We are exploring Thai cuisine, a very rich and diverse cuisine that heavily relies on balance of aromatics. It is a cuisine that is all about the interplay of flavors and textures and no recipe better illustrates this than Thai green curry also known as kaeng khiao wan.
What are Thai curries?
In the past recipes we have published, we have discussed some of the most popular Thai curries, including kaeng kari kai (yellow curry), as well as red curry paste that we have prepared for our tod man khao pod (corn fritters) and our tod man pla (fish cakes). Most traditional Thai curry pastes usually contain fresh light flavors of lemongrass and kaffir lime zest combined with the soothing effect of coconut cream or coconut milk.
Thai curries are very different from other Asian curries. The main ingredient in Thai curries is coconut, that is added to the curry paste base. Indian curries refer to a gravy or stew dish. Garam masala is often the main spice mix along with other spices and aromatics. In Japan, curries were brought to the country by the British Navy in the 1800s and adopted decades later by the Imperial Japanese Navy. There are traditionally made with a thick curry roux that is nowadays prepared with a store-bought curry powder or curry sauce.
Thai curry paste ingredients, whether for yellow, red, massaman (sweet), panang (peanut), or green curries, are pounded together in a stone mortar and pestle. This technique allows the release of the essential oils in the herbs and spices that will deliver the unique fragrance so typical of Thai curries.
What is Thai green curry?
Green curry is probably the most pungent and spiciest of traditional Thai curries, yet its name literally means “sweet green curry”. It is said that the name actually refers to the color of the curry and not the taste. Indeed, in Thai, sweet green would refer to the “creamy green” or “pale green” color obtained by adding coconut milk to the green curry paste whose green color primarily comes from green chilies, and kaffir lime leaves.
What is the origin of Thai green curry?
Although a number of sources mention that Thai green curry was invented between the reigns of Rama 6 and Rama 7 at the beginning of the twentieth century, it has probably an older history that dates back to the thirteenth century. At that time and shortly after, Siam (former name of Thailand) opened up to trade during the time of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, the Indian and Moorish peoples used to add milk and eventually coconut milk, to a basic paste made with coriander seeds and root, cumin, peppercorns, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, garlic, shallots, and shrimp. This is the ancestor of green curry paste as we know it today that now always includes green chilies, that were introduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, just like thong yip, this now traditional egg yolk based dessert.
How to make Thai green curry paste
Green curry paste will often include shrimp paste as well as nam pla (fish sauce), which give to the paste this unique umami flavor. As with other Thai curry preparations, green curry paste is fried with coconut cream. Once it is cooked, more coconut milk is added along palm sugar and fish sauce, as well as a protein, often chicken, fish or fish balls. Pea aubergine (Turkey berry), Thai eggplant or bamboo shoots are often added to the green curry, which is also garnished with Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves or sliced red Thai chilies.
Thai green curry is typically served with rice, which is how we have eaten it, but it can also be served with traditional round rice noodles known as khanom chin.
You can obviously omit the fish sauce and the chicken or fish to make it a vegetarian green curry.
This is probably my favorite Thai curry recipes. The spiciness of the green chilies is perfectly tamed by the sweetness of the coconut cream, and balanced by the combination of citrusy, umami and salty flavors. This Thai chicken curry recipe is a winner.
Make this Thai green curry recipe to visit the Land of Smiles in your kitchen!
- 12 fresh green hot chilies
- 3 shallots , sliced
- 8 cloves garlic , sliced
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced fresh galangal
- 1 (2-inch) piece lemongrass , thinly sliced
- Rind of 1 kaffir lime
- ½ teaspoon white peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds , roasted
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds , roasted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 6 tablespoons green curry paste
- 1 lb chicken breast , sliced
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 cup coconut milk
- A few holy basil or Thai basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- ½ cup bamboo shoots , canned
- 2 red Thai peppers , thinly sliced
- 4 kaffir lime leaves , coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup water
- Combine the roasted coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorn in a mortar. Pound well for a few minutes until reaching a powder. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Pound the green hot chilies and the salt together. Add the remaining ingredients except the shrimp paste and pound until reaching a homogeneous paste.
- Add the dry spice mixture and the shrimp paste. Pound until smooth and fine.
- Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a wok or large saucepan, then add the green curry paste. Fry for a couple minutes until fragrant.
- Add the coconut cream and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the sliced chicken, and fry it in the paste for about 5 minutes. Then add the bamboo shoots, fish sauce, palm sugar, and kaffir lime leaves.
- Stir, then add the coconut milk, and the water. Cook for 10 more minutes until the chicken is cooked, then add the basil and stir in.
- Serve with white rice or khanom chin (round rice noodles)