Don’t order the 10 on the “Thai spicy” scale. Seriously, don’t do it.
Some of the signature marks of Thai food are coconut milk, basil, and lots and lots of chilies. You can disregard the earlier advice if you’re a certain kind of masochist, but when Thai people say “spicy,” they mean spicy. The nice thing about cooking at home is that you can adjust the levels of spice to your own palette and pain threshold. However, the recipe we’re going over today isn’t known for its tongue-scorching spiciness.
Gaen Keow Wan (แกงเขียวหวาน)
Gaen Keow Wan translates literally to “curry green sweet,” but you probably know it better as Thai green curry. The “green” comes not from the generous heaps of sweet basil but from the green bird’s-eye chilies used in the recipe. You can add sugar to make it sweeter if you’d like. However, traditionally, it’s the coconut cream that gives the curry its sweetness. As street food in Thailand, green curry can be hit or miss, as many vendors water it down to save on cost, especially when it comes to the coconut cream. That’s a big part of why Gaen Keow Wan is more popular as a home-cooked dish.
What You’ll Need
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 cups of water
- Green curry paste (see below)
- 2 - 3 cups coconut cream
- 6 - 10 Thai eggplant
- 6 - 10 stems of Thai sweet basil
- 2 red spur chilies
- 20 kaffir lime leaves
- ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
Green curry paste
- 150 grams Thai chilies, green color
- 1 head garlic
- 3 small Thai shallots
- 1 piece of galangal - about a thumb-sized piece
- 5 cilantro roots
- 1 kaffir lime peel
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 tbsp. white peppercorns
- 1 tsp. coriander seed
- 1 tsp. cumin seed
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. shrimp paste
Making the Curry
1. Start by prepping the ingredients for your green curry paste: slice the galangal, cilantro roots, and lemon grass; peel the lime, shallots, and garlic; and trim the chillies. Don’t forget to briefly dry roast the cumin and coriander for 30 seconds on a skillet.
2. Pound all of the curry paste ingredients, ideally in a stone mortar and pestle, with the exception of the shrimp paste. The end product should be a smooth puree. This can take up to two hours. By the time you’re done, you shouldn’t be able to see any seeds.
3. When the curry paste is ready, add the shrimp paste to the mix and pound till evenly mixed.
4. Prep your chicken and dice it into appropriately-sized bites for your curry – think about a mouthful.
5. Combine the curry paste with two cups of water, the chicken, and 10 kaffir lime leaves (broken in half) in a pot. Bring to a boil.
6. Boil the mixture until the chicken is tender and most of the water has evaporated, leaving a thick curry at the bottom – about 10 minutes.
7. As the chicken is boiling, cut the eggplant into quarters, julienne the red chilies, and remove the basil leaves from the stems.
8. When the chicken is tender, add coconut cream and bring to a gentle boil while stirring. Add salt to taste.
9. Add the eggplant and red chilies just long enough to get the flavors out – about 3 minutes.
10. Finally, just before serving, add the sweet basil, remove from heat and allow the leaves to wilt into the curry
11. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy the decadent creamy authenticity of freshly home-cooked Thai green curry.