A dish of complex flavors and an aromatic brightness, this Sarama curry features shrimp and the smaller Thai white eggplant, or crunchy lotus stems, in a golden, salty leading broth with clear tangy-sweet notes. The broth is silky and combines the nutty richness of coconut cream with the subtle sweetness of butter, cooked with a blend of dry spices that include coriander, cumin and turmeric. This spice blend evokes the penetrating aroma of curry powder, reflecting Muslim culinary influences.
Unlike spicy gaaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด) curries, which typically deploy dried chilies in the paste, Sarama curry contains fresh chilies. A mix of both red and yellow chili varieties are utilized, fusing the vibrant, fruity piquancy of the fresh chilies with the warm, earthy aromas of the spices. The red chilies contribute a ripe tropical fruitiness while the yellow offer citrusy and floral notes, creating a light yet layered curry with nuanced heat and depth of flavor.
Roasted peanuts finish the curry, providing textural contrast as their earthy nuttiness balances the heat and the aromatic spices. The peanuts also echo the nutty tones of the coconut cream and ghee used to fry the past: The coconut cream has a rich and rounded silky nuttiness, while the ghee offers hints of a somewhat wild animal-richness, and the peanuts stand out with their legume-like nuttiness and crunch.
I found this dish in The Red Cover Cookbook, a rare 1920 publication affectionately dubbed Bpohk Daaeng by book collectors. Authored under the pen name Bpaa Ga Boot (ปากะบุตร์), this was the author’s second attempt at publishing a cookbook. The writer explains in the introduction that their first cookbook failed to recover printing costs; this was due to low interest among the public in purchasing cookbooks, as most opted to spend their money on the popular religious texts and schoolbooks of the era.
Determined to continue disseminating culinary knowledge and encouraged by friends who recognized the value of the first book, the author printed 500 additional copies of The Red Cover Cookbook, to be sold wholesale at the reduced price of 1 baht each, or retail for 1 baht and 25 satang. This second edition was printed on cheaper paper at the Tohng Uaa printing house (โรงพิมพ์ตงอั้ว) on Ratchawong Road in Chinatown.