|The Thai Green Curry I cooked while at cooking school. It sure was tasty. :)|
"What is the secret recipe, you have to teach me!" Probably the most flattering response you get when you cook for others, am I right? If you ask me that question, I'll gladly share all my tips and secrets with you, but don't you hate those who say, "Oh, it's a secret family recipe, and I can't share it..."? What's the big deal?
We are always searching for that "secret" in cooking, as if there is some mysterious recipe, a magical ingredient, or some sprinkle of fairy dust that will take your cooking to the next level. Might there be some tricks that you don't already know about?
In my experience cooking for my friends and family, I've found that very often, the "secret" to a successfully executed dish lies in one or two key steps in the recipe. Once you master and understand these key concepts, you can always whip up a dish time and time again with the same consistency and success. No, there is no secret sauce, no special ingredient, no magic to be found here. Some recipe authors do a good job of writing down all the details and steps, and some let you fail a few times before you discover the trick yourself. I certainly haven't suddenly become master chef Nobu just because I cook out of his gourmet cookbook. He hasn't revealed all his tricks! :) So how do we gain mastery? Of course, like all things in life, cooking is about attempt, failure, and re-attempt until you find a way. And trust me, you will find your way. Discovering the tricks to a dish via making mistakes is a rite of passage. There are no secrets.
Ok, so no more chasing secrets or begging for secret recipes. Thai Green Curry is the perfect example of how there is no secret recipe. The ingredients are standard and the cooking method is basic. In fact, the curry paste is now so readily available that you don't even have to make it yourself anymore. So what differentiates a perfectly cooked green curry from a mediocre one? The answer is this: rendering the coconut milk. What? Yes, rendering the coconut milk. This small step brings out the natural oils in coconut milk and gives the green curry its body. If this step is done correctly, your green curry will pretty much cook itself.
Let me show you what I mean.
300g (1 1/2 cup, 10 oz) chicken breast- thinly sliced
250 ml (1 cup, 8 fl oz) of thick coconut milk- keep 30 ml (2 tablespoons aside to use as a garnish)
250 ml (1 cup, 8 fl oz) thin coconut milk (This is coconut diluted with a bit of water)
100g (4 tablespoons) green curry paste (See Resources)
3 Thai egg plants- cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch) pieces
40g (2 tablespoons) palm sugar - optional, and it is ok to substitue with dark brown sugar
30 ml (2 tablespoons) fish sauce
2 Kaffir lime leaves- torn into pieces, discard the stem (See Resources)
30g (1 cup, 1 oz) sweet basil leaves
1 big, green pepper, sliced
1 big, red chilli (optional)
1) The first step in Thai green curry is to render the coconut milk. Coconut milk, like all milk, is rich in fats. By heating it in a wok and stir frying for 3-5 minutes on high, you will start to see the coconut oil separating out from the milk. Only then can you proceed to step 2.
|When the coconut milk first hits the wok.|
After about 2 minutes you can see bubbles forming and the fat almost coming out of the milk.
Fully rendered coconut milk.
3) Once the paste show a little brown on the edges, add the chicken and cook until the outside of the chicken appears cooked.
4) Add the thin coconut milk and bring to a boil.
5) Add the big and small egg plants. Let it simmer for 4 minutes until the egg plants are slightly soft.
6) Next, add the palm sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and half of the basil leaves.
7) Turn off the heat and serve garnished with the big green chillies, the big red chillies, the remaining basil leaves and the thick coconut milk.
8) Plate and serve hot!
I hope you enjoyed this three part series on Thai cooking. Next week, we will get back to baking. I can't wait to show you some of the new gadgets we have in our store for this summer cooking season!
I find Chiang Mai too pretty to express in a few pictures. The people I met and the instructors I learned from all enriched my trip, and I felt a sense of peace the whole time I was there. Here is the final set of pictures from around Chiang Mai:
|Visiting Wat Pra Singh . It coincided with the first day of Song Kran (Thai new year). Thai people usually visit the temple on this day to pray for the new year.|
|One of the celebrations of Song Kran is the throwing of water. Thai people believe splashing each other with water washes away bad luck and sins. A lorry full of people having a wonderful time!|
|A friendly wave, and a bucket of ice cold water was tossed on me while I travelled in a tuk tuk. A note about water temperature, usually it is room temperature water, but some pranksters will put ice to chill the water before tossing it. They want to hear you scream! And oh yes, i screamed. Really fun!|
Green Curry Paste:
Kaffir Lime Leaves:
Thai egg plant:
Chiang Mai Cookery School