Thai Green Curry Chicken

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Readers of this blog and cooks will know that I have a fascination for Thai dishes. (Check the list here)

The thing is, I do enjoy cooking them. There is a simplicity, balance of flavours and a refined quality about the recipes which I find attractive. Most are fast to make, some under ten minutes of cooking time. The essential  ingredients are available here and so they can be made 'from scratch.' And presentation wise, they always look appealing and appetising.

The good thing about dabbling in another cuisine is you can get new ideas for your own. Already, I am thinking that my Mum's Nonya Chicken Curry can be modified to improve on its presentation and taste experience.

I have made green curry chicken many times, improving the recipes along the way as I begin to understand this dish more. I was in a cooking class in Bangkok recently and some ideas I picked up added to my learning experience.

Even if you have no interest in this dish, there are ideas you can pick up regarding the fundamentals of curry-making. So, read on. 

Making the Paste

As with all curry recipes, you start with a paste. So, what are the mystery ingredients in a green curry paste? What makes it "green"? The use of Thai green chili peppers gives it that colour. Coriander leaves can intensify the colour too. If you are making red curry paste, just substitute with dried red chillies. Properly made, green curries should only have a light green tinge. If it is strongly green in colour, it is likely that something else has been added.

You can mix and grind the ingredients yourself  or buy them ready made. I normally have a few tubs of Thai curry pastes in my freezer. If I am serving guests, sometimes I make the extra effort to refine the dish with freshly made paste and better ingredients. As with most recipes, extra efforts will improve the dish. If you are familiar with making curries, assembling the ingredients and preparing them is not difficult. Freshly pounded herbs and with toasted cumin and coriander will enhance the eating experience.

I will say though, that when it comes to your daily dinner table, ready made paste is fine.

Palm sugar and Green Curry Paste

Adding the seasonings
Sweet Basil Leaves
The salinity comes from the fish sauce and any good quality ones will do. The sweetness (green curry in Thai means "sweet green curry") should come from the use of palm sugar. While granulated white sugar is more convenient to store and use, there is nothing like the creamy milkiness of palm sugar which tastes like where it comes from. And don't confuse this with the darker Gula Melaka. Normally, coconut milk is added and that will also add sweetness to the curry.  

Adding herbs and vegetables
Basil leaves is another essential ingredient. The names given to them seem inconsistent. I use two types. The Thai basil leaves are more common. The larger sweet basil leaves has a sweeter aroma and I prefer to use them if I can get my hands on them. But either is fine.

Finger Ginger
There are some additional ingredients you can use to accompany the dish. I love the taste of finger ginger. Adding it lifts the dish to another level. For a more complete meal, you can add carrots, large green peppers and potatoes. These ingredients are not essential to the dish and it is really up to you.

The protein
Normally, diced boneless chicken meat is used. Apart from a neater eating experience, this means that the dish can be cooked quickly. This retains the delicate flavour of the paste. Of course you can use pork and beef if you like. I have used pork ribs before and it tasted great.

Preparing the Green Curry paste
fresh green chillies
small chillies (padi)
lemon grass
blue ginger (galangal)
kaffir lime leaves
coriander roots & stems
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
shrimp paste
white pepper
2 stalks, diced
11/2 tsp, diced
1 tsp, chopped
3 pieces, diced
4 tsp, chopped
3 stalks
2 tsp
1 tsp
1 tsp
1/2 tsp
1.      Roast the coriander and cumin seeds for about 1-2 minutes in a dry pan
2.      Pound all the ingredients till the paste is smooth. (Or use the blender.)

Green Chicken Curry Recipe
To serve 2-4
Download the recipe in PDF here

boneless chicken meat
green curry paste
coconut cream or oil
kaffir limes leaves
palm sugar
fish sauce
coconut milk
Veg and herbs
basil leaves
thai mini egg plants
finger ginger
300 gm, bite-size
3 tsp
4 tablespoons
4-6 pieces
2 tsps
2-4 tsps
1 can
30 leaves
20 pieces
8 stalks, sliced
1.   Put oil or coconut cream into the wok over low heat
2.   Add curry paste and stir until fragrant (about 2 mins)
3.   Add the chicken and fry for 3 mins
4.   Then add coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and the rest of the herbs or veg
5.   Adjust the taste using fish sauce and palm sugar. It should taste well-balanced: salty with an underlying slightly sweet. Don’t overdo the sweetness.
6.   Turn the fire off and add the basil leaves and toss further
7.   Garnish with sliced fresh red chilies (for better presentation) and serve immediately with hot rice

Frying the paste in low flame
Most of the Thai ingredients here are bought from Golden Mile Complex at Beach Road.
A nicely made green curry chicken should have a multi-layered taste profile: salty, sweet, creamy, intense spicy flavours from the paste and the special sweet fragrance of  basil leaves. The curry should not be too watery.
Colorful chillies

You should know the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk. After the coconut is squeezed and left in the fridge, the cream will float to the top. The cream is more oily. It is possible to just use the cream as substitute for oil to make the paste fragrant.
mini-eggplant, sliced finger ginger
and julienne carrots

It is difficult to be exact in the measurements as your fish sauce can be saltier etc. The amount of ingredients can vary and it is really up to you. Cook it a few times to get to what you personally like.

If you have chillies of different colors, use them to garnish to add more color to the dish. You may want to do that if you are entertaining guests. I cooked a one dish meal recently for my fam and added more veg, including tomatoes because it was available in the fridge.

This is a simple, quick and appetizing curry. Give it a try.

It also goes very well with brown rice
I did one for our family dinner and I added more veg, including tomatoes to make it a one dish meal

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