This contemporary minced-bird style curry uses pork rather than bird. However, since thicker, meatier curries have become associated in modern Thai cuisine with the bold presence of fingerroot – for example, in dishes such as fermented rice noodles in naam yaa thick fish curry (khanohm jeen naam yaa (ขนมจีนน้ำยา)) – this dish adopts the penetrating aromatic character of fingerroot along with the clove-like warmth of holy basil.
Like crisp footsteps in a forest, this satisfyingly meaty curry features vibrant fresh red chilies and thinly sliced yardlong beans and winged beans. It is suitable to serve with rice or with fermented rice noodles (khanom jeen paeng mak), conveying an aromatic upcountry flair.
To cook this curry, begin by ruaan (รวน) the minced pork meat with kaffir lime. This technique, essential in removing unwanted odors, involves wet-roasting the meat with minimal liquid. Kaffir lime leaves are added for their deodorizing effect. Once the pork is cooked, strain and discard the leaves and cooking liquids.
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Next, thinly slice one cup each of winged beans (ถั่วพู) and yardlong beans (ถั่วฝักยาว). Deploying the standard phrik khing (พริกขิง) recipe, prepare the curry paste using dried chilies that were rehydrated for brighter color, and pound the curry paste with the addition of fingerroot (กระชาย).
In a brass wok, heat coconut cream until it thickens; save some for the garnish. When the coconut cream starts to separate and oil surfaces, add the curry paste and fry it with the precooked minced pork. Fry it carefully, until the curry paste loses its rawness and the pork starts to caramelize, deglazing with chicken stock as needed. When the minced pork and curry paste mixture is cooked, dilute it to the desired consistency using chicken stock. Allow to briefly cook until the pork mixture integrates into the broth.
In the meantime, bruise pea eggplants (มะเขือพวง) in a mortar and pestle, and add them to the curry. Also add julienned fingerroot and let its aroma develop.
Next, season with fish sauce and palm sugar for a salty-sweet flavor profile. Once satisfied, add the sliced beans and fresh red long chili. Cook briefly before turning off the heat and stirring in the herbs for a fragrant finish.
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To cook the pork:
- 400 g minced pork meat (เนื้อหมูบด)
- kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด)
For the curry:
- 1 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (หางกะทิ)
- 1 cup pea eggplants (มะเขือพวง) crushed
- 1/3 cup fingerroot (krachai) (กระชาย) juliennes
- 1 cup snap beans (ถั่วแขก)
- 1 cup winged beans (ถั่วพู) thinly sliced
- 1 cup yardlong beans (ถั่วฝักยาว) thinly sliced
- fresh red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแดง) juliennes
- fresh green long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าเขียว) juliennes
- 1 cup holy basil (ใบกะเพรา)
For the curry paste:
- 10 dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง) dehydrated
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons galangal (ข่า) thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fingerroot (krachai) (กระชาย)
- 1 teaspoon coriander roots (รากผักชี) scraped, washed and chopped
- 1 teaspoon kaffir lime zest (ผิวมะกรูด)
- 1 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง) thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ) grilled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
Ruaan (รวน) the pork:
- Start by wet-roasting the minced pork with small amount of liquids and hand-torn kaffir lime leaves. This process, known as ruaan, helps remove unwanted odors. Cook the pork until done, then strain and discard the kaffir lime leaves and any cooking liquids. Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables:
- Bruise pea eggplants in a mortar and pestle. Allow to soak in light salted water. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the beans. Set aside.
- Slice fingerroot into thin juliennes Set aside.
- De-seed a fresh red long chili and slice into elongated pieces.
Prepare the curry paste:
- An overview of the curry paste ingredients.
- De-seed and rehydrate the dried chilies in hot water.
- Pound the curry paste, starting with the chilies and salt.
- Gradually add the other ingredients, from the driest to the wet. Pound the paste until it is smooth with a rounded aroma. After pounding the chilies, add the lemongrass and galangal.
- Add the coriander root.
