Skinner’s Vietnamese Stew

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“Team Homer,” Season 7, episode 12

Guess what! I’m on a podcast. And not just any old podcast, I’m on Everything’s Coming Up Simpsons! Find it where ever you listen to podcasts. On your phone, probably.

If you’ve never listened before (WHY?), each episode Allie and Julia talk to a guest about a favorite Simpsons episode. I chose “Team Homer” from season 7, and I thought I’d make a little grub to go along with it. So here we go, ya wieners.

Bart picks up a special issue of MAD Magazine (“those magazines create a dangerous amount of laughter”) and Homer heads to Moe’s. Business is slow so they close up shop (just before a bunch of Quimbys show up) and head to the bowling alley. It’s league night and they can’t get a lane, so they form a makeshift team with Apu and Otto. But! They don’t have the $500 entry fee.

Cut to Homer and Marge in bed, and Marge replying “no I will not pay you $500 for sex!” Nice try, Homer. At work, he asks Mr. Burns to sponsor his team. Monty is so hopped up on ether that he hallucinates that Homer is Poppin’ Fresh and writes him a check on the spot. Then Hans Moleman gets his head drilled (“oh no my brains”).

Back at school, Bart wears a “down with homework” t-shirt and causes total chaos. A good review by Superintendent Chalmers is foiled when kids run through the school in rebellion. Bart ends up in Skinner’s office and gets a lecture shirtless. Skinner has a Vietnam flashback which ends with him reminiscing about a special dish he ate while in a POW camp. More on that in a moment.

The school instates uniforms and Bart and Lisa complain to Marge, telling her the uniforms suck. As Marge wonders where Bart got that language from, we hear Homer on the phone saying suck over and over. Marge chastises him, and Homer says into the phone “I gotta go my damn wiener kids are listening.” Gets me every time. Now in uniform, the school kids become creepily subservient and zombie-like (“now it is you that is it”). Just before Chalmers can give them a good review again, it starts to rain and the uniforms run, revealing psychedelic colors. The kids lose their freaking minds and all is normal again.

Homer’s team, the Pin Pals, has their first league night wearing sad homemade shirts. They play the Channel 6 Wastelanders, and after supportively cheering each other on, they manage a win. Everything’s great until Mr. Burns, now sober, finds the check (for bowling, not boweling). He shows up to confront Homer and ends up joining the team. He’s terrible and Moe and Apu want to kick him off, but Homer can’t work up the courage to confront his boss. Plus, Monty is being nice for once, even if he leaves a fingernail in Homer’s beer (that’s leprosy for you).

It’s time for the championship game, and after we watch Homer try to flush an Oscar down the toilet, the Pin Pals are up against The Holy Rollers. They almost eject Monty from the team, but he gets them all super cool bowling shirts and they decide friendship is more important. At one point during the game, Monty’s ball is so slow going down the lane that the entire opposing team bowls strikes before his turn ends. Somehow they still manage to win after Otto breaks the claw machine and rattles a couple of pins over, finally getting his lobster harmonica. Mr. Burns quickly turns back into his nefarious self and takes the trophy. “Some people never change. Or, they quickly change and then quickly change back again.”

Before we get to the recipe, here’s the dish Skinner describes from his time in the Mekong Delta: A thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk, and four kinds of rice. I came close to madness trying to find it here in the states but they just can’t get the spices right.

I consulted the cookbooks of the great Andrea Nguyen when researching this recipe. And while Skinner doesn’t seem to describe a specific dish, I decided it was most likely a seafood curry (coconut milk and spices) served over rice. I got lucky and found a Thai wild rice blend with four kinds of rice, but feel free to cook just one kind or even serve this with rice noodles. Make sure you use a Vietnamese or Madras curry powder and good fish sauce. The curry is a little creamy, spicy, sweet, savory, and tart—the magical combination of flavors that make Vietnamese food so delish. No wonder Skinner has been dreaming about it all these years.

Skinner’s Vietnamese Seafood Curry
Serves 4-5

For the rice:
1 1/2 cups Thai wild rice (a mix of black, red, brown, and white rice)
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the curry:
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, roughly chopped
1 (1 to 2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons oil
4 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
About 6-8 medium baby bok choy, ends trimmed and leaves separated
1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 pound peeled, de-veined, tail-on shrimp
1-2 fresh limes

  1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, add the lemongrass and ginger to a food processor or blender. Pulse 4 or 5 times to chop. Add the onion, garlic, and curry powder. Process until a fragrant yellow paste is formed, scraping down the sides as needed.
  3. Heat the oil over medium in a heavy-bottom pot.
  4. Add the curry-onion paste and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, or until the raw smell is gone.
  5. Add the carrots and stir. Add the coconut milk and water and turn the heat up to medium-high. Once simmering, lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the fish sauce and bok choy and stir. Cover and simmer for a few minutes, or just until the greens are wilted. Add a little more water if needed.
  7. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and add to the curry. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and stir and cook just until the shrimp and fish are opaque and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve with the rice and a big wedge of lime.

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