Green curry, how I love you. When I was in Thailand last summer, I routinely ate green curry for breakfast, that’s how much I love it. I tried really hard to branch out and eat other things, and I did, but my love for green curry is so consuming, I had to eat it at least every other day. Thai curries are sort of similar to Indian curries in that they are meat and/or veggies in a sauce with lots of spices in it, but the flavors are totally different. Thai curries are thick with coconut milk, ginger or galengal, lemongrass, Thai Basil, garlic, shallot and fish sauce, and Indian curries are more in the turmeric, cumin, coriander, tamarind family of flavors.
Thai curries come in several types, green, red, yellow, masaman and panang. I won’t go into what each one is like- just order them. I know pad Thai is good, I like it too. But the next time you go out for Thai, get a curry. (And pay the extra dollar and switch to sticky rice instead of regular white rice. Sticky rice is exactly what it sounds like, a glutinous rice cooked differently, with some difficulty, from regular white rice, and served in a delicious, sticky ball. Rip off pieces with your fingers and dip them in the curry).
Anyway green curry is my favorite. In Asia, they put these tiny, green round veggies in it, sort of like a seed pod. A little hard, and crunchy, I haven’t seen them in America and I have no idea what they are. Also in the curry is small eggplant, in Thailand Thai eggplant, which are small and green, and in America Japanese eggplant, which are small and purple. If you think you don’t like eggplant (and I don’t) try the small ones, they’re MUCH better than the squishy, spongy eggplant we know and hate. There’s also usually bamboo shoots, sometimes green bell peppers, lots of Thai basil and meat of some type, or tofu. Deeeelicious.
So, here’s my recipe for green curry at home. This is the first time I made it, and it actually tasted JUST like a restaurant’s green curry, probably because they don’t make their own curry paste either. A note- this recipe will require you to seek out an Asian grocery store, because you need lemongrass, fish sauce, curry paste, lime leaves and Thai basil, and none of those things are at TJ. Plus, everything at Asian grocery stores is cheaper. If you can explain to me why a Del Monte fresh pineapple is $2 at an Asian grocery store and $4.99 at the regular grocery store, I would like to hear it.
Thai Green Curry
1 lb of some meat or tofu, cut into bite sized pieces, I used chicken thighs because I love them now, but you could use anything really, pork, beef, fish, whatever
3 tbsp or so of green curry paste (they do have this at the regular grocery store, I believe. Maybe not green, but some kind. They will try to charge you at least $5 for some silly Americanized brand, just go to an Asian grocery store and get curry paste there, it’s like $1.99 and is actually Asian).
1 can of light coconut milk
2 stalks of fresh lemongrass, ONLY the white part, minced finely (lemongrass is like bamboo, kind of. Or the woody end of asparagus. The way to cut it is to thinly slice circles from the white end, kind of like a green onion. When you have a pile of little white circles, run your knife through them, chopping them into little pieces).
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, the size of a clementine, minced (don’t use a white onion. Actually buy shallots for this).
a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp fish sauce (any kind will do, and don’t be afraid of this. You can leave it out if you MUST, because there’s some in the curry paste, but if you’ve ever used anchovies in anything, you know that fishiness really translates to saltiness in cases like this).
2 tsp brown sugar
2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
5 or 6 Thai basil leaves, torn
juice of one lime
2 tbsp vegetable oil
a medium bowl full of chopped veggies – you can use anything, the eggplant mentioned above, peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots, broccoli, mushrooms, pea pods, whatever you have. I used green beans, an orange bell pepper and three large carrots, all chopped into bite sized pieces.
a little Sriracha, if you want
Directions: Get our your wok and put it on medium high heat. If you don’t have a wok, like me, use your trusty big, nonstick saute pan. When the pan is hot, put in the vegetable oil and the curry paste, letting it cook for about a minute. Put in the chicken and cook it in the paste for a few minutes, maybe 4 or 5, the chicken should have some brown on the outside, but it doesn’t need to be cooked through. Then toss in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, shallot, sugar, fish sauce, lime leaves and the black pepper. Cook that all together for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Then, pour in the can of coconut milk, plus a little water, and the lime juice. Let all that simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring pretty frequently. After the 15 minutes, put in the bowl of veggies.
Now, about veggies. I have a real problem with overcooked vegetables, or, as I call them, “sad commie vegetables”. I cooked my veggies in this curry for about 5 minutes, really just enough for them to be warmed through, for two reasons. First, I like actual nutritional content in my food so I tend to like veggies as close to raw as possible, and second, when you reheat them, they don’t turn into sad commie vegetables. Do as you like, I guess, but vegetables should have crunch, is all I’m saying.
Sprinkle in the Thai basil and serve with white rice. (White rice- the ratio is 1 to 2, so if you are cooking 1 cup of rice, you need 2 cups of water or stock. The rice I made, I put a cup of rice in a pot with a tsp of butter, and let it cook a little until the rice was very slightly brown and the butter coated every grain. Then I put in a sprinkle of coriander and the 2 cups of water, and brought it to a boil with a lid on the pot. I let it boil until it was almost cooked, about 10 minutes or so, but there was a little liquid in the bottom of the pan, then I turned it off, moved the pot to a cool burner, left the lid on and let it finish cooking, probably 10 more minutes. That is how my mom makes rice, and she’s way better at it than me, but this rice turned out perfectly, for once).