Lots of people have heard of “curry,” but what comes to mind for most people when they hear that word is a version that comes from India.  Thai cuisine has its own versions of curry, and this is what we were in the mood for tonight – specifically a green curry, which combines the green flavors of cilantro and green chilies with the lush creaminess of coconut milk and the bright flavor of lemongrass.

The Spice Paste

This is the source of the exotic and complex flavor of green curry, and this is where you’ll spend most of your time, but it won’t take that long.  The amounts given here will provide enough spice paste for several meals.  Just freeze what you don’t use and save it for later.  To make the paste, you’ll need:

  • a fistful of cilantro leaves  ingredients
  • a chunk of ginger about the size of a walnut.  Peel and chop this (The edge of a spoon is great for scraping the dry skin off.)
  • 3 or 4 peeled cloves of garlic
  • The zest of 2 large-ish limes (That’s just the green part of the skin, and you’ll need a zester to get it off.)
  • a teaspoon of black peppercorns, ground up
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 jalapenos or other hot green peppers, seeded and roughly chopped, or leave the seeds in if you want it really hot.
  • 3 or 4 fat lemongrass stalks, or enough to give you about 1/3rd cup after it’s been chopped up.
  • fish sauce (more on this later)
Crushed peppercorns

Crushed peppercorns

Throw all of this into a food processor.  Cut one of the limes you used in half and squeeze all of the juice in.  Slosh in some of the fish sauce – about a tablespoon at first.  Don’t overdo it, because fish sauce is fairly salty.  Now grind it all to a paste.  You’ll have to open the food processor a few times to scrape the big chunks off of the sides, and be careful not to take a huge breath over it when you do.  The peppers will make you cough and the scallions will make you cry.

The curry paste

The curry paste

The rest of it

Now that you’ve got your paste together, you can decide what to do from here.  Some things you can have in your curry (choose one or several):

  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots (sliced)
  • Green beans
  • Shrimp (peeled)
  • Chicken
  • Clean tasting white fish
  • Firm tofu
  • Sliced onion

There are no hard and fast rules here.  We used carrots, green beans, and tofu in ours.  A handful of each was enough for two of us.  A handful of tofu means one half of a 16 oz. package.

inthepanWhatever the case, cut your vegetables and meat or tofu up into bite sized chunks, and heat some oil over medium high heat in a sauce pan big enough to hold the final product.  Throw the vegetables in and stir them from time to time, until they start to soften a little, and maybe even brown in places.  Once that’s happened, throw in some spice paste – a rounded tablespoon per person.  Stir it all around and let it get fragrant, which should only take a minute.  Now it’s time to add liquid, which will include:

  • Coconut milk (unsweetened, and preferably not lite)
  • Chicken or vegetable broth

You can mess with the ratios here, but we added a cup of coconut milk and a little more than a cup of chicken broth, for two of us.   Stir it all together, and then drop in the meat or tofu.  Let it come to a simmer, lower the heat to medium, and let it cook until the meat is done or the tofu is heated through.  Taste the broth and add more fish sauce if you want it more salty.  Thai curry is usually served with a side of jasmine rice.  Put the fish sauce on the table along with some lime wedges, some torn up basil leaves and some fresh cilantro for people to flavor their own bowls with.