Thursday, October 13, 2016

Recipe of the month: Vegetarian Thai Green Curry

I just cannot come to terms with the fact that this is the first Thai recipe on my blog of six years. WHAAAAAAT?! I had to triple check to make sure! For someone who loves Thai food, goes out to Thai restaurants quite often, has been to Thailand more than once and who makes feeble attempts to cook Thai food at home once in a while....that is inexcusable no?

Oh wait....I actually have a valid reason for that. I'm quite rubbish at cooking Thai food - THERE! I said it! I find it hard to achieve that perfect balance of flavours and textures. It also doesn't help that I don't use fish sauce or shrimp in my cooking which are widely used in Thai cuisine. I have not been able to get pad thai (Thai-style fried noodles) right no matter how hard I've tried and that pains me considering pad thai is one of my favourite Thai dishes. I've been meaning to try making som tum (spicy green papaya salad) since that is another regular I order at restaurants but I haven't got around to doing it so far. Khao pad (fried rice), tom yam soup, green curry and yellow curry are about the only Thai dishes that have made the journey from stovetop to dinner table in my household so Thai cooking is hardly my forte.

When me and my husband had been on holiday to Phuket a few years ago, we stayed at a gorgeous beach-facing resort. The food at the resort was good (albeit pricey) but it was more style than substance and we yearned for the humble and rustic Thai street-food experience. One day, as we set off to explore the town on a motorbike, we happened to pass by a small shack run by an amiable elderly local woman situated nearby the resort. We decided to check it out and boy! did we hit the culinary jackpot! The menu seemed endless and there was a staggering number of options. Not to mention the prices were so reasonable and the food had that wonderfully comforting home cooked quality to it. The hospitable 'aunty' was very accommodating and even considered our dietary preferences to change some of the ingredients upon request. Our entire holiday was spent stuffing our faces in a variety of spicy and aromatic Thai dishes. It was one of the highlights of our trip and an experience I will never forget!

Actually to be honest, it is the husband who dabbles in Thai curry experimentation at home. He had previously made a really nice green curry but that had been a while ago and he didn't remember which recipe/recipes he had consulted. My in-laws were around and I wanted to cook something other than Indian food for them for a change so settled for a Thai green curry. Strong, spicy, sour, rich and aromatic....a well-made green curry tickles your tastebuds and really packs a flavour punch.

Let me tell you something....there are a million green curry recipes that you will find online! I was looking for a vegetarian/vegan recipe so that did narrow down the possibilities but there still is a mind-boggling number of vegetarian recipes out there. I consulted four and made my own version based on my intuition. This one has all the authentic trimmings of a Thai green curry- lemongrass, coriander seeds, green chillies, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, basil and coconut milk - only without the meat. I used a combination of veggies I like such as baby corn, purple eggplant, carrots & mushrooms. I don't like pea eggplants and I'm not big on tofu so those two didn't make the cut.

The curry turned out just the way I hoped it would. It was light with a strong aromatic flavour and spicy edge. Sure, I didn't get the pale green color I was was expecting - mine turned out a murky beige but it tasted pretty legit so I stopped obsessing about the color. I didn't want the curry to be too thick so I adjusted the consistency to my liking. Served with a bowl of piping hot jasmine rice, this was a meal to remember!

Okay....rambling done! Here is the recipe for a super yummy green curry that will not only tickle , but do the tango with your taste buds! 
I
Vegetarian Thai Green Curry

Preparation time:15 min; Cooking time: 30 min
Total time: 45 min
Serves: 3-4
Recipe category: Thai/Main course
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: A mishmash of several recipes

Ingredients:

For the Thai Green Curry Paste:

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh galangal
10-12 birds eye green chilies
6 garlic cloves
4 shallots, roughly chopped
½ packed cup of fresh coriander leaves (along with the stalks)
2 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tsp lime skin, chopped
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp coconut milk

For the Thai Green Curry:

2 cups – sliced mixed vegetables (mushrooms, baby corn, carrots, purple eggplant)
4 tbsp oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
2 heaped tbsp Thai green curry paste
2 cups of thin coconut milk
8 thai basil leaves 
1-2 few fresh red chilies, thinly sliced Optional
1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp lime juice, Optional
Salt to taste

Method:

To make the Thai Green Curry Paste:

Add all the ingredients in a large mortar and pestle and pound till fine or alternatively use a food processor (faster but the results will not be as good) to a vivid, spicily fragrant slush.



To make the Thai Green Curry:

1. Heat the oil in a deep pot. Add the crushed garlic and fry till fragrant. Now add the chopped shallots and fry till translucent.


2. Add the carrots and saute on high for 2 minutes.


3. Add the purple eggplant and fry for another 2 minutes.


4. Now add the mushrooms and baby corn and fry for a minute. Add a pinch of salt.


5. Now add the green curry paste. Fry it on low flame till the raw smell disappears. 


6. Now reduce the flame add the coconut milk. Season the curry with salt, sugar, soy sauce and lime juice. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.  


7. Add the sliced red chilies if desired. Let the curry simmer till all the vegetables are completely cooked. 

8. Take the pot off the heat and add in the fresh basil leaves.


9. Serve hot with freshly cooked plain jasmine rice.


Notes:
  • You can use tofu in this curry. Tofu and mushrooms are a popular pairing in vegetarian versions of green and red curry
  • Other vegetables you can use are pea eggplant, green beans, squash, zucchini, red bell pepper and spinach
  • I wouldn't advise on substitutions (unless specifically mentioned) in this recipe because it WILL compromise the taste of the dish
  • If available, use Thai soy sauce and Thai coconut milk. Authentic ingredients make the curry taste so much better
  • You can use sweet basil instead of Thai basil
  • If the curry ends up being too spicy, add more coconut milk
  • You can garnish the curry will fried cashewnuts for more texture if desired


Cheers,


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