At first glance, this chicken and pineapple curry might seem ordinary or plain. After all, even though spicy curries with sour notes have been relished for ages, they feature repetitive patterns that could be viewed as common and perhaps uninteresting. However, with a calculated yet simple approach, this curry turns corners – quite literally – into a dish with a new flavor melody. It is thus referred to by its author, Mrs. Samaknantapol (Jeep Bunnag) (นางสมรรคนันทพล, จีบ บุนนาค), as laak laai roht, a “curry with manifold flavors (หลากหลายรส)”.
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We’ve become so familiar with the structure of the pounded basic curry paste that we rarely question its underlying principle, which is that its ingredients should be pounded fine enough so that the aromatic oils merge and render a new fragrance.
A creative thinker, Jeep Bunnag riffs on this concept and discovers some interesting new tempos in the otherwise aromatically muted flavor stretches of pounded curry pastes. She suggests breaking apart the traditionally single, wholesome curry paste into five segments, pounded separately and then mixed into one; we can describe this as permitting the paste components to voice their individuality. These uncovered layers of aroma result in a laak laai roht curry worth trying.
The paste, if examined as a whole, is based upon the basic phrik khing (พริกขิง) paste without the fermented shrimp paste (kapi), and with the addition of white peppercorns and coriander seeds.
|White peppercorns (S1)
|Fermented shrimp paste (kapi)
|Coriander seeds (S2)
Instead of pounding all the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle, the paste is made by preparing and pounding five individual parts separately, then combining them in a bowl. Because the full aromatic fusion process of a typical curry paste does not take place, the memories of the smells of certain ingredients are preserved – a reminiscence that opens a sensory window into the bones of the curry paste.
Jeep Bunnag divides the paste into five components (layers) as follows:
- Layer 1 – Rehydrated dried red long chilies pounded with sea salt.
- Layer 2 – Coriander roots, Thai garlic, and white peppercorns (S1) – the saam gluuhr (สามเกลอ) paste.
- Layer 3 – Shallot paste.
- Layer 4 – Lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime zest pounded together.
- Layer 5 – Coriander seeds (S2), roasted and grounded.
It’s fascinating to see how the traditional Siamese saam gluuhr (สามเกลอ) flavor base – coriander roots, garlic and white peppercorn – reemerges as an entity that enjoys a dedicated layer, resting atop a solid, colorful background rendered by rehydrating the chilies and pounding them with salt. The revival of the saam gluuhr paste redefines the flavor profile and outlines the dish’s Siamese traits.
The third layer is reserved for the shallots, which are rich in sugars and moisture. The fourth layer combines the citrusy, herbaceous and astringent elements: the lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime zest, and maintains their coarse notes. Last, coriander seeds, roasted and grounded, are introduced as the final layer of the paste.
One can make the paste based on the universal curry ratios. However, I would not miss an opportunity to adjust the curry paste elements to achieve conceptual or flavor-wise intentions. For example, increasing the amount of shallots creates a sweeter paste that complements the pineapple’s sweet side. Alternatively, tuning up the paste’s harsh, citrusy notes by slightly increasing the amount of lemongrass appeals to the sour facets in the pineapple. You can also experiment by increasing the Siamese saam gluuhr (สามเกลอ) elements and examining how the meaty-fatty qualities of the chicken transform, bridging the similar aromatic characteristics of the pineapple and the chicken.
Pineapple’s natural sweetness is inseparable from its sharp sourness, which makes it an ideal ingredient for curries. Pineapple has an intense, sultry, fresh and tropical scent that can be described as a blend of citrusy, apple-like fruity aromas with notes of coconut and caramel, as well as meaty, oniony qualities.
The remaining steps in making this curry follow the usual procedure. The chicken is first braised soft in coconut milk; and the curry paste is fried, like a typical gaaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด), with coconut cream and some of the chicken fat accumulated while braising the chicken.
The curry is diluted with coconut milk and the chicken cooking liquids. The pineapple is then sliced into equal, bite-size pieces that are permitted to cook only briefly in the curry, until sourness is detected.
Use the universal ratios of 1/2 the amount by volume of the fish sauce in palm sugar, to achieve a flavor profile with a salty leading and a sweet floor. Then, when you are satisfied with the seasoning, add no more than half the amount of palm sugar volume in tamarind paste. This results in a sour layer that appears to rise above the sweetness yet allows the saltiness to lead the flavor profile.
But of course, this is just a game plan – you can adjust these seasonings as you cook and taste.
