THAI GREEN CURRY

Before I made this recipe, I was a little intimidated by Thai cuisine, to be honest. No Indian-style onion-ginger-garlic base? No chopped tomatoes?! What's more, I was put off by the number of Thai green curry recipes out there. How could I possibly make something different?

The answer came in the form of a returning traveller. Mysterious as that sounds, in reality it was just my brother's mate from round the corner. He'd got back from backpacking round South-East Asia for 3 months. He pulled out a scruffy booklet, held together by string, and gave it to me. I was delighted to find a cookbook produced by a small workshop where he'd attended a cooking class.

I couldn’t ask for a better present. Regardless of the endearing spelling mistakes: "clod water", "boild banana", "boilded potato" and "garlic – nely chopped"), the content of the book is superb. The ingredients and techniques are all really authentic. I was particularly intrigued by the first step in the curry recipes: to simmer the coconut milk until it splits into oil and coconut solids. I'd never heard of this technique before. Rather pleasingly, a Thai Youtuber remarks that "[the coconut oil splitting is] a sign of a well-made thai curry".

In the booklet's green curry paste recipe there are several ingredients that aren't widely available in the West, such as galangal, ginseng, fresh kaffir lime leaves and fresh turmeric. Substitutes exist for all of these, but the wisdom is it's far better to buy a ready made paste, which will contain all these more obscure ingredients, than settle for inferior alternatives. You can normally find one or two brands that don't use shrimp paste or fish sauce and so are suitable for vegans (e.g. this one).

I've adapted the recipe from the booklet by substituting tofu for the chicken and fish sauce; it has a delicate flavour and lovely texture, and worked better in tests than vegan 'chicken' pieces. I have stuck with the suggested aubergines, and added sugar snap peas for vibrancy and crunch. Oh, and I dropped the Thai basil leaves because they A) are hard to find and B) taste like liquoricey aniseedy grossness... to me, anyway. I've also adjusted a few of the quantities so that it serves four. Finally, I've 'deciphered' some of the steps in the original recipe, which are a little hard to follow, to put it mildly. I've added specific timings and clear steps, as much as for my own benefit as for you readers.

I'll leave you with a cool note I thought worth including, from the final pages of the booklet.

"Many people question us about the business. "Are you able to run your business because of your boyfriend ?" :) The answer is not. We want to show every-one in the world that Thai women can run a business without a rich boyfriend."

Here's a link to their website just because they sound like great people: www.asiascenic.com

Thai Green Curry

Yield:
Serves 4
Hands-on time:
20 mins
Hands-off time:
25 mins
750g (1.7lbs)aubergine, cut into 1" cubes
1x400ml/14oz canfull fat coconut milk (ideally 18% fat or higher)
1-2 tbspthai green curry paste (vegans: make sure there's no fish sauce or shrimp paste)
400g (14oz)extra firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
240g (8oz)sugar snap peas
4fresh kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 tspcoconut palm sugar
2 tspsoy sauce (use tamari if gluten free)
300g (1½ cups)basmati rice

Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175C/350F. Put the tofu onto a paper towel lined plate. Lay over some more paper towels and put something relatively heavy on top (e.g. a big book) to squeeze the moisture out of the tofu. Leave to drain, and set aside until needed.
  2. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the cubed aubergines on a baking tray and coat with 2 tbsp neutral oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Put the rice into a bowl with roughly double the volume of water. Swish it around for 20-30 seconds until the water is very cloudy. Use a fine-mesh sieve (strainer) to drain the rice.
  4. Rinse the rice again under the tap, then transfer to a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 540ml/2¼ cups water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to very low, cover with the lid and cook for 12 minutes. Without removing the lid, remove the pot from the heat and leave to steam for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, scoop 4 tbsp of the coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk can into a large pot over a medium heat. After about 5 minutes (can be a little longer) the coconut cream should split into oil and coconut solids. If the coconut milk you're using has been homogenised, do this step anyway, but the coconut milk won't split.
  6. Add the thai green curry paste to the pot and stir it into the split coconut milk. If you're sensitive to spice, only use 1 tbsp. Saute for 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in the cubed tofu and saute over a med-high heat for 10 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas for the last 2 minutes of the 10.
  8. Add the roasted aubergine and the rest of the coconut milk. Half fill the coconut milk can with water and add that to the pot. Tear up the kaffir lime leaves and add them too. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 10 minutes so the liquid reduces.
  9. Stir the sugar and soy sauce into the curry. If you're not using the kaffir lime leaves, add the juice of half a lime.
  10. Fluff the rice with a fork and divide into 4 bowls. Ladle over the curry and some of the liquid and serve.