Fish Jungle Curry (แกงป่าปลา ; gaaeng bpaa bplaa)

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By: Hanuman

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Forest dwellings communities and populations bordering forests relay on the forest as their main food source. They collect herbs and plants, fruits and vegetables, roots and nuts, and hunt for a wide range of game, such as wild boar, dear, small birds and frogs.

Jungle food is quick and simple to prepare and contain only few ingredients. Today we find it on restaurants’ menus and even cook it at home, far away from the jungles.

Please try to imagine the hunters cook it outdoors, maybe near a stream or a river. They cook their rice in sealed bamboo over an open fire, and make this dish with whatever meat they could gather and with the minimum necessary ingredients, they could carry.

Jungle curry is hot and pungent and wisely uses aromatic ingredients such chilies, garlic, galangal, kaffir lime, wild ginger and lemon grass to mask the iron flavors of game meat.

I got this specific version of jungle curry from a famous and very good jungle food restaurant in Kanchanaburi province, “Boonnam Geng Pa”.  If you are visiting the area, please give auntie Boonam a chance to prepare your launch, if not, I hope that you will enjoy the exotic forest flavors this recipe carries.

Auntie Boonam used wallago catfish (ปลาคัง) for her version; I could not hunt for one today so I am serving mine with sea bass instead.

Boonam Geng Pa Restaurant ร้านอาหาร บุญนำแกงป่า
Tel: 034-653268 address: 28 ม.3 บ.หัวหิน ต.ทำมะขาม อ.เมือง จ.กาญจนบุรี

Fish Jungle Curry With Bitter Yellow Eggplant Recipe

Yield: 3-4 servings
preparation time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 250g sea bass fillet cut into 3cm (1.5″) pieces.
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Auntie Boonam jungle paste
  • 1/2 cup pea eggplant
  • 1 bitter yellow eggplant, seeds removed, washed and cut into quarters.
  • 3 apple eggplants, cut into quarters
  • 1 long fresh green chili, cut into 3cm (1.5″) pieces.
  • 1 long fresh red chili, cut into 3cm (1.5″) pieces.
  • 8 kafir lime leaves, hand torn into small pieces.
  • Handful of Thai holy basil leaves (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup)

Auntie Boonam jungle paste

  • 1/4 cup your choice of dried red chilies (I used พริกหัวเรือ “boat shape chilies” which are both fragrant and hot)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped galangal
  • 1/4 cup chopped lemon grass (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/4 cup kaffir lime zest (zest of 1 medium large kaffir lime)
  • 6-7 medium garlic cloves (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3-4 Thai holy basil flowers  (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of fermented fish paste (gabpi  maawn) or 3/4 tablespoon of fermented shrimp paste (gabpi)

Method – curry paste

  1. Prepare curry paste by pounding in a mortar and pestle dried chilies with salt as an abrasive.
  2. Add chopped galangal, garlic and lemon grass and keep working it until smooth.
  3. Add holy basil flowers and keep pounding until fully incorporated.
  4. Add gabpi maawn and mix thoroughly.

Method – Jungle curry

  1. Bring to boil the chicken stock
  2. Add the jungle curry paste and stir until it comes to boil and fragrant.
  3. Add fish slices. Cover with the liquids. DO NOT stir the fish while cooking to avoid unwanted “fishy” smell. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add bitter yellow eggplants, apple eggplants , pea eggplants, red and green chilies and kaffir lime leaves
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add holy basil leaves and cook for last 30 seconds.
  7. Serve