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- 400 gr chicken meat (เนื้อไก่) sliced into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ) หัวกะทิ
- 3 cups coconut milk (หางกะทิ)
- 1 small pineapple sliced into same size pieces as the chicken
For the curry paste:
Paste (layer 1):
- 10 pieces dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง) deseeded and rehydrated
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล) เกลือทะเล
Paste (layer 2):
- 1 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) thinly sliced
- 1/3 tablespoon coriander roots (รากผักชี) scraped, washed and chopped
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns (พริกไทย) (S1) roasted and grounded
Paste (layer 3):
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง)
Paste (layer 4):
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced
- 3/4 tablespoon galangal (ข่า) thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kaffir lime zest (ผิวมะกรูด)
Paste (layer 5):
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (malet phak chee) (เมล็ดผักชี) (S2) malet phak chee (เมล็ดผักชี), roasted and grounded
- 1 part tablespoons fish sauce น้ำปลา
- 1/2 part palm sugar น้ำตาลมะพร้าว
- tamarind paste น้ำมะขามเปียก (optional)
- 1/2 cup coconut cream หัวกะทิ
Braise the chicken:
- Debone the chicken thighs. Slice the chicken into equal-sized pieces.
- Fill a pot with coconut milk (or 1 part water to 1/4-part coconut cream)
- Add the aromatics: Three slices of galangal, three whole, peeled shallots, and one bruised and sliced lemongrass stalk.
- Braise the chicken, starting from boiling coconut milk until it is tender.
- Turn off the heat when the chicken is cooked; collect some of the fat that floats to the top. We’ll use the fat, along with coconut cream, to fry the paste. Set aside.
Prepare the pineapple:
- Slice one small pineapple into the same size pieces as the chicken. Set aside.
Prepare the curry paste five components:
- An overview of the curry paste ingredients, divided into five groups
- De-seed and rehydrate the dried chilies in hot water.
- Roast and grind the spices, starting with the white peppercorns and followed by the coriander seeds. The spices are ground separately and kept separate until they are used in the paste.
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound each of the five ingredient groups separately into fine pastes.
- Transfer the five pounded components into a mixing bowl and, using a spoon, mix them to blend the final curry paste. Do not use a mortar and pestle. Set the finished paste 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.
- Stop the frying with plain water and the liquids collected from cleaning the mortar and pestle. This is an 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 cooked chicken and mix gently.
Diluting the curry:
- Dilute the curry to your liking with the chicken cooking liquids, coconut milk or chicken stock.
- Add the sliced pineapple and allow the pineapple to cook briefly, until you can taste its sourness.
- Season to a salty leading with a sweet or sour-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.
- Optional: If needed, use tamarind paste to adjust or emphasize the natural sourness of the pineapple.
Plate and serve:
- Put the curry into a serving bowl and drizzle thick coconut cream over it. Serve!
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.
Spiced Skewers of Grilled Pork Neck and Firm Pork Fat with Fresh Pineapple (หมูปิ้งสัปปะรด; Muu Bping Sapbparoht)
Known as muu bping sapbparoht (หมูปิ้งสัปปะรด) and translated as grilled pork with pineapple, this dish showcases cubes of grilled pork meat and firm fat with fresh pineapple. The pork meat is marinated in light soy sauce and an array of dry spices, giving it earthy and slightly spicy notes. The cubes are then threaded onto skewers, interspersed with evenly sliced pieces of firm pork fat. When grilled, these pieces of pork fat introduce an additional layer of richness and juiciness to the meat. The preferred cut of choice for this dish is pork neck, a cut highly valued for its optimal ratio of lean meat to fat, culminating in a pleasingly succulent texture when grilled.
In Thai cuisine, it is common practice to sprinkle grated coconut over glowing charcoal while grilling. The heat-induced combustion of aromatic fats within the coconut introduces an additional dimension of sweet, smoky richness to the dish. Meanwhile, the charring of the edges of the meat catalyzes the caramelization of its natural sugars, yielding a delightful sweetness that further enhances the smoky undertones of the meat.
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.
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.
c1949 Fermented rice noodles with multi-sour aromatic chicken sauce by Lady Gleep Mahithaawn (ขนมจีนน้ำพริกไก่ อย่างท่านผู้หญิงกลีบ มหิธร พ.ศ. 2492; khanohm jeen naam phrik gai)
Made with fermented rice noodles and an aromatic, multi-sour coconut-based chicken sauce, this is a brilliant dish that is relatively easy to prepare. While considered […]