The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Thai Yellow Curry

It would seem that I like cooking curry a lot. In my online recipe collection, I have my mum's Nonya-style curry, Malay-style beef rendang, Indian-spiced curry and Thai red curry. (That said, I still haven't done Japanese kare, which, apparently, is just a matter of adding a cube of store-bought roux. Being a scratch-purist (wannabe), I am apprehensive of using that cube of roux - heaven knows what kind of chemicals, artificial preservatives, hydrogenated fat and other crap are contained within that cube. That compounded by the fact I can't read a lot of what's on the ingredient list.)

Back to the topic. So why add yet another curry recipe to my recipe list? Well, only because I tried the Thai method for cooking the curry, which involves separating the coconut milk into its thick cream and thin milk and then cooking the cream over medium heat until the oil is separated from the cream. Plus, I was given a jar of Thai yellow curry paste and I was curious to see how Thai yellow curry differs from the ones I'm accustomed to. The ingredients listed in the curry paste are surprisingly very simple and includes chilli, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, soybean oil, salt and curry powder. I used additional curry powder because I thought that the curry paste was lacking in spices needed to give curry its depth.

I must admit that I don't know Thai cuisine and cooking well enough to know the benefits of cooking the coconut cream first as opposed to adding the homogenised (well-mixed) coconut to the curry during the cooking process. You never know if you never try, right? Like all of the curries I have made, I don't claim this to be an authentic Thai curry recipe. Despite my best intentions, my curry-cooking habits would have no doubt influenced this dish (for example, the order that the ingredients go in the pot, and adding additional onions, garlic and ginger).

Now, I don't know if it had anything to do with the cooking method, but Alex said that this is my best dish yet. Haha - obviously that was meant as a compliment, but it inevitably raised some insecurities about my cooking skills. Were my other dishes sub-standard? What about my other curries? Perhaps they were always too spicy for him (this time, I made an extra conscious effort not to put additional chilli into any of that night's dishes, which was a big effort indeed).

Some tips:
- Aim to have the food pieces (chicken and the veges) to be in similar sizes - the dish looks nicer that way.
- To separate the coconut cream from the milk - don't shake the can of coconut milk. Refrigeration (or the cold winter air) would also assist in separating the coconut cream from the milk.
- You can use any vegetables - I've seen recipes using beans and bakchoy, but I stuck to what I know would work well in curries. I always use potatoes as they add a nice body to curries.
- When cooking beans and potatoes in a dish, I only add the salt (fish sauce, in this case) in the last stage of the cooking. Beans and potatoes absorb salt from its cooking liquid during the cooking process, and you can end up adding a lot of salt by the end of it.
- Last but not least, all curries taste better the next day. Giving it time will allow the flavours to develop.

Thai Yellow Chicken Curry

500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces, marinated with a generous splash (~1-2tsp) of fish sauce, pepper and 1 tablespoon curry powder
1 can (400g) coconut milk, separate the cream top from the liquid milk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cm ginger root, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of Thai yellow curry paste
4 medium-sized potatoes (~500g), cut into large-ish bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots, cut into large-ish bite-sized pieces (match the potatoes size)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (I'd use palm sugar if it was available)
basil (Thai sweet basil or Italian basil)
pepper to taste
chilli to taste

Cook the coconut cream over medium high heat until it bubbles, stirring constantly. Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger and continue cooking (and stirring) the cream until you can see the oil separating from the cream. Add the curry paste to the coconut cream mixture and stir well for a couple more minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken, potatoes and carrots and stirfry for a few minutes. Then add the remainder coconut milk and tomato sauce and simmer the curry until the chicken pieces are cooked and the vegetables are 'al dente' (i.e. cooked, but not mushy) - this will take perhaps 20 or so minutes, depending on the sizes of the chicken and vegetables. Add the sugar, fish sauce, basil and pepper (to taste). If the curry is too thick, add water and season as necessary. Voila! It's done.

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