It’s been said once or twice that it ain’t easy being green. Of course, no food demonstrates the fallaciousness of this little dictum better than a Thai green curry. It would have to be the favourite dish of one of the world’s favourite cuisines.
I went to Thailand a few years ago and made a green curry paste in a cooking class. I remember the poor chef being very frustrated by my inept pestle-ing skills. Up-and-down, it’s meant to be; not round-and-round.
I was inspired to revisit some Thai cookery by David Thompson’s appearance on Poh’s Kitchen last week. I decided to make the Green Blue-Eye Curry from Neil Perry’s Balance and Harmony. I’ve made it before and it was very successful. So, off to Victoria Street I went on the weekend with my long list of Asian ingredients in hand.
I used Perry’s Thai green curry paste recipe, though I didn’t take much notice of the quantities because I wasn’t in a measuring mood. I’ve just had a bit of a cookbook browse, and have noted that Thompson, in his book, Thai Food, uses basically all the same ingredients. In a recipe from a little cookbook that I bought in Thailand, there are considerably less ingredients and many more chillies!
My version is fairly light on the chillies just because I’m a bit soft, really.
A small pinch of coriander seeds, dry roasted
A small pinch of cumin seeds, dry roasted
A small pinch of white peppercorns, dry roasted
3 little wild chillies
2 long green chillies, deseeded
2-3 lemongrass stalks, the soft inner part
A walnut sized piece of galangal, peeled
6 red shallots, the sweeter Thai sort
5 garlic cloves
2 thick coriander roots, scraped and chopped
2 small turmeric ‘fingers’, peeled
Zest of 1 small kaffir lime (sub 2-3 leaves)
3 teaspoons shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted
- To prepare the ingredients: roast the spices in a saucepan and grind to powder. Roast the shrimp paste in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Roughly chop everything else. Ensure you avoid grating the bitter pith of the kaffir lime. Charmaine Solomon suggests using galangal from a jar because it will be softer. This is good advice; my galangal was alarmingly tough and fibrous.
- Stick everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust any flavours if need be.
- Transfer to a heavy mortar and pestle and pound away until all the ingredients are completely pulverised and smooth. This takes at least ten minutes.
- Add some water if the paste seems too dry.
- This stores in the fridge, covered for about two weeks. Thompson warns against freezing the paste, though wouldn’t it be great if you could?!
Stay tuned later this week for my green kingfish curry, where I put this spice paste to good use…