Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thai green curry recipe

I promised in the last blog post that I'd write up a recipe for Thai curry that a friend had just passed to me. It blows away any other Thai curry recipe I've ever tried, and the key is to make your own green curry paste. This recipe came from a friend in Australia that I met a few years ago in Korea, and while we didn't have much of a chance to talk there, we've since been swapping recipes and tales of gastronomic spectaculars online.

I'll copy here the bulk of the recipe she gave me, with a few edits of my own. The first part of the recipe is for the green curry paste, which makes a good deal and can be used for many curries if you store it in the freezer. The ingredients for the curry paste are:

25 large fresh green hot chillies, chopped up
3 shallots
12 cloves garlic
1 finely sliced fresh galangal (an entire root is fine - medium)
4 blades of sliced fresh lemon grass
1 finely grated kaffir lime rind (squeeze a dash of the lime juice into final paste)
5 kaffir lime leaves shredded
Small bunch of finely chopped coriander root and stems
1 tbsp of mixed peppercorns
1 tbsp roasted coriander seeds
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
2 heaped tsp sea salt
2 heaped tsp shrimp paste

First, dry fry the peppercorns, the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a frying pan. Don't let them burn, but heat them just about to the point of popping and giving off their powerful smell. The difference between grinding them raw, and grinding them dry fried is huge. Also, make sure that they are good and fresh. Having some two year old seeds at the back of the cupboard won't do it for this recipe as the power of the chilli needs to have competition from the fragrance of the other spices.

Grind the seeds in a good pestle and mortar until they are super fine.

Place all remaining ingredients and salt (chillies, lime rind, lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, coriander roots and shallots) into a blender and chop up. Make sure it's really well blended because the fibres of the lemongrass need to be well shredded before you start grinding in the pestle and mortar.

Transfer all blended ingredients back into the pestle and mortar and pound until it becomes a fine green paste. No water is ever needed for recipe as natural oils and moisture from vegetable and roots is sufficient.

Add the spice mixture from the first step and shrimp paste, continue pounding until smooth and fine. This should make about 3 jam jars of paste which can be frozen for around a year.

Now for the curry itself. The ingredients are:

400 grams beef or a large chicken breast (cut into thick slices)
1 tbsp cooking oil (sesame oil works well too)
3-4 tbsp green curry paste
1 large can of coconut cream (works better for thick, lush curry)
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
10 small fresh Thai eggplants, quartered
1 fresh red chili sliced hair-like fine
1 small red bell pepper in fine slices
Huge handful of fresh sweet Thai basil leaves
4-5 large tbsp fish sauce
Wedge of palm sugar to taste (I used 60gms smashed wedge from larger piece)

Saute the green curry paste in oil over medium heat in a wok or saute pan until fragrant. It's pretty easy for this to burn but be careful because this will add a nasty acrid flavour to the curry even if it catches just a little. It needs to heat to release the oils and aromatics, but never too hot. Then add the coconut milk a bit at a time and heat, stirring continuously. You'll slowly see the oils from the curry paste rising to the top of the gently simmering coconut milk. Continue this until there's a good thin film of green oils on the coconut milk surface. Then squeeze in the remaining lime juice. The cut of the acid with the spices and the creaminess of the coconut really makes this recipe. In fact, the magic of this recipe is the perfect combination of sweet, salty, spicy and umami (from the shrimp paste and the fish sauce).

Now add the sliced meat and kaffir lime leaves, continue cooking until meat is cooked through. The lower the heat and slower the cooking, the more tender will be the meat in the end. Meat proteins denature above about 65 degrees (depending on the meat) and the meat becomes tough, so there is a competition between getting the centre cooked, and not overcooking the outside.

For a thick, concentrated curry, keep simmering slowly and reduce coconut cream.

Add the palm sugar and fish sauce. If not salty enough as desired, use tiny bits of shrimp paste and not fish sauce.

When the mixture returns to a boil add the eggplants and red capsicum. Cook until the eggplants are done, sprinkle sweet basil leaves and red chilies. In fact I threw in a big old bunch of sweet basil leaves and cooked for a couple of minutes, but the slightly aniseedy flavour of the basil leaves may not be to everyone's taste.

I would have given a full photo breakdown of this recipe, but I was rather too taken with the smells and flavours to get any good photos in.

With many thanks to Angela for this spectacular recipe!

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