The King of Thai Curries
Prep: 10 min // Cook: 25 min
What is it?
Thai green curry doesn’t need special introductions and recommendations. For the oblivious, this is the most comforting curry in Thailand and an equally well known and cherished Thai dish in the Western world. It’s bursting with flavour, it's silky smooth, refreshing, warming and just as spicy as a westerner can handle. Suitable for introducing someone into Thai cuisine without popping their eyeballs out. Its creaminess from coconut milk along with the freshness of the basil and kaffir lime leaves makes it unique. Usually made with chicken, beef or prawns, but can be easily turned into a beautiful vegan plate using sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other matching vegetables or roots (like my pumpkin, green beans and bean sprouts of the photo).
The dish takes its colour (and name) from the green paste made of green bird’s eye chillies and other green stuff (like kaffir lime and coriander). In Thailand, traditional home cooks make this paste fresh from scratch, pounding a long list of around 15 ingredients in a large mortar by hand. In the west, it’s a bit hard gathering this long list of rare tropical ingredients so we just go for a good quality paste from the supermarket’s Asian food section. Although I was taught how to make a proper paste during my recent visit to Thailand (just before the pandemic), I still find it very time consuming and labour intensive, so I buy ready-made pastes. The trick here is to find the proper and most flavoursome paste. If you check at the end of this post at my recommended product reviews you will find some suggested authentic Thai products for this recipe that you can buy online.
This is the easiest Thai dish you can make at home. It's one-pot and doesn't require you to prepare your own paste. Yet bear in mind, the taste of the end product heavily depends on the quality of the Green curry paste you will use. I've got some product reviews and recommendations at the end of the post that you can order from Amazon or your prefered online grocery dealer.
This recipe follows the traditional Thai green curry preparation method and works with any type of meat, fish/seafood and vegetable (or just vegetable for the vegan version). The original recipe yields some weird Thai veggies rare to find in local groceries and supermarkets (like the small green aubergines). For this reason, I have replaced Thai aubergines with Zucchini and pea aubergines with garden peas and/or edamame beans (immature soybeans really) and worked like a charm. The original recipe also has a couple of tablespoons of coconut palm sugar but I have substituted it with some extra coconut cream to add natural sweetness and keep the heat at low levels. This curry can be made literally with any vegetable and believe me, the veggie version is equally tasty with chicken, if not better.
Ingredients (serves 4)
350g (2 cups) Jasmine rