Sunday 24 October 2010

Thai Red Curry

Update Oct 2013 : This is an older version of my recipe, but it’s still super tasty. Recently we’ve been skipping the meat, chicken stock and fish sauce and going as “flesh free as is possible” with our curries and I never thought I’d say this, but they’re better.

Update May 2014 : The above statement is False. I’m back on the flesh. The vegan versions where “smugger” in an idiologically floored way, but not better. Meat for the win, we’re carnivores.


Over the past three years since 2007 I’ve been playing around Thai curry recipes. This one is currently my favourite and I’ve cooked it well over one hundred times and developed a way of cooking it that really hits the sweet spot. It’s very much influenced by the method outlined by Vatcharin Bumichitr A Taste of Thailand.

I’ll be using pork for this one so if I had to guess at an authentic name it would be ‘gaeng pa moo’.

Enough pre-amble, let’s nail this little sucker.

Ingredients

Here’s what you’re going to need, these amounts are for two.

  • Meat for two
  • 50g Curry Paste
  • 2-3 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • Some Thai aubergenes or one good sized aubergene
  • 250g of Jasmine rice
  • Coconut milk - the purer the better.
  • Fish Sauce
  • Thai Basil
  • Palm Sugar
  • 400ml Chicken Stock
  • Crackers of some description

Rice

I use a rice cooker because it produces perfect rice every time. I will at some stage master the absorption method, but until I have more time and more space on the hob, I’ll be using my trusty rice cooker. However you do it, start off your rice.

250g of rice in the rice cooker

Aubergines

We like to have aubergines in our curries. I have dabbled with using thai aubergines and little baby aubergines, but we actually prefer the european kind of aubergine in our curries. I’ve heard some debate about whether or not this is authentic and that’d fine, but this tasty meal not a history lesson.

Chop the aubergine up, I like to cut mine into sextets.

Aubergene cut into sextets

Then crack them into a pan with some sunflower oil and start them off brown and soften. It should take about five minutes and they only require the occasional turning. We’ll use this time to prep the garlic, lime leaves, meat & stock.

Brown, soft and cooking

Chicken stock Garlic, Kaffir Lime leaves & meat..

At this point you’ve got about five minutes before the aubergenes need to come out and be set aside. We’re going to make good use of that time. It’s important to do all of the below steps before proceeding, because once you start you will not have time to prep and cook.

We’re going to make the stock. For convenience I’ll be using a stock cube. Culinary sin it is, but it’s normally all I have. Put the kettle up and make 400ml of stock.

400ml of chicken stock

Once you’ve done the stock, smash and chop the garlic into little pieces. I like to smash the garlic initially because this releases more of the flavour than slicing alone.

Smashed and chopped garlic

Out next task is to slice the Kaffir lime leaves. I haven’t been able to get these fresh in the UK, so I’m limited to freeze dried ones, which you will pay a premium for - thanks supermarkets. I am toying with growing a kaffir lime plant because I’ll have a heated greenhouse soon enough and you really cannot beat home grown produce. However, cut the lime leaves into thin strips.

Chopped Lime Leaves

We’re almost done with the prep now, we’ve just got to chop our meat. This is a matter of personal taste, we like ours in strips.

Pork cut into slices

How’s the aubergines looking?

By this point your aubergenes should be looking something like they are in the below photograph. When they are, take them out of the pan and set them aside. Now drop the heat on the pan to the lowest.

Aubergenes are ready!

Release the flavours!

We turned the heat down in the pan because I find the next steps are best done on a low heat to avoid burning. If you burn anything at this stage, you’re going to taste it later on and it’ll not be nice.

First you want to add some oil into the pan and add the garlic. The pan should already be nice and warm from the aubergines and you want the put in enough oil to just allow the garlic to float when you tip the pan.

At this point in time pay special attention to not burning the garlic - the goal here is to fry it off until you release the flavours. It should take about 40 seconds on a low heat, but if your pan is really hot from the aubergines it could take as little as 10 seconds to burn your garlic.

Fry off the garlic

As soon as the garlic flavour is hitting you, add the paste into the oil and ‘smush’ it up into the garlic. You’ll want to fry it until it starts to darken, it might even splutter.

Fry off the paste

When the paste is nice and ‘smushed’ and you can smell the flavour of it in the air, add some coconut milk. You’ll want to add the thicker part of the coconut from the top of the carton, as this contains more of the oils that we want to release.

Add some the coconut milk

Mix the coconut up with the paste and the garlic and also add the lime leaves. It should start to mix and form one lighter mixture. Until recently only cooked it like for just a minute or so, but I’ve found that if we draw out the stage of the cooking the curry ends up with a more flavourful experience. This is because at this stage the flavours of the paste and the garlic can all be released into one ‘ultra’ paste.

Mix coconut milk in with paste and garlic and add the lime leaves

Continue on a reasonably low heat until you start to see the oils from coconut milk separating out from the mixture, it should look like this

Paste almost done

It’ll probably be spluttering at this point and I’ve found that adding small amounts of chicken stock can help the process, reduce spluttering and prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After a 3-5 mins on a low heat you’ll end up with something like this

paste is now done

Seasoning & Meat

Add the meat into your pan and mix it in. You can turn the heat up to medium at this stage and you’ll want to cook the meat until it’s starting to seal.

Pork into the pan

Once the meat is starting to seal add in the palm sugar and stir it in.

Add palm sugar

When the sugar is melting into the mixture, add in the stinky fish sauce and stir it. Don’t worry about the smell, it’ll all be fine.

Fish sauce - stinky.

Keep gently stirring the mixture until the meat is completely sealed.

Meat is now sealed

Add the rest of your ingredients

At this point you’ll want to add almost all of the remaining coconut milk, but not all of it. Leave a small amount until the very end.

Add most of the remaining coconut milk

Raise the heat and stir and stir and stir.

Stir, stir stir

When you’ve stirred that in good and proper add in the aubergines that you fried off at the start. At this point you the curry should be approaching a gentle boil, you want to keep it here for a few minutes.

Add aubergenes

After a few minutes the oils from the coconut milk should start to come out a little. When you reach this stage turn off the heat.

Just about done

Now add in rest of the coconut milk and the basil leaves and stir it all in. I’ve been growing Thai Basil all year as part of my botanical adventures and I think we should have enough to last until next spring.

Add basil leaves

You can let this rest whilst you serve up the rice. This is why I love the rice cooker, you switch it on and thirteen minutes later, perfect rice.

Rice is cooked

Serve up

Now you can dish up two portions of curry.

Two portions of thai red curry

Do the rice and the crackers and deliver to the table and you’ve got one tasty meal.

Table is set

At this point I want to address the elephant the room. The more diligent amongst you will have noticed that I’ve gone to great lengths to use authentic ingredients, but for some reason I’ve gone and used walkers sensation crackers. I can’t lie to you, I like them. That’s why we have them with this meal.

About ten minutes later it’s all gone.

All gone

The only thing left to do is the dishes - Meh.

Dishes

Nutrition

I like to track the macro nutrient breakdown of my food, because I train and it serves me well to eat the right things at the right time. I’ll have to exclude the crackers from this breakdown as they could vary a lot and we only have them if this is a cheat meal (along with choux pastries for desert), but typically using the above recipe, for one person contains -

  • Fat : 25g
  • Protein : 30g
  • Carbs : 70g

If I’m having this on a non training day alone, I’ll have the whole thing without the rice, which gives me

  • Fat 50g
  • Protein 60g

Which suits my needs perfectly.