This is a classical Siamese spicy curry that displays a spicy, salty and sweet flavor profile, and uses common curry ingredients such as pea eggplants and young green chilies. Along with the familiar seasoning style and the cooking techniques, the curry is finished with Thai basil.
What makes this curry unique and worth examining is its slightly modified paste. To study it, we first list all the ingredients that were either added or omitted from the standard phrik khing (พริกขิง) paste composition. This gives us a clearer overview of the paste and an easier way to memorize it.
The following table summarizes the curry paste variances of a basic phrik khing (พริกขิง) paste.
|Uncooked jasmine rice grains||Coriander roots|
|White peppercorns (S1)|
|Coriander seeds (S2)|
|Cumin seeds (S3)|
|Nutmeg seed (S5)|
|Star anise (S9)|
What was added to the paste and what it can signify
Adding uncooked rice grains to the curry paste is a rare practice nowadays; however, in the past, it was common to add a handful of uncooked rice grains when cooking a soup. The rice’s nutty fragrance helped to eliminate any fish slime, and its starch helped to thicken broths. Moreover, ancient Siamese believed that rice could counter undesirable harmful elements that otherwise might emanate from the ingredients used.
We observe a similar practice in curries that utilize wild plants such as gaaeng phak waan bpaa (แกงผักหวานป่า) – a curry that uses the sweet leaves of the tree Melientha suavis Pierre – in which the rice is believed to help offset a toxin that can create headaches. In this curry, the protein is a benign chicken or beef; thus it is more likely that the rice grains are added as a meat deodorizer and to contribute to the broth’s body.
The dish appears to have a spice profile similar to that of a classic spicy curry; that is, white peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds, providing the body and character of the Siamese curry, with the addition of nutmeg and star anise. The nutmeg is an excellent deodorizer of irony meaty odors, and the star anise is commonly used in the Chinese and Muslim cuisines of Indochina to enhance the meaty taste of the proteins.
Determining the ratios for the curry paste
We can use the universal ratios for the rest of the curry paste ingredients.
Use the universal ratios of half the amount by volume of the fish sauce in palm sugar, to achieve a flavor profile with a salty leading and a sweet floor. But, of course, this is just a game plan; you can adjust them both as you cook and taste.
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- 400 gr chicken meat (เนื้อไก่) beef (เนื้อวัว)
- 1 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (หางกะทิ)
- 1/2 cup pea eggplants (มะเขือพวง)
- 1/2 cup young green long chili (phrik noom) (พริกหนุ่ม)
- 1 cup Thai basil (ใบโหระพา)
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1/2 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
For the curry paste:
- 2 tablespoons uncooked jasmine rice (ข้าวหอมมะลิ)
- 10 dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง) deseeded and rehydrated
- 2 1/2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons galangal (ข่า) thinly sliced
- 1/2 tablespoon kaffir lime zest (ผิวมะกรูด)
- 1 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) peeled
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง) thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ)
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns (พริกไทย) roasted and grounded
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (malet phak chee) (เมล็ดผักชี) roasted and grounded
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (malet yeeraa) (เมล็ดยี่หร่า) roasted and grounded
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg seed (ลูกจันทน์เทศ) roasted and grounded
- 3/4 teaspoon star anise (โป๊ยกั๊ก) roasted and grounded
Prepare the curry paste:
- An overview of the curry paste ingredients. (excluding the dry spices)
- Roast and grind the spices, starting with the white peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and star anise. The spices are ground separately and kept separate until they are used in the dish.
- De-seed and rehydrate the dried chilies in hot water.
- Pound the curry paste: start with the chilies, the uncooked rice grains 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 kaffir lime zest.
- Add the shallots and garlic.
- Add the dried spices, and pound to a smooth paste. Start with the ground white peppercorns (S1).
- Add the roasted and grounded coriander seeds.
- Add the roasted and grounded cumin seeds.
- Add the roasted and grounded Nutmeg seed.
- Add the roasted and grounded star anise.
- Add the fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and keep pounding until a rounded aroma is achieved.
- Remove the curry paste and set it aside. Wash the pestle and mortar 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.
- Fry the paste until it loses its rawness.
- As you fry, continue to add the dry spices multiple times. Use your sense of smell to determine the amount.
- Stop the frying with plain water and the liquids collected from cleaning the pestle and mortar.
- This is important, in order to separate the oil particles created during the paste frying process from the rest of the broth. At this stage, mix gently to avoid re-emulsification of the oil.
- Add the chicken and mix gently.
Diluting the curry:
- Dilute the curry with coconut milk or chicken stock to your liking.
- Add the pea eggplants.
- Add the young chilies.
- 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.
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!