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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
|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) (S1) roasted and grounded
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (malet phak chee) (เมล็ดผักชี) (S2) roasted and grounded
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (malet yeeraa) (เมล็ดยี่หร่า) (S3) roasted and grounded
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg seed (ลูกจันทน์เทศ) (S5) roasted and grounded
- 3/4 teaspoon star anise (โป๊ยกั๊ก) (S9) 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!
c1941 Roasted Duck Curry with Grapes (Gaaeng Ho) (แกงเป็ดเหาะใส่องุ่น อย่างคุณถนอม ปาลบุตร พ.ศ. 2484; gaaeng bpet haw sai angoon)
Grapes have long been associated with prosperity, fertility and abundance across various cultures and historical periods due to the fruit’s large clusters and bountiful growth. In ancient China, grapes were considered a symbol of wealth and nobility, and often deployed as a status symbol among the elite. In Greek mythology, Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, was often depicted holding a bunch of grapes, further emphasizing the connection between grapes and abundance. This association is also likely rooted in the fact that grapes were a valuable crop in antiquity – used to produce wine and other fermented products, and an important source of food and nutrition. In Indian Ayurvedic texts, grapes are referred to as vineaksha and utilized in treating a variety of ailments, including fever and indigestion.
From the Siamese perspective, the incorporation of fruits in culinary preparations was viewed as a luxurious indulgence, as many fruits commonly available today were once difficult to obtain. Thus the pairing of an extravagant ingredient – such as fruit – with an equally opulent and exclusive delicacy like roasted duck resulted in a dish fit for royalty.
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.
Beef Phanaeng Curry and Ancient Grilled Phanaeng Chicken Curry (พะแนงเนื้อ และ ไก่ผะแนง จากตำราอาหารที่เก่าสุดในสยาม)
Breaking news: The oldest Thai cookbook, as well as history’s first-ever recorded recipe for Phanaeng curry, are revealed for the first time on Thaifoodmaster.com – A 126-year-old cookbook written by one of Siam’s most revered singers, Maawm Sohm Jeen (Raa Chaa Noopraphan) (หม่อมซ่มจีน, ราชานุประพันธุ์), has been rediscovered, offering a unique glimpse into the culinary repertoire of 19th-century Siam. In this chapter we examine the different forms of phanaeng curry from the 1800s to the present day, as we reconstruct the 19th-century version and craft step-by-step a traditional beef phanaeng curry.
Perfumed Muslim-style Curry of Fresh Chilies with Beef (แกงเขียวหวานเนื้อทรงเครื่อง; Gaaeng Khiaao Waan Neuua Sohng Khreuuang)
The Indian and Muslim cuisines present distinct approaches to using dried spices in curries, both of which influence Siamese cuisine in different ways. Indian-inspired Siamese curries spotlight chilies for their vibrant color, fragrance, flavor and heat, while spices like cumin and coriander play a supporting role. The spices complement and temper the chilies’ intensity, creating a rounded, multi-layered flavor profile; nonetheless, the chilies remain the star ingredient, gently complemented by the spices.
Conversely, Muslim-influenced curries, such as massaman curry, prioritize spices over chilies. Spices like cardamom, nutmeg and mace take center stage, while the chilies provide subtle background heat rather than being the primary flavor. In these curries, the focus is on the rich, warm and complex aromas created by the blend of spices, which is a defining characteristic of many Muslim dishes.
Moreover, Siamese cuisine favors using rehydrated dried chilies in curries for their depth; this depth is highly appreciated, along with the complexity, and comparatively milder heat of the rehydrated dried chilies. As well, the harsh grassy notes of fresh chilies are not favored; they’re referred to in Thai as “green rank” or “men khiaao (เหม็นเขียว)”. Muslim curries often use fresh green chilies, tempering their vibrant, grassy taste with dry spices and thus shifting the flavor from bright and fresh to more subdued and earthy tones, resulting in a dish that is perceived to be layered, despite the burst of fresh chilies.
c1933 Water-based spicy curry of fatty chicken and seven spices (แกงเผ็ดไก่น้ำมัน พ.ศ. 2476; gaaeng phet gai naam man)
This water-based, spicy chicken curry is made with corn-yellow rendered chicken fat instead of coconut cream. Dark reddish-brown in color, this full-bodied and fatty beak-to-tail curry presents the chicken identity and personality in both a corporeal and tasty manner. Spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, mace and clove are added into the curry paste to temper the gamey-irony flavor of the offal and deodorize the meat, resulting in a luscious dish that is beautifully layered with textures and flavors.