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Want to surprise your girlfriend on your big anniversary? Nothing will get her more excited than seeing you serve your very own wok of Thai curry. Fatima Sham Mahimwala shows us just how to pull this miracle off.
I was recently in Thailand learning the secrets of Thai cooking from a really great cookery school called (very aptly) Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. It was a really great experience especially when they took me to the local market to check out all the ingredients. After that we went on to cook our own meal. I’m going to try and share the secrets behind a Thai Curry.
First I want to clarify – there is no such thing as a “perfect” Thai Curry. The definition of perfect will vary depending on your individual taste and fondness for Thai food. So, I’m going to give you a rough guideline, consisting of authentic flavours to make a superb Thai curry.
There are many types of Thai curries. The most popular amongst them are green, red and yellow, with green being the hottest and yellow the mildest. The Panang, and Chiang Mai curries are very delicious too. All these curries have a sour, sweet and spicy quotient, yet each has distinct flavours, which are both, subtle and exciting.
You will need a few basic (yet exotic) ingredients to make Thai curry. However, the good news is that you can use the same set of ingredients to make all the types of Thai curries. These ingredients are -
Coconut Milk - Fresh coconut milk can be made from the flesh of the coconut, which has been grated or put into an electric blender with water. Take 500gm grated coconut blended with 500ml of warm water. Leave this blend together. Then pass it through a muslin cloth and squeeze the coconut to get all the juice out. You can also get a powder, which you can mix with water, which will make your life much easier.
Fish Sauce - One rule to remember about Fish sauce is that darker the colour, better the quality (and cost). Alternatives to fish sauce would be soya sauce and/or salt.
Kaffir Lime - The leaves, as well as the lime itself, are an important part of Thai cuisine. The leaves and lime can be very easily found at your local vegetable vendor. You will have to discard the stem and use the lime leaves in the end for flavour, and squeeze the limejuice into the curry for that lovely tangy flavour.
Palm Sugar - This is the actual secret behind a brilliant Thai Curry! I use jaggery when I can’t palm sugar. You can also use maple syrup, honey or brown sugar.
I would give you the recipe to make the actual Thai curry paste, but some of the ingredients such as shrimp paste, prickly ash and coriander root are not easily available. Plus, it’s such a bore and takes so long when you can just as easily get it done with a good quality readymade paste!
What I’m going to do is give a basic Vegetarian and/or Chicken Thai curry recipe, which you can easily use with green, red or yellow Thai Curry pastes.
Green/Red/Yellow Thai Curry (4 people) -
300g chicken breast thinly sliced OR 250g Mushrooms and 100g Baby corn (or both)
250 ml thick coconut milk
350 ml thin coconut milk
60g – 80g green/red/yellow paste (depending on how spicy you like it)
3 small eggplants cut into ½ inch pieces
10 g mini eggplant (Thai eggplant – this is optional)
1 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 – 3 kaffir lime leaves torn into pieces and stems discarded
3 – 4 stems basil leaves
1 big red chilli and 1 basil leaf and stalk for garnish
Put 200 ml of the thick coconut milk in a wok and stir for 3 – 5 minutes until the coconut oil begins to separate out.
Add the green/red/yellow curry paste and fry for 1 – 2 minutes more.
Add the chicken and/or mushrooms and baby corn, and cook until the outside of the chicken turns white or the mushrooms have cooked (around 2 minutes).
Add the thin coconut milk, and when it is boiling add both the eggplants. Let it simmer for around 4 minutes till the eggplants are slightly soft.
Add the palm sugar along the edge of the wok and let melt it into the gravy.
Add the fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and the basil leaves, and turn off the heat.
Serve garnished with the big red chilli, basil leaf and the remaining thick coconut milk.
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