- Add the kaffir lime zest.
- Add the fingerroot.
- Add the shallots and garlic.
- Add the fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and continue pounding until a rounded aroma is achieved.
- Remove the curry paste and set it aside. Wash the mortar and pestle with about one cup of plain water and reserve the liquids.
Cook the curry:
- In a brass wok, heat the coconut cream until it thickens and oil appears. Scoop out a small portion to drizzle on top of the finished curry.
- Add the curry paste.
- Add the cooked minced pork meat and mix well.
- Fry the paste and the pork mixture until the paste loses its rawness and the pork starts to caramelize. Good heat control is essential to prevent burning, so use small amounts of water to deglaze the wok as necessary.
- Stop the frying with plain water and the liquids collected from cleaning the pestle and mortar. This is important: At this stage, in order to separate the oil particles created during the paste frying process from the rest of the broth, mix gently to avoid re-emulsification of the oil.
Diluting the curry:
- Dilute the curry with coconut milk or chicken stock to your liking.
- Season to a salty leading with a sweet floor flavor profile – and taste before seasoning! Start by seasoning the salty element using fish sauce.
- When you are satisfied with the saltiness, add palm sugar at the ratio indicated.
- Add eggplants and fingerroot.
- Add the sliced beans.
- Add the sliced yardlong beans.
- Add the sliced winged beans.
- Add the fresh red and green long chili.
Adding the herbs:
- Turn off the heat before adding the Thai basil. Spread the Thai basil equally on top of the curry and gently push it into the broth, allowing it to wilt down. Do not stir vigorously!
Swamp Eel Triple-Layered Red Curry with Fingerroot, Bitter Ginger, Sand Ginger and Thai Basil Flowers (แกงเผ็ดปลาไหลทรงเครื่อง ; Gaaeng Phet Bplaa Lai Sohng Khreuuang)
This eel curry includes a greater-than-usual quantity of aromatics used over three stages. First, the eel is cleaned and sliced into segments; then it is fried with a generous amount of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. These help to counter its muddy and somewhat iron-like odor, which disappears along with the liquids and the aromatics.
This eel curry recipe is adapted from the vintage book: “Gap Khaao O:H Chaa Roht” by Ging Ga Nohk) (กับข้าวโอชารส โดย กิ่งกนก – กาญจนาภา พ.ศ. 2485). This rare book was written in 1942 during WWII, a period of global turmoil in which Thailand was invaded by the Japanese. That same year marked a decade from the ending of absolute monarchy rule in 1932, and one generation away from the peak of the Siamese culinary renaissance that flourished in the court of King Rama V (1868-1910): a nostalgic era for its children who are still with us to remember and reflect on those times.
Khanohm Jeen Naam Yaa (ขนมจีนน้ำยา) – Fermented Rice Noodles with Minced Fish in Aromatic Coconut Curry
In the Central Plains of the Kingdom, fermented rice noodles are inextricably linked to a dish known as naam yaa. Composed of a dense, coconut-based minced fish curry, the dish is infused with layers of salted fish and possesses the distinctive, invigorating and purifying notes of fingerroot. Typically, naam yaa is served with fresh lemon basil as the herb of choice along with an array of side dishes collectively known as meuuat khanohm jeen (เหมือดขนมจีน). These include blanched bean sprouts seasoned with a touch of turmeric for color, fresh lemon basil leaves, thinly sliced three colored chilies, and ground chili for added heat. More elaborate versions will add blanched Chinese bitter gourd slices, batter-fried young morning glory shoots, and fresh shrimp minced and fried with its tomalley in pork lard, as well as crispy-fried shallots as the finishing touch.
