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Enjoying the Spice of Life - The Big Book of Thai Curries

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Written by Heather Jones   
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

ImageWhen most people think of curries they think Indian, and when they think of Thai food they think of Pad Thai or Cold Sesame Noodles.  I love Indian curries and could eat cold sesame noodles everyday. So imagine my surprise and sheer delight when I discovered that there is a whole other world of curries, Thai curries no less, waiting for me to try.

Renowned chef and restaurateur Vatcharain Bhumichiter sets out to teach how to make authentic Thai curries at home with "The Big Book of Thai Curries".  In the book he starts with the basics, "What exactly is Thai Cooking?", the difference between Indian curry and Thai curry, (it's mainly the herbs and spices - Thai curries use fresh spices with a coconut milk base while Indian curries use mostly dried herbs and spices with a base of ghee or yogurt), as well as  regional differences in Thai curries. At first glance, the curry pastes needed for most of the recipes in this book can seem a bit intimating with upwards of 13 ingredients for a few, but before you throw in the towel and grab that take-out menu, or pick-up a jar of already prepared curry, I urge you to give one of these homemade pastes a try.  I have to warn you though, some of the ingredients could prove difficult to find, but if you are fortunate enough to live near a large Asian supermarket then it shouldn't be a problem.  

I started out with the Orange Curry Paste (see recipe below) mainly because it was one of the recipes with fewer ingredients and the flavors seemed so familiar: dried chilies, shallot, garlic, tumeric, etc. Happily, I was not disappointed, it added the right amount of heat to the chicken and lime dish (see recipe below) and was packed with rich flavor.  A few days later I was able to take some of the leftover curry paste and try out the "Fried Pork Curry" (see recipe below).  All I have to say is "Wow" and my husband is still asking for another "Curry Night".  Do yourselves a favor and give this curry a try, not only will you be blown away by incredible flavor, but it will also be a fantastic addition to your cooking repertoire. 

*One thing to note for the Pork recipe, I was not able to find "Holy Basil" so I just substituted with "Thai Basil" which is in the same family, but does supposedly have a very different taste.  I was happy with the flavor using Thai Basil but if anyone knows of a resource where we could find real "Holy Basil" please let us know.  

Chicken & Lime Curry

From The Big Book of Thai Curries by Vatcharin Bhumichitr, Kyle Books 2008

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Curry Paste (see below)
  • 3 pound whole chicken
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 2 limes, cut in half
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnishing

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the curry paste.  Stir over a low heat, then add the chicken and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, ensuring that the chicken is coated with the paste.

Add the coconut cream, lime halves, shredded kaffir lime leaves, salt and sugar, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Orange Curry Paste

From The Big Book of Thai Curries by Vatcharin Bhumichitr, Kyle Books 2008

  • 1 3/4 ounces (roughly 30-40) small dried chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2/3 ounce shallot, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ounce garlic, peeled and finely chopped (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh turmeric (or the same amount ground)
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste

Prepare the dried chilies:  slice lengthwise, remove seeds, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, soak until soft then let dry. In a mortar and pestle (preferred) or blender, grind the chilies and salt. Continue grinding, adding the remaining ingredients one at a time.

Fried Pork Curry

From The Big Book of Thai Curries by Vatcharin Bhumichitr, Kyle Books 20083 tablespoons oil

  • 2 tablespoons Orange Curry Paste (see above)
  • 2 pounds boneless pork, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 ounces bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fresh red chile, finely sliced
  • 1 large fresh green chile, finely sliced
  • 20 holy basil leaves

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the curry paste and stir.  Add the pork and stir until the meat is well coated with the curry paste.  Add the fish sauce, sugar, and water, cover, and simmer gently for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add the bamboo shoots and chilies, stirring well, then add the basil just before serving.

About The Big Book of Thai Curries

ImageThai restaurateur and author, Vatcharin Bhumichitr, has created over 100 recipes, using varying combinations of ingredients to create the specialties from different parts of Thailand.

Available at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 June 2009 )
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