Kaeng kari kai or chicken yellow curry will be my Thai recipe today.
Last Friday, Thailand celebrated Coronation Day. The coronation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej took place on May 5, 1950. Since then, every year on May 5, the people of Thailand expresses its affection and loyalty to the King.
But this year was the last May 5 celebration with its 21 cannon shots. Indeed, following the death of King Bhumibol in October 2016, it was decided that after 5 May 2017, this holiday would be removed from the list of public holidays in Thailand.
Thai cuisine, which is so rich and fragrant is one of my favorite cuisines in the world. I love everything that a typical Thai dish is able to combine: delicious flavors, beautiful colors, a pleasant texture, as well as a careful attention to details and presentation.
Red hot pepper, ginger, galanga (that is part of the ginger family), lime, lemongrass, tamarind, sugar, fish sauce or oyster sauce, and the ubiquitous coconut are the traditional flavors of Thai cuisine.
Let’s talk about curry first.
Curry is a generic term for a wide variety of spiced preparations. Curry is mainly found in Indian cuisine or the cuisines influenced by India such as the cuisine of Reunion Island for example, or the cuisine of Southeast Asia, including Thai cuisine.
Depending on the spices and ingredients, a curry can be very sweet or very spicy and is generally very fragrant. It comes in the form of a paste or powder and is more often yellow, orange-yellow or orange.
Our curry today should not be confused with curry leaf, which sometimes also enters in the composition of certain mixtures.
It is true that many people still think about India when they think about curry. India and its main ingredient, this intense and fragrant spice blend that makes the dishes of Indian cuisine so unique. Now here is a cuisine that I really didn’t care for until Mike taught me how to appreciate it.
Yes, curry is widespread in other parts of Asia but with very different versions.
To make a Thai curry, dried spices are replaced by fresh ingredients such as ginger, pepper, garlic, shallots, cilantro, lemongrass, galanga, to name a few, thus helping make a moist paste that dissolves during the preparation of a dish.
Curry paste is prepared with a mortar and pestle and is mainly used for the preparation of cooked meat, vegetables, fish, soups and noodle dishes.
For many dishes, coconut milk is added, which provides the sweet note among the five flavors I mentioned above. The primary spices and herbs used in currys (kaeng kari) are ground cumin, coriander or turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, salt, bay leaf, lemongrass, red pepper, ginger, mace and cinnamon. Sometimes, a touch of palm sugar or a similar sweetener will be added, depending on the sweetness of the coconut milk.
There are 3 main curries in Thailand and they all differ in terms of aromas and degrees of spiciness: red curry, yellow curry and green curry.
Contrary to what you may think, red is the sweetest and most delicate curry. Then comes the yellow curry, which is moderately spicy, and finally the green curry which is the most powerful.
The base of its paste is chili, combined with cumin seeds, garlic, galangal root, lemongrass, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper and shrimp paste.
It is only a variant of red curry that is “lightened” with the addition of turmeric.
Green curry paste consists of chopped fresh green peppers, garlic, shallots, coriander seeds, cumin, lemongrass and ginger.
Today, I went yellow with kaeng kari kai! Kaeng kari kai means chicken yellow curry. But beware as this is not the literal translation.
Nobody in Thailand calls this curry “kaeng lueang” which would mean “yellow curry”. If you order “kaeng lueang” in a Thai restaurant, nobody will understand you. Or that name will cause confusion and you will definitely get a different kind of curry.
Kaeng Kari is a funny name because it literally means “curry curry” and kai simply means chicken. A name as curious as East Timor, the Southeast Asian country whose name literally means “East East”! Thai kaeng kari can be prepared with chicken but also with duck, tofu, shrimp, fish or vegetables and is served with steamed rice or round rice noodles known as khanom menton.
Kaeng kari is always served with a small bowl of ajat, a cucumber-based condiment. The acidity of the vinegar, the freshness and crispiness of cucumber, the shallots and the spiciness of the fresh pepper would contribute to killing “lian” (เลี่ยน). No I am not going to turn you into murderers. It is just a Thai word that is used to describe a spicy, rich and caloric dish.
It was an absolutely delicious dish that we all loved!
- 1 (2-inch) piece galangal root , peeled and sliced
- 1 stem fresh lemongrass , thinly sliced
- 2 shallots , chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro , finely chopped
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh turmeric root , peeled and finely cut
- 2 Thai red peppers , sliced
- 4 leaves kaffir lime , finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp clove
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp Thai shrimp paste (optional)
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp coconut milk
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
Using a mortar and pestle, pound all the ingredients by introducing them one by one, starting with the hardest and working gently until you get a thin dark yellow paste. Alternatively, you can use a food processor.
Pour half of the coconut milk and half of the water into a pot and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent it from sticking.
Add the curry paste. Cook for about 3 minutes over medium-low heat, while stirring frequently.
Add coconut sugar and fish sauce. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook on each side for about 5 minutes over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium/low and cook chicken for about 30 minutes.
When the chicken is a little colored and it is well cooked, add the other half of the coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil, then add the potatoes and onion. Add a little water if necessary to barely cover the ingredients.
Cook for about 10 minutes then add the coconut cream and chilies and cook for 15 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Serve warm with steamed rice.