Perfumed Braised Beef and Potato Curry with Three Gingers, Thai Basil and Bitter Orange (แกงเนื้อใส่เปราะหอมสดและส้มซ่า; Gaaeng Neuua Sai Bpraw Haawm Soht Lae Sohm Saa)
Discovered in a memorial book for the funeral of SubLt. Soophoht Jeungpraphaa (ร.ต. สุพจน์ จึงประภา) (1925-1966), this beef and potato curry dish unites two distinct curry styles: Massaman curry, known for its sweet and warming complexity of dry spices, punctuated by the vibrancy of bitter orange juice; and gaaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด) spicy curry, dominated by a basil herbal identity. The recipe maintains a sense of traditional elegance despite the startlingly unusual culinary fusion; as these two cooking styles are woven together, their spiced comfort, earthy warmth, citrusy freshness, and cool herbaceous notes meld in a gentle refinement. Drawing upon familiar and novel elements, this curry is both comforting and stimulating.
Massaman curry typically presents as a deep, rich dish. Its unique flavor profile is derived predominantly from a range of dry spices that point to its Persian-inspired roots in Siamese cuisine, along with a curry paste that exudes a sense of freshness. The dried chilis are roasted to deepen their color; the rest of the ingredients, such as the shallots, garlic and dry spices, are roasted too, individually, before being pounded into the paste. Conversely, the gaaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด) curry integrates dry spices more sparingly and is known for flavor qualities that are based on a phrik khing (พริกขิง) paste made of fresh aromatics and a basil herbal identity.
Khanohm Jeen Naam Ngiaao – Shan-Style Tomato Broth over Fermented Rice Noodles with Pork, Chicken Feet and Chicken Blood Cakes (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว)
A popular noodle dish originating from the Northern region of the Kingdom, khanohm jeen naam ngiaao (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว) is characterized by its light – yet profound – multi-layered broth. This hearty broth includes an assortment of proteins braised with the dried pollens of cotton tree flowers, and Northern Thai sour cherry tomatoes (มะเขือส้ม); the tomatoes infuse the broth with a subtle tartness that refreshes a full-bodied profile comprising a multitude of fermented ingredients.
The naam ngiaao broth is served over fermented rice noodles and features minced pork, and braised baby back pork ribs with their tender meat clinging to the bone. As well, there are succulent, slow-cooked whole chicken feet, and cubes of slightly bouncy, mauve-hued chicken blood cakes. Served alongside the soup are various toppings, which can include shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, chopped coriander leaves, and spring onions, while dark red chili oil and glossy, charred-fried dried bird’s eye chilies offer a fiery intensity dialed up to your preferred spiciness. In addition, I like to add wok-smoked sour cherry tomatoes and broom-like, crispy-fried dried cotton tree pollen for a surprising textural contrast.
Though the dish is often described as “Shan style”, the word ‘ngiao’ was a derogatory expression for the Shan people. As the disparaging – and outdated – label suggests, the recipe might reflect societal biases and prejudices; thus, at least from the culinary perspective, the ‘ngiao’ in the name of the dish may simply be a nod to the flavors or ingredients favored by The Shan, rather than a claim of authenticity – which could also explain why the dish is based on a Siamese curry paste.
Rice Seasoned with Young Tamarind Relish, Sweetened Fish and Pickled Morning Glory (ข้าวคลุกน้ำพริกมะขามอ่อน ผักบุ้งดอง ปลาแห้งผัดหวาน และ ปลาดุกย่าง; Khaao Khlook Naam Phrik Makhaam Aawn Phakboong Daawng Bplaa Haaeng Phat Waan Lae Bplaa Dook Yaang)
Seasoned rice dishes have been a staple of rice-consuming societies almost since the first grains were cultivated. Adapted according to local resources, traditions and individual preferences, seasoned rice dishes are relished and savored across all walks of life. Within Siamese society, these dishes offer insight into the flavor instincts and eating habits across all demographics, revealing which food items were locally available and valued.
In this delicious seasoned rice recipe from the kitchens of the daughter of King Chulalongkorn, Princess Yaovabha Bongsanid (พระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าเยาวภาพงศ์สนิท) (1884-1934), the Princess uses a variety of common preserved and inexpensive ingredients, clearly drawing inspiration from the cuisine of the Central Plains with nods to the rural and coastal living atmosphere.