As I mentioned in my previous post, we went for a Thai cookery lesson in Chiang Mai. I learnt how to do the Thai favourites like pad thai (although I'm not really happy with the results. I'll share when I perfect it.) , tom yum soup, the thai desserts like mango/young coconut with sticky rice, the stir-fries, and of course, thai curries. Although we only learnt to make one each, I learnt that thai curries aren't really that different from one another. It works kind of like a mix and match. You start out with the same base, and based on the type of chillies or spices (or addition of coconut milk, later), end up with all the different Thai curry pastes. Brilliant.
I told you I'm a nerd when it comes to food, so I did a mind map/chart once I got home.
Legend: Red- red curry, Green- green curry, Yellow- yellow curry, Blue- phanang curry, Purple- Jungle curry, Orange- Masaman curry
And now that we can make all the Thai curries we want, why settle for the standard green or red? I went for Jungle Curry, the spiciest curry of them all. I love spicy, but you should see my face when the teacher told me to put in 20 thai chilli padis (birds' eye chillies), which was in addition to handfuls of dried red chillies and chilli paste. Apparently, the Thais would use 60.
Thai Jungle Curry (Kaeng Pa)
For curry paste (makes about 2 tbsp)
20 fresh Thai birds' eye chillies (red or green), chopped
5 dried red big chillies (not that spicy), boiled first then chopped
5 dried red chillies (spicy kind), chopped
3-4 shallots, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic (just smash and leave skin on if using the small Asian kinds, but peel if using the big western kinds.)
1 tbsp chopped galangal
1 lemongrass, pale bottom part only, chopped
1/2 tbsp fermented shrimp paste (kind of like belachan)
1 tsp chopped kaffir lime peel
1 coriander root (or substitute with twice the amount of coriander stems)
1 tsp fresh turmeric (or substitute with dried)
1 Thai ginseng (I don't know how you can substitute this, so just leave it out if you've got no choice)
For making curry
1 stalk of kaffir lime leaves (it comes in doubles), sliced very thinly
2 tbsp fish sauce
2-2 tsp sugar (unrefined cane sugar)
1 stalk fresh green peppercorns
300g chicken, sliced (originally wild boar. use whatever meat you like, or you can even make it vegetarian)
2 handfuls of vegetables (we had a mixture of Thai eggplants, pea eggplants, carrots and long beans, but use whatever you like)
handful of Thai holy basil leaves
1 big red chilli (non spicy. it's just for extra colour), deseeded and chopped
2 tbsp oil (unrefined palm or coconut oil)
Proud of my chopping and pounding skills
1. Pound (or blend) all the ingredients for the curry paste. We pounded.
The teacher said a Thai man will look at how well a woman pounds her curry paste to decide if she's wife material. I think I'll give a Thai husband a miss.
2. Add the oil to a wok or pot, and add the curry paste. Fry over low heat till you can smell the aroma (or in the case of the jungle curry, the smell of all that chilli hits your nostrils and you start choking).
3. Add some water to stop burning, then the chicken, keep stirring till cooked.
4. Increase the heat, and add the vegetables, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar bring to a boil and then let it simmer until everything is cooked. You may want to add water/reduce the curry till you reach your desired consistency.
5. Finish off with the basil leaves and red chilli.
Like all Thai cuisine, this is a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, sour and salty, although I would say this tips towards the spicy just that tiny bit more. Even though I was sweating buckets, I really loved the complexity of flavours and this was definitely very more-ish. Note though: This is one strong curry. You need to have this with rice (and lots of tissue paper at the side.)