Phad thai, tom yam, som tam, tom kha kai, mango sticky rice…. What other genuinely Thai dishes have made their way on to the international culinary scene?
Yes, these are delicious Thai dishes that have conquered hearts, and stomachs, around the world. But there is one classic dish that Thais eat much more often than phad thai and that many celebrity chefs have tried to put their signature spin on.
Then, last year, an internet personality chimes in, commenting on a celebrity chef’s attempt with, “You only use three green chillies? That’s not a curry, that’s a smoothie!” And a viral video was born, with over eight million views.
We are referring to, of course, Kaeng Khiaw Wan, Thailand’s famous green curry.
“The aromatic herbs and seasonings in the curry paste and the rich, sweetly fragrant coconut cream combine perfectly to make Thai green curry such a tasty dish,” explained Chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun of Paste (One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022).
She shared her first encounters with green curry: “When I was little, my mother taught me how to make green curry paste with a mortar and pestle. But I didn’t know how to avoid getting the chilli juice in my eyes while I was pounding the paste. We used fresh chillies that were very plump, so a lot of juice would squirt out. So, I tried to avoid making the curry paste whenever I could!”
Chef Satongun’s green curry is fragrant from the fresh herbs and spices and lush from the rich sweet coconut cream. A high-quality dry spice powder enhances the flavours further. Her secret is ensuring proper proportions so that no component overpowers the others. Tasting as she seasons is also equally important during preparation.
“Green curry must be green as its name,” she explained how she judges a true green curry. “Along with proper proportions of curry paste to coconut milk and seasoning to taste.”
Not sure where to begin? Chef Satongun shared her recipe for green curry with prawns for you to try at home.
For green curry paste:
- 50 grams, green goat peppers
- 15 grams, green bird’s eye chillies
- 55 grams, lemongrass
- 25 grams, galangal
- 7 grams, bergamot zest
- 30 grams, shallots
- 4 grams, shrimp paste
- 20 grams, garlic
- 10 grams, coriander root
- 6 grams, red turmeric
- 1 teaspoon, white peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon, coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon, cumin seeds
- 2 seeds, Thai cardamom
For green curry:
- 150 ml, coconut cream (can substitute with vegetable oil or pork lard)
- 80 grams, freshly made green curry paste
- 150 grams, prawns
- 1 pinch, salt
- 20 grams, palm sugar
- 25 grams, fish sauce
- 350 grams, coconut milk
- 2 Thai eggplants, cut into four pieces
- 10 to 15 (to preference), pea eggplants
- ¼ cup, basil leaves
- 4 bergamot leaves, finely sliced
How to prepare:
- Making the curry paste: pound together the green goat peppers, green bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass, galangal, bergamot zest, shallots, shrimp paste, garlic, coriander root, salt, and red turmeric until you get a smooth paste.
- Making the dry spice powder: pan roast the white peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and Thai cardamom and then pound or grind into a fine powder.
- Split the coconut cream (pour it into a hot pan bit by bit until it separates), then add the curry paste over medium heat. Stir for about 5 minutes until fragrant, then add the dry spice powder.
- Season with palm sugar, fish sauce, and salt, adding coconut milk to keep it from reducing too much. Add the eggplants and simmer for about 10 minutes, keeping a watchful eye in case you need to add more coconut milk. Then stir in the basil leaves.
- Taste and season as needed. Green curry should be rich and have a spicy heat with a balance of salty and sweet flavours.
- Peel the prawns and season with salt. Grill for about 4-5 minutes.
- Pour the green curry into a serving bowl, place the prawns on top, and garnish with the sliced bergamot leaves.
Chef Satongun’s secret
Because there are so many ingredients and components needed to make green curry, this skilled chef emphasised that you should make sure you have everything you need before you start. You don’t want to find yourself needing to run out to buy something in the middle of making it..
Hero image: Shutterstock