thai me up

scallops with peanut nahm jim 

While I pretty much love all Asian food, the cuisine from the beautiful country formerly known as Siam holds a special place in my heart. Growing up in country NSW, the local Chinese and its deep fried icecream and Australianised menu was my first introduction to something resembling Asian food. And while it did have its own charms (still love a lazy Susan), you can imagine how surprised and thrilled my tastebuds were to discover Thai food when I moved to Sydney for university.

From my first green curry, pad thai and chicken with cashew nuts, I was hooked. So enamoured of these exotic flavours that the very first overseas holiday I ever took was straight to Thailand. And what a holiday it was. Riding elephants and rafting in the north, sweltering and shopping in Bangkok, and beachside relaxing with cocktails on the islands it is still up there as one of my best holidays ever.

My love of Thai food has played a part in my many subsequent visits, but it is not the only drawcard. The Thai people are a gregarious and friendly bunch and it is their generosity and hospitality and cheeky sense of humour that really makes their country such a great place to visit.

Back in Sydney we are blessed with a healthy variety of Thai restaurants. From your posh Thai with Longrain and Sailor’s Thai to the local neighbourhood eateries it’s easy to find decent Thai that suits your budget. And it’s also easy to be reminded of the Thai sense of humour. A quick look at some of the names of Thai restaurants gives an insight into their playfulness. There’s Spice I Am, Thairiffic, Thianatown (located close to regular Chinatown), Take A Seat, Stir Crazy and even Opium Den. But my all time favourite is located on Sydney’s gay central: Oxford St, across from the Lick-her liquor shop and next to the Sax Fetish shop is Thai Me Up. Enough said really….all good things.

a thai seafood dinner
scallops with peanut nahm jim
roast snapper with yellow bean dressing
cucumber salad
steamed jasmine rice
lemongrass  tea

scallops with peanut nahm jim
serves 4 as a starter
Adapted from a recipe by Martin Boetz of Longrain published in the Sunday Life


Nahm jim is a classic nutty Thai sauce. If you can’t get hold of lovely fresh scallops you could substitute in king prawns (shrimp) or even some humble chicken breast.

for the nahm jim:
100g roasted peanuts
100g brown sugar
1 clove garlic
1 large green chilli
1 birdseye chilli
1 coriander root
1T fresh ginger, chopped
150mL lime juice
50mL fish sauce
for the scallops:
8 scallops on the half shell
1T vegetable oil
4 sprigs coriander, leaves picked
1 green onion, cut into long matchsticks
1 large green chilli, cut into long matchsticks
3cm piece ginger, cut into long matchsticks

Combine peanuts, sugar, garlic, chillies, coriander root and ginger in a food processor and whizz until well combined. Stir through lime juice and fish sauce and taste. The mixture should be nutty, sweet and sour. Add more lime juice or fish sauce as required.

Preheat grill to very hot. Remove scallops from the shell and wash shells. Brush scallops with oil on each side. Place empty shells under the grill for 1 minute or until hot. Return a scallop to each shell and cook under the grill for 1 minute each side.

Spoon a little nahm jim over the top of each scallop and then sprinkle with coriander, green onion, chilli and ginger.

roast baby snapper with yellow bean dressing
(pictured pre-roasting)
serves 4
Adapted from a recipe by Martin Boetz of Longrain published in the Sunday Life.

This is a great easy way to cook a whole fish and looks damn impressive served at the table. Just pop it in the oven before you serve the starter and let it cook while you eat.  This makes way more dressing than you need but it will keep for weeks in the fridge. Martin recommends making the dressing in a mortar and pestle but I found the food processor to work pretty well.

for the yellow bean dressing:
3 cloves garlic, peeled
5 red birdseye chillies
2cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2C (125mL) kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1/2C rice wine vinegar
1/2C (125mL) yellow bean (soy bean) paste healthy boy brand*
1/2C (125mL) sugar
for the snapper:
1 snapper, approx 1.5kg cleaned
4 limes
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 5cm lengths
1/2 bunch coriander
2 large red chillies, finely sliced
steamed jasmine rice, to serve**

If you’re feeling traditional, pound the garlic, chilli and ginger in a mortar and pestle until you have a paste or for the more modern minded, whizz in a food processor until finely chopped. Combine paste with remaining sauce ingredients and simmer 5mins. Allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 220C. Slice 2 limes and place in the fish cavity with the lemongrass and half of the coriander. Place fish in an ovenproof dish and pour over 1C of the sauce. Bake 15mins then increase heat to 230C and continue to cook for 10-15mins or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily off the bone. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with pan juices. Sprinkle with remaining coriander leaves only and sliced chilli and serve with limes and rice passed separately.

*note: Yellow bean paste is made from soy beans and tastes pretty much like a rustic miso paste. If you can’t get your hands on Thai yellow bean paste I think miso would make a reasonable substitute. If you try it be sure and let me know how you get on.

**note: for my favourite rice cooking method click HERE and substitute jasmine rice for basmati.

cucumber salad
serves 4 as a side salad
Adapted from David Thompson’s pretty pink tombe: Thai Food.

I have a guilty secret that this is only the second time I’ve cooked something from David’s book. As the only Michelin starred Thai restaurant I would love to visit his Nahm in London. In the mean time I should make more time to cook from his book.  This salad was meant to be served with home dried shrimp but I opted to give this a miss but please feel free to get busy with some shrimp drying if that takes your fancy.

This is a really fresh salad and the lack of oil in the dressing as is common with Thai salads makes it a particularly healthy choice.

1 clove garlic
2 red birds eye chillies
2T lime juice
1T fish sauce
pinch sugar
2 lebanese cucumbers
2 red shallots
large handful coriander, leaves picked
large handful mint, leaves picked

For the dressing pound garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste. Add lime juice and fish sauce and a little sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning until you have a balance between sweet, salty and sour.

Thinly shave cucumber lengthwise using a V-slicer or mandoline or sharp knife. Peel and finely slice shallots. Combine cucumber, shallot and herbs in a large bowl. Dress with dressing and serve immediately.


  • Great menu…and seafood dishes…my favorites. Not sure if you have been to Malaysia…Malaysian food is good too. Hopefully you will discover Malaysian cuisine one day. :)

  • Wonderful!!! I adore the Thai cuisine as well and have made a lot of Thai dishes by now. I hope I’ll find the time to try your recipes.

  • Gorgeous stuff: as ever, stunning pics. I need to know your secrets!
    On the restaurant front, Spice I Am is my favourite. Chef Sujet is a genius. Did you know he’ll be opening a posher place up the road sometime this year?

  • Gorgeous dishes, I especially love the scallops. Thai Food is a wonderful book. I have to admit to feeling a tinge of jealousy towards you Aussies. I get the distinct impression you have much better access to Thai ingredients (and fresh scallops, too) than we do here in Canada. Beyond that, you also have better access to Thailand itself.

  • your photography is utterly inspiring. not to mention these look delish!!! i ad scallops for the first time in years last week and well… let ‘s just say i’m cravin’ this dish! love your blog. so glad to have found you. happy st. patty’s day!

  • ernie
    thanks for the link

    have been to malaysia. love the food there too. I think it’s awesome how you have the chinese and indian influences as well. and of course am a die hard laksa fan

    thanks susan. yeah the cucumber salad gives your tastebuds a nice little rest

    hope you get a chance to give them a go

    it’s all about having good equipment. am a massive spice I am fan too. hadn’t heard about the new venture. will be keeping an eye out for it for sure.

    we are lucky with out proximity to asia but we definitely lack your gorgeous mountains and skiing opportunities

    thanks linda, hope you had a good st patricks day too

  • Hi Jules, I first found your site last week whilst surfing for a recipe and was sooo impressed by the look of your ‘site’ I bookmarked it for future reference. I then noticed a reference to your web site in SMH Good Living. Last night I cooked your Thai Snapper in yellow bean sauce (I used Miso paste as it was in my cupboard), YUM – very easy and very tasty. I am already looking toward to my next attempt, how can you still be Thx Mark B

  • I highly commend you on the presentation of these dishes, especially the scallops. They look absolutely beautiful!! The colours are perfectly balanced just as the flavours seem so perfectly balanced also!

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