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Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Afternoon with Thai Green Curry- a Mortar full of Memories

Thai Green Chicken Curry in all its justified glory n finding music inside the mortar n pestle with the amazing food of Thailand

If you want to make a great Thai Green Curry n not just a good one-Be Brave, make your own green curry paste, get a big deep mortar n pestle n gather kaffir lime leaves, shallots, lemon grass, coriander roots in that and start bashing them, it is going to be a long time till they surrender to you and you got to have patience in your heart n eventually you will find the music – I promise you that. Start with preparing the green curry paste with enough time in your hands like 20/25 minutes and everything will fall in place.

The morning I set out to make the green curry paste I was tested by many things- hot humid summer, patience n getting stung by a hornet! I gave myself 20 minutes for the curry paste to come into being, but if you are making it for the first time it will get stretched into 30/35. It really helps if you have a big deep mortar n pestle made out of stone or a combination of metal n wood, a small wooden or marble mortar n pestle will make things really difficult for you, every ingredient will try to jump off your mortar and it will bring the flames to life in your head, so if you don’t have the right equipment, simply transfer the whole thing to blender n blend.

The rule of making the green curry paste is that the ingredients with the least amount of water content n which are hardest in terms of texture will go first inside the mortar, e.g.  The shallots will go last and the lemon grass n coriander roots will go in the beginning.

There are so many elements to Thai cooking like e.g. in the green curry itself, the process is so similar to Indian cooking, in both the cuisines there is detailed use of spice and it is not hard to see why, for many thousands of years India n Thailand are close neighbors and extensive trading across the sea took place for centuries, both the cultures influenced each other, people migrated from both the countries and it is a continuous process. I find Thai food to be amazingly aromatic, talk about fragrant Thai green curry, red curry or Thai jasmine rice.

Now you know what! When you are making either a chicken or fish or vegetable Thai green curry you can start the cooking without adding any extra oil, in traditional Thai green curries they often start with simmering the coconut milk until it thickens n specks of fat separates out from the body of the coconut milk and in the process of cooking more oil is released from it and from the chicken itself or fish, so the final dish has specks of shiny oil floating around it. However there are people who still begin with a dash of oil in the beginning, I’ll ask you to add no extra oil if you are making chicken version because the chicken fat will be another source of fat.

The kaffir lime leaves are magic, they make the air n the curry go pregnant with their amazing smell, if you have not got kaffir lime leaves, use other lime leaves, the lime leaves are sturdy , so they can withstand 20 min of simmering. A traditional Thai green curry will obviously have shrimp paste n fish sauce in them, when you don’t have both or can’t use them use a good quality soy sauce for the umami flavor, there is no good substitute I know for shrimp paste, but let me truly assure you that your green curry will still be very very good. So I think it is time to get cooking, so let’s crack it.

By the way if you get stung by a crazy hornet like I got while making the curry paste, blend and onion and rub its juice over that place and it will relieve you of the pain n swelling in great amounts in a short time.

For The Recipe: You will need

For The Green Curry paste
Cilantro/Coriander Roots- 1 tbsp (yes the roots which are submerged in soil, wash well n use them)
Coriander seeds-1 tbsp, slightly roasted
Cumin seeds-1/2 tbsp, slightly roasted
Galangal-1 ½ tbsp
Garlic- ¼ cup
Kaffir Lime/Lime-1, zest
Lemongrass-3/4 tbsp, sliced
Shrimp paste- 1 tsp
White peppercorn-1/2 tsp
Salt-1 tbsp
Shallot-1/2 cup, sliced
Chili Leaf-1/4 cup (optional)
Green Thai Chili Peppers/ green chili-10/15

For the Green Curry
Chicken – 450-500 gm, thighs with bone, cut into 2 inch pieces
Chili peppers- 1 thinly sliced
Coconut milk – 1 cup (use the first press and second press separately if you made your own)
Green curry paste-1/2 /3 tbsp
 Green colored Eggplant-1 big quartered
Pea eggplant- ¼ cup
Fish sauce-2 tbsp
Kaffir lime leaves-4/5
Sugar/palm sugar- 1 tbsp
Thai Basil- 3 springs
Water-1 cup

1. If you are making fresh coconut milk, begin with it, cut the coconut flesh into stripes, then cut away the brown shells, then put them in a blender, add very little water so that we can make a smooth paste out of it, when it is smooth, take it out in a muslin cloth and press hard to extract as much coconut milk as you can, this is the first press, then put the flesh back into the blender, add more water and blend again to get a very smooth paste, then like before press the second extract in a different bowl, keep aside. While you rest the first press for 15 minutes you will the thick fat part is floating on top, remove it in a bowl, we will start the cooking with this creamy thick part.

2.  In a heavy deep mortar n pestle grind the coriander n cumin seeds which has been slightly roasted in a pan for 5 min, make a powder of them in the mortar, then add the lemongrass n pound, then the galangal and bash again, then add salt, garlic n kaffir lime zest, bash again until the fibers are breaking apart now, add the cilantro roots n shrimp paste and keep pounding. Then add green chili n leaves, pound until the mixture turn into a fine paste so that you don’t recognize individual ingredients. It will take good 20-30 minutes.

3. In a heavy based pan add the separated coconut milk extract n simmer it for 5 minutes on low flame, then add the green curry paste n stir well, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, let it simmer on low heat stirring in between so nothing is catching in the bottom, cover n cook on low heat for 3/5 minutes, if the mixture starts to get dry add more coconut milk from the rest first extract. After simmering it for 5-7 minutes you will begin to see thin layers of coconut oil developing on top, this is the time for the chicken to go in, stir well n add some more coconut milk if it is going dry, if you are using chicken breast pieces it will cook in 5 minutes, since I am using thicken thighs on bone it will take 15/20 min for me,  after 5 minutes of putting the chicken in, add the palm sugar n salt, mix well, then add all of the coconut milk including the second extract and some water, let it come to a simmer on medium high heat, add fish sauce. Then add the quartered eggplant pieces n simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, then add pea eggplants n give them 5 more minutes, add the chopped kaffir lime/lime leaves and give it 5 minutes, by now the chicken will be soft n tender. Put the flame off and sprinkle the Thai basil leaves and the fresh chili slices and give it 5 minutes standing time.

We are literally done with our great Thai green curry and time to taste. So go ahead with a spoon and let’s agree there is nothing quite like it. Serve it with hot white rice or Thai jasmine rice and the combination is to die for. Absolutely share it with family n friends and watch their faces transform ;) it’s great. Bon app├ętit.

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