Let’s Lunch! – Thai Green Curry

Well, Hello There. It’s been a while hasn’t it? All this holiday travelling, feasting, gift-giving, Champagne-ing, laughing and celebrating sure sweeps you through time like a magic carpet. We spent the last week of 2009 in rainy and cold Burgundy, marvelling at the acres and acres of vines, discovering the joys of French phonetics with village names like Vosne-Romanee and Ladoix-Serrigny, all interspersed with more than a month’s worth of hearty, calorific meals and endless wine-tastings at some of the finest establishments around. Well, at least those that weren’t closed for the holidays.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For my first post of the year, here’s a Thai Green Curry for this month’s lunch date. “Hearty Stews” is the theme, and while the thought of boeuf bourguignon makes me queasy, this fragrant and light coconut broth hits the spot perfectly. What I love about curries is the amount of variety you can get just by mixing together a whole bunch of root ingredients and spices. It’s fantastically easy – if you use a food processor, of course – and freezes well, making it well worth an afternoon’s effort to turn a big bunch of lemongrass, shallots, chillies, gingers and what-have-yous into a gooey pulp. That way, you can have your own Curry in a Hurry whenever the mood strikes. And home-made too!

The dish gets its name from the tiny, green chilies used in the paste and you could just as well substitute them with their red cousins, to make a red version.

Commonly served with slices of chicken breast, this adaptation features a mix of shrimp, squid and catfish to wean myself off an almost-daily diet of meat and rich sauces over the holidays. But you could really use anything that catches your fancy – oysters and mussels, slices of pork or beef, or take the vegetarian route with cubes of firm tofu. As with all cooking adventures, have fun experimenting and ขอให้เจริญอาหาร (koh hai cha-roen ar-harn)!

Thai Green Curry with Seafood
Makes 4 servings

This recipe is adapted from a cooking class we took in Chiang Mai years ago, where the paste was made in the traditional fashion – with pestle and mortar and pure strength. You can control the spiciness of the curry by deciding on the number of chilies and the amount of liquid (coconut milk and water) to use. If, after all the ingredients have been added and the broth is still too spicy for your taste, add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, to mitigate the heat.

Curry Paste:
6 to 8 Thai green chilies, tops removed and roughly chopped
1 medium shallot, in chunks
A 2-inch piece of galangal, skinned and cubed
3 small garlic cloves, smashed
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 krachai or a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned and cubed
½ teaspoon roasted cumin seeds
½ teaspoon roasted coriander seeds
Rind of a kaffir lime

Place all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar and pound until you get a smooth paste. Alternatively, blitz the ingredients in a food processor.

For the curry:
Green curry paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water or vegetable stock
6 round Thai eggplants (makua), stems removed and quartered or cut into eighths for bigger fruits
Half a cup of pea-shaped Thai eggplants (makua puong)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Half a pound/ 100 grams raw shrimp, peeled with tails left intact
6 ounces/ 80 grams squid, cleaned and sliced into rounds
1 catfish filet (about 6 ounces/ 80 grams), sliced into 1-inch thick pieces
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Pinch of salt
3 kaffir lime leaves
3 stems of sweet Thai basil
A handful of coriander stems, chopped

Heat the oil in a wok or a deep saucepan, then add the curry paste, frying just long enough to evaporate any moisture from the paste and until it turns fragrant.

Add the coconut milk and stir to mix. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the eggplants and onion, and leave to cook for about 2 minutes until they start to soften. Taste often, adding water to dilute the paste/coconut milk mixture to your liking. When the vegetables are cooked, turn the heat down and add the seafood in one go.

Wait 1 minute, then add the sugar (if needed) and the fish sauce. Season to taste, then add the lime leaves and basil.

Stir and leave to rest for a minute or two, then serve, garnished with chopped coriander and piping hot, with rice.

Before you go, check out the other delicious stews that our lunch bunch whipped up today:

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