Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)

Arguably the most famous curry in the world, Green Curry is, for many of us, the poster-child of Thai cuisine. Disarmingly unintimidating, delicious and rewarding to make, it is hardly surprising that Green Curry has the equivocal honour of being as synonymous with Thailand as Spaghetti Bolognese is to Italy.

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)In spite of the fact that it is a true Thai classic, Green Curry is actually remarkably easy to make at home. The first thing to consider is your curry paste and the eternal debate between homemade or store-bought. Whilst there are a wide range of fantastic ready-made pastes available, many recipes and chefs wax-lyrical about the absolute necessity of making your own, insisting, “that’s how its done in Asia”. Poppycock!

Now I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t make your own, I’m just saying you mustn’t get too hung up on doing so. The truth is that the only Asians making their own curry pastes are those who’s job it is to do so.

Okay, so whilst I do concede that a homemade curry paste is almost always nicer than store-bought, they invariably require a long list of ingredients that are difficult to source and often impossible to substitute. As part of this recipe I have included a homemade curry paste and the final dish is all the more rewarding for it, but if you can’t be bothered making it or you don’t have the ingredients, don’t despair – there is no shame in using a store-bought paste instead (as I often do). Thankfully, as with most curries, the success of the dish actually relies more on technique than ingredients; so rather focus on how you make the curry and less on the provenance of your paste. The chances are your curry will still turn out great!

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai): Serves 6

  • 800g boneless chicken thighs (skinned and chopped)
  • 1 x 400ml tin coconut cream
  • 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (reserving 2 tbsp. of garnish)
  • 2 red shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 4cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 10-15 Thai pea aubergines
  • 1 tbsp. green peppercorns
  • Lemongrass skins reserved from the paste (or 1 whole lemongrass stalk, if using a ready made paste)
  • 6 red Bird’s Eye Chillies
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh coriander leaves

Green Curry Paste:

  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. white peppercorns
  • 1 mild green chilli, seeded and chopped
  • As many hot Thai green chillies as you can handle
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, stalk removed and very finely chopped
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, outer skins removed and chopped (reserve the outer skins)
  • 4cm fresh galangal (or ginger), chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. coriander root (if available), cleaned and chopped
  • 4 tbsp. fresh coriander leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. Thai shrimp paste

Method:

  1. If you are making the curry paste, start by dry roasting the cumin, coriander seeds and cardamom pods in a frying pan. Once the spices are heated through and aromatic, take the pan off the heat. Lightly crush the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Along with the white peppercorns, grind the toasted coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds to a fine powder. Add the ground nutmeg.
  2. Using a small food processor, add the spice mix, a good pinch of salt and all the remaining ingredients (except the turmeric and shrimp paste). Process until you have a smooth paste, adding a splash of water if necessary
  3. Decant the paste into a bowl and add the turmeric and shrimp paste, mixing to combine
  4. When you are ready to make the curry, heat half the coconut cream (200ml) in a wok along with a good pinch of salt, cooking until the coconut starts to reduce and thicken. Add the chopped chicken, lemongrass, shallots, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce. Pour in 100ml of the coconut milk and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce reduces down to almost nothing and sticks to the meat. Once cooked, place to one side till needed
  5. In a clean wok, add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil and add the remaining 200ml coconut cream and curry paste, frying until fragrant and, crucially, until the oil begins to separate. Make sure you stir the paste regularly to prevent it from burning. Add the remaining coconut milk and 2 tbsp. fish sauce, bring to the boil and then reduce to a steady simmer. After about 10 minutes, add the cooked chicken (including any juices and lemongrass, shallots etc.), pea aubergines, green peppercorns and the lime leaves. Continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes
  6. Once the curry is cooked, set aside and allow to “rest” for at least a couple of hours, but preferably overnight
  7. Before serving, gently reheat the curry until just warmed through. Garnish with the red Bird’s Eye chillies, coriander leaves and a splash of coconut milk

Note: this recipe also works brilliantly with pork, especially when using thinly sliced pork neck

 

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