It has been my second visit to Thailand back in the 90s. I just landed and made my way to Banglamphu a neighborhood in Bangkok. I found a guesthouse on Soi Ram Buttri a short walk from the Khao San. The room was simple but sufficient for my needs as a backpacker. I decided to take a walk and didn’t get too far. Right as I was crossing the open lobby the smell of food made me stop and peek at the menu. Biased by the smell, I wanted to order Khao Pad (fried rice) but then I thought that I should try something new. The waitress recommended the green curry. “Is it good?”, I asked. she said very! She was right. It was amazing. Green has been my first Thai curry and a favorite till this day. It opened up a hatch into a world of curry goodness.

‘Gaeng Kiaw Wan’ แกงเขียวหวาน or sweet green curry is one of the most famous dishes of the Thai cuisine. Historically this curry may be an offshoot of Gaeng Phet (‘Red’ curry) as the two share the majority of ingredients. Green curry however is unique for the use of fresh chilies and more specifically green chilies, which also give the curry its green color and name. Speaking of the name, the sweet doesn’t refer to the flavor but to a type of green, ‘sweet green’ which is the Type of pale green produced by the combination of the green curry paste diluted by the white coconut cream.

The base of the curry is the paste typically comprising green chilies, lemongrass, galangal, shallot, garlic, coriander root, makrut lime zest and dry spices, namely coriander, cumin and white pepper.
Alterations to this base paste may include addition of grachai, turmeric and other dry spices like mace and cardamom.

Green curry paste in the market

Poultry, pork, beef and fish are commonly paired with green curry, but like many other Thai dishes it is not the protein that necessarily defines the dish. This concept grants us the liberty to omit animal protein altogether and craft a plant based version of this wonderful curry. In this version I’ve used Lion Mane mushrooms.

When it comes to the taste of green curry, it would typically have quite bold yet harmonious flavors and the fresh herbs would be pronounced. Green curry would often be quite spicy although the level can be controlled and moderated by the use of fewer chilies in the paste. I personally love it spicy. It should be pleasantly salty with a hint of sweetness, from the coconut cream and a little bit of coconut sugar. Western restaurants would typically serve it on the sweeter side, but for it to be more authentic try to reduce the sweetness. An overlay of anise scent from Thai basil, rounds out the flavor profile of green curry.

Ingredients

Center wok:

  • Coconut cream
  • Coconut milk
  • Thai green and white eggplant
  • Green chilies
  • Okra (optional)
  • Bamboo shoots (optional)
  • Light soy sauce
  • Coconut sugar
  • Makrut lime leaves (torn)
  • Makrut lime leaves chiffonade
  • Thai basil

Stock:

  • Filtered water
  • Kelp (seaweed)
  • Dry shiitake mushrooms

Curry paste:

  • 10-12 green chilies
  • Sea salt
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Makrut lime zest or leaves
  • Coriander root
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • White pepper seeds
  • Miso
Method

1.Make a stock by adding kelp and dried shiitake mushrooms to filtered water bringing them to a boil and letting the stock simmer. The kelp and mushrooms add umami layers of flavor that further enhance the richness of the dish.

2.In a pan, heat a little bit of coconut or other vegetable oil with a little bit of grachai (optional). Fry the mushrooms until golden on all sides and sprinkle with a little bit of coarse sea salt. Set aside.

3.Lightly dry roast the dry spices in a pan on low heat. Remove from the pan and let cool. Grind the spices in a dry mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder and set the ground mix aside.

4.Chop the paste ingredients and pound them in a mortar and pestle, adding them one by one, until they turn into a fine and homogeneous paste. Add and incorporate the dry spices mix into the curry paste and set aside.

5.Add coconut cream to the center wok and fry the curry paste on medium heat for a few minutes. Keep adding small quantities of coconut cream while stirring the paste to ensure it is evenly fried. When the oil separates from the paste add a little bit of the stock and let the oil float atop. Gradually add coconut milk and small quantities of the stock to keep the curry moist and not too thick and oily. Bring to a gentle boil.
Season with light soy and very little coconut sugar. Taste and adjust to reach a nice balance of salty and mild sweetness.

6.Add torn makrut lime leaves, green chilies, bamboo shoots and the eggplant. Cook on low heat to soften the eggplant. Add the okra and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and fold in handful of Thai basil leaves.

7.Plate the fried mushrooms. Pour the green curry until mushrooms are partially submerged in the curry. Garnish with makrut lime chiffonade, green chilies, Thai basil leaves and a little bit of coconut cream.

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