The spiciest of foods tend to be the most rewarding. No, I am not just talking about spice in the form of chili and heat, I am talking about spice flavour and its never-ending levels of complexity.
I woke up this morning with a defrosted package of boneless pork-chops on the counter and truly wanted something else besides fried piece pork with a cup of rice and vegetables for sustenance. What I needed was some extra items in order to make a dish I had not put together in a while.
Thai Green Curry. (แกงเขียวหวาน, kaeng khiao wan) is a wonderfully fragrant dish that is balanced, rich and satisfying to the aspiring foodie. Unlike Indian curries that are heavily spiced and strong, Thai curries, while strong in their own rights, are balanced out with the high-fat and creamy addition of Coconut Milk. Thai cuisine is about balance. What I mean about this is there is a perfect harmony between salty, sweet, spicy and heat. All of these profiles combine to make the best dishes Thailand has to offer. Those who are familiar with Thai cuisine (mainly their soups and stews) are accustomed to its flavour notes of lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk and…
Fish sauce is a heavily-salted condiment used in almost every dish from Southeast Asia for salting purposes. Much to the tune of how Soy sauce is fermented Soy that is filtered and cured. Fish sauce (yup, you guessed it) is fermented fish that is cured and filtered. Anchovy fish is most commonly used in the varieties found in Southeast Asia. Other forms contain squid, shrimp or sardines. This condiment is extremely important in flavour development of any dish it is a part of. Sure, you can substitute it for Soy sauce for those who are weary (or vegetarian), but it will not complete the dish quite as well. (Or at all, in my opinion).
But back to the curry…
I have had a small jar of pre-made green curry paste in my fridge calling my name for some time. While you can combine all the individual ingredients to make green curry paste on your own (and freeze it for long-term usage), the pre-made (store-bought) paste works the best for me as it is ready to go. I usually make a few pots with this paste and use it up before its expiry date.
I am reminded of how bold I like my green curry. The curry paste is ready to go. Just add your coconut milk, choice meats and vegetables and you are good. Everything you need is already mixed in and no guess work needed. Unless… you are me. I realised when I was taking the pictures for this blog post, I strengthen the curry first by using a larger amount of curry paste, then by adding more fish sauce, chili paste, ginger and shrimp paste. Lastly, I finish by balancing the sweetness level with some brown sugar.
Traditionalists will harp about how palm sugar is needed to round the dish instead of sugar and this is true, however, brown sugar will work for those who (like me) will not find other uses for the palm sugar and worry about its shelf life.
This curry is so rewarding to make and serve with a bowl of steamed rice. The warming sensation from this spicy soup makes you feel quite comfortable, especially if it is -10ºC outside. How foodie of me…
Nothing like a nice big bowl of Thai Green Curry to warm you up inside when the world is a frozen tundra beyond the four walls.
Thai Green Curry
1-3 tbsp of Thai Green Curry paste (Mae Ploy or Aroy-D, most common).
1-2 lbs of choice meat (pork was used).
1-2 bushels of Chinese Broccoli, Kangkong (Ong Choy) or Bok Choy.
1 Large Carrot (or a bag of Baby Carrots).
1 bushel of Chinese Long Green Bean (or regular Green Beans of not found).
Thai Basil or Regular Basil
1 Large Tomato
1 small knob of Ginger (1-2 tbsp).
1 can of Coconut Milk
1 tbsp of Sambal Oelek (Chili Paste), optional.
1 tbsp of Bagoong (Filipino Shrimp Paste), optional.
2-3 tbsp of Fish Sauce, optional.
Prepare your meats and vegetables (washing and chopping to desired sizes) and set aside so you are organised. This is the best time management tip so the cooking process will go by quickly.
Heat your pot or wok on med-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. (I used coconut oil). Start by cooking the outside of your meat so that all sides are lightly cooked. Add your curry paste and evenly coat the meat while frying.
Please well-vent the kitchen as the spices are quite fragrant and the chilis in the paste can alert allergies or cause coughing to those sensitive to chili if your window is not open or kitchen vent on!
At this point I added some additional ginger, as I like a stronger flavour. The paste contains galangal which is a much milder relative to ginger. It is preference, but traditionally galangal is used (where available), ginger is a good substitute or addition for those who want a stronger curry.
Once everything is well coated, add your coconut milk. Please shake the can before opening as the coconut oil solids settle to one side if not shaken. Stir well and slightly reduce heat if heavy bubbling occurs. After a few minutes add your vegetables (except basil) over top the broth and cover for a few minutes to cook.
Doneness is to your desired preference with the vegetables as the meat will cook quickly in the hot broth. Check flavour preference with the broth as at this point you will add any additional chili, fish sauce, shrimp paste and sugar for balance.
Mix everything well and allow curry to cook for a few more minutes to let flavours mix. Finally add in a few sprigs of basil and save some for garnish. Basil is the delightful finishing touch to this dish. Thai basil is preferred and it is much more floral than regular basil, but it will work just fine.
Enjoy and serve with some Thai sticky rice or steamed Jasmine rice.