Thai food is all about the balance of sweet, sour and heat with the added freshness and aromatic quality of herbs and spices. Add the richness of coconut cream into the mix and you will have the most savoured Thai dish – Thai green curry (kaeng khiao wan), which literally means sweet green curry.
The sweet green curry actually more refers to the fact that the curry is a ‘sweet green’ colour rather than the fact that it tastes sweet. With more traditional recipes and shop bought pastes often looking more of a swampy beige colour than a sweet green, I can only assume this was some form of psychological conditioning to make one perceive the dish in a better light.
I have tweaked this recipe and done away with some of the traditionally used ingredients in Thai green curry. The use of aubergine (eggplant) which is mushy and rather textureless and the hard to find (outside of Asia) and quite bitter pea aubergine makes these ingredients fairly interchangeable with other veges as far as I am concerned. This combined with the fact that galangal is again often hard to find throughout the year in non-Asian counties (which is why I used ginger in this recipe – but if you can get galagal it will add an extra dimension of flavour to your dish) and the use of the very acquired taste of shrimp paste has meant that I have made a few tweaks to the more traditional Thai green curry recipe.
Now don’t get me wrong, aubergine is a rich ingredient with a meaty texture and shrimp paste is packed full of strong umami flavours. That is why I have come to love a good traditional Thai green curry as much as the one that I am about to tell you about. But for me, a properly sweet curry (in both flavour and colour), that doesn’t need you to track down obscure ingredients (if you can please don’t hesitate to use them in this recipe!) and the use of fresh crunchy vegetables only enhances the wonderful traditional recipe of Thai green curry.
You can add chicken, beef, prawns, fish or tofu to this recipe if you wish. This dish is wonderful served in many ways. And I guess this is my point. This recipe is about capturing the best parts of tradition and making it equally satisfying as it is accessible for the everyday cook. With little fuss and plenty of flavour.
Oh and the coconut rice with kaffir, lemongrass and creamed coconut butter is to die for!
Ingredients (serves 2):
Thai green curry paste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 thumb ginger
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- 2 tbsp lemongrass
- 1-2 green chillies (depending how hot)
- 2 spring onions
- coriander root (washed thoroughly)
- 2 tbsp ev cold-pressed oconut oil
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (use soy sauce and some star anise if you don’t eat fish sauce)
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- salt and white pepper to taste
Thai green curry
- 100g beans
- 1/4 broccoli head and the stalk
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 juice from one lime
- 1 can coconut cream 400ml
- 200g Tofu (or tempeh, chicken, beef, prawns if you wish)
add more veges if you don’t want to add any protein to your curry
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1 ½ cups water
- 3 tbs creamed coconut butter
- 2-4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tbsp lemongrass
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 pinch salt
Put all of the ingredients for the coconut rice into a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it is boiling turn the heat down to low and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all evaporated.
In a separate pan fry the cashews in some oil and on a low heat for about ten minutes. Continue to move them about in the pan so they don’t burn. Take them off the heat to crisp up as they cool. Add to the dish to garnish at the last minute to preserve their crunchiness.
Slice the vegetables and tofu or meat into bite sized chunks.
Ground all of the ingredients for the curry paste (preferably in a mortar and pestle as this will extract more flavour by bruising and mushing the ingredients, but a blender will also work ok). Heat a pan with the coconut oil on high heat and add the ground curry paste. Fry for about 3 minutes – until you see the oil separating from the paste.
Add the meat or tofu to the pan and fry in the curry paste until mostly cooked. Add the vegetables and the coconut cream and cook for only a few minutes so that the vegetables remain slightly crunchy and fresh tasting.
Serve the curry with a fresh squeeze of lime and a few coriander leaves.