of the gai lang.  The sauce for the vegetables consisted of 2 kaffir lime leaves chopped, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce.   I poured the sauce onto the vegetables and continued cooking for about 2 more minutes.

Julia chopping lemongrass in the dark

It’s hard to see but Julia is using the lights on her hat to see so she can cut some lemon grass to put in the stir fry vegetables.  We have a really good flash on the camera but it is quite dark in the kitchen.

The fish curry was just as easy as the vegetables.   This is the recipe using a stove not the barbecue.

Coconut fish curry

  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk (I just use a can)
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai curry paste (I used red curry paste which is medium heat)
  • 1 stalk fresh lemon grass, bruised (or ½ tsp. dried lemon grass, soaked in hot water ‘til soft)
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 large green (unripe) mango, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 1 lb. firm fish fillets but into 2 inch cubes (I used snapper)
  • ½ lb prawns (uncooked)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut vinegar
  • 2 oz fresh coriander leaves
  • 2 oz fresh Thai basil


  1. Place coconut milk, curry paste, lemon grass and lime leaves in a saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add mango and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add fish, prawns, sugar and fish sauce and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until fish is cooked.
  3. Add Thai basil and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in vinegar and coriander and serve.

Because there was no way to heat any serving dishes, we just put the foil pans on heat pads and served ourselves.

Dinner served after barbecuing in the dark

This is definitely a dish you can serve to guests.  It was delicious and as I mentioned earlier, it does not take long to cook.   Under normal circumstances it would take less than 15 minutes to put together once you have chopped up and measured all of the ingredients.   The flavours are wonderful and well worth the effort.

Mom came over with a coconut milk custard and some fresh blueberries for dessert.  I think I mentioned before that mom loves her sweets so along with the berries and custard she brought some hazelnut crunch to top it off.   We had to boil a pot of hot water on the barbecue for tea and the dinner was complete.

The power did come on for about a minute around 9pm but then it died again only to come back on for good around 11pm.   It was a very enjoyable evening in the dark surrounded by burning candles and wonderful company.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our Sunday Night Dinner at Julia’s Place and I hope you’ll come back and visit us next week.


About Julia

I am an RHN who's passionate about helping people live their best lives. My focus is on body mind and spirit and I guide people on work life balance and holistic nutrition. Join me as I wind my way through this wonderful world we live in.
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