I think Thai cuisine is awesome! I love curry and Thai curries are my favorite. They are so flavorful, and just make you feel good when you’re eating them. They give such a feeling of satiety when you’re done eating, that you just dream for the next dish!
Thai curries start with a base, or paste that is made with a variety of spices and Asian flavorings. Some of these flavors are a little hard to find, and not one that every American household has in their pantry, but they are readily available here.
One really cool thing, is that once you buy the more exotic spices and such, they keep for a very long time, so you can use them when you get the whim, and not have to worry about buying more right away!
My very favorite is Thai Green Curry.
When I’m at the grocery store and I see a fresh, big bunch of cilantro, I can’t resist the urge to whip up this curry. It’s always delicious, this is almost a fool proof recipe.
When you make it yourself, it’s totally healthy and good for you.
It’s loaded of spices and herbs, with no preservatives. Depending on how many people you are feeding, this makes enough paste for four servings. I mostly cook for two, so the leftover paste can keep it for a couple days in the fridge. I wouldn’t keep it any longer than that though, because it loses it’s oomph. It’s definitely best made and used as fresh as possible. For a printable version of the curry paste go here.
Leftovers are yummy in a Mason Jar Cup of Noodle Soup for lunch the next day, or a batch of Sweet Potato Noodles and Pork with green curry sauce. YUM!
See below for how to do it. Knowing that you have this to look forward to will make any morning better, especially a Monday! I would suggest that you make this on a Sunday, which I would recommend, because it is a little time-consuming.
This recipe is a wonderful balance of salty, spicy, sweet and sour with a bitter after note from the fresh basil garnish at the end.
Some ingredients are a bit exotic and probably not familiar to you at all. You can find them all here. But give this a try and they are sure to become pantry favorites. Those include Fish Sauce, Shrimp Paste, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Lemon Grass and Galangal.
The list starts with Cilantro, hence “Green curry”. We use the leaf and stem as well as the seeds. You may be more familiar with cilantro is a herb commonly used in Mexican cuisine, usually as a garnish on tacos and definitely added to any good salsa. See my Mexican Done Right page. Here, it is the star of the show!
Fish Sauce is a condiment, used like soy sauce in Thailand and Vietnam cooking. It’s very strong odor may seem undesirable, but it gives the “umami” flavor and depth to many dishes that just aren’t the same without it. Of course, you can substitute soy sauce, but the flavor will not be as authentic.
Shrimp Paste also has a strong odor, but gives the depth of flavor you are looking for. It’s worth looking for. You only use a small amount, so it lasts a long time in your fridge.
Fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves are so worth finding. You can buy them online, or if you’re lucky enough to have an Asian grocer near you, they’d probably have them.
Lemon Grass is becoming more readily available in the larger grocery stores, but you can also find it in jars pre-sliced, frozen or in tubes (ground up) in the produce section.
Galangal is related to ginger and has the same fiery bite. Also, found in Asian grocers, and larger supermarkets, but ginger makes a find substitute, and that is readily available everywhere.
Added to the mix besides the aforementioned exotics are cumin, turmeric, garlic, shallot, green chili’s (I usually use Serrano as they are readily available and have great flavor).
Homemade Green Curry Paste
Note: You don’t have to be too crazy with your knife skills as this will all be blended together. Coarse chop helps to ensure a more homogenous mixture.
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
4 small green Thai chilies, substitute Serrano, or jalapeno
1 shallot, diced, or 1/4 small purple onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece galangal or ginger, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, white part sliced, or 3 tbsp prepared lemongrass
1/2 tsp. Ground coriander
1/2 tsp. Ground cumin
1 tsp. Shrimp paste
1/2 tsp. Ground white or black pepper
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp. Brown sugar
juice of one lime
Add all ingredients to a blender, a high speed blender such as a Nutribullet works great! Add 3-4 tbsp coconut milk to help ingredients blend together. Add more coconut milk as needed to make a smooth paste. Use right away or store it in the fridge in a glass container for 2-3 days.
Use this paste to make Green Curry Chicken, or use tofu as your protein for a vegetarian version. I like cutting it into triangles, it makes it seem more fancy!
Green Curry Chicken
1-2 lbs chicken Use any cuts you prefer, I’ve tried this with all cuts of the chicken, the only difference is the cooking time.
2 tbsp.canola oil
Green curry paste
4 kaffir limes leaves or the grated zest of one lime (If using kaffir limes leaves, remove stem, and discard, slice into thin strips)
14 oz can coconut milk
1 bell pepper, cut up in bite size pieces
1 zucchini or summer squash, (you can use any vege you have in your fridge, broccoli or asparagus work well)
Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. While pan is heating, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan. Brown chicken skin side down if using skin-on chicken. Turn and brown other side, about 5 minutes.
Remove chicken from pan. Set aside. Add 1/4 cup green chili paste to oil remaining in pan and saute until fragrant. You should be able to smell the yummy spices! This takes about 1 minute, stir constantly. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk. Add chicken back into pan, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until no longer pink on the inside. If using boneless breast or thighs, this should take about 10 minutes. For bone in thighs, about 25 minutes. You can also used sliced chicken breasts or thigh meat, which will cook in just 2-3 minutes, depending on how thick you slice it.
Note: If you do use sliced chicken, add the vege’s at the same time as when you add the browned chicken back in so you don’t over cook the chicken. You want the vege’s to still be somewhat crispy anyway.
Stir occasionally so mixture doesn’t stick.
When chicken is cooked through, add the kaffir lime leaves, red bell pepper and zucchini. Stir, bring back to simmer, cover and cook 2 minutes more until veges are al dente, and bright in color.
Now is time for the taste test. You want a balanced taste of salty, sweet, spicy and sour. You can adjust the tastes accordingly: Too salty, squeeze in some lemon or lime juice. Not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce. If you like your curry on the sweet side, add more brown sugar. If it’s too spicy, add some more coconut milk.
Serve in bowls and pass a bowl of hot Thai sticky rice or jasmine rice on the side. Top with fresh basil, Thai basil if available, mint, and or cilantro for garnish. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to give the curry a pop of freshness. Add as much fresh herb as you like.
Note: If you want a vegetarian version, and use tofu, press the liquid out of the tofu on paper towels. Cut into triangles or squares and fry in hot oil until browned on both sides. You could also use a mixture of just vegetables, that would be delicious! Be adventurous with your proteins, you could use sliced pork, or how about meatballs? I haven’t tried it yet, but I will and I will let you know how it comes out. If you try this please let me know what you did and I’ll include it in the recipe.
So I promised you leftovers, Mason Jar Cup of Soup will make your coworkers think you are a genius! You can make a couple jars and keep them in your fridge for easy work day lunches.
Add 1-2 tbsp of your awesome homemade curry paste to a 1 pint mason jar. Top with 1-2 tbsp coconut milk. You should have some leftover from the curry. You could add some “Better than Bouillon” chicken stock base or powdered bouillon if you want more chickeny flavor.
Add in cooked chicken, and then some thin sliced or shredded vege’s. Carrots, celery, corn, peas, spinach or baby greens. What ever you like or have little bits of leftovers of. Top with some cooked noodles: ramen, leftover spaghetti, egg noodles, rice noodles, macaroni, use what you have. Even some spiralized zucchini or butternut squash noodles would work. Just remember that you aren’t really cooking the soup. When you are ready to eat it, you’re just heating it up, so you want cooked meat, and slice your vegetables thin. Cooked shrimp would work too, the possibilities are endless! Just always include cooked meat.
When you’re ready to eat lunch, just add hot water to your jar, stir it up and microwave 1-2 minutes until hot. Let it sit a couple minutes to meld the flavors.
A few things to keep in mind, don’t over pack the jar because you need room to stir it up. If you like the freshness of herbs and citrus, top with chopped fresh herbs and a wedge of lime when packing your jar, just remember to remove them before you add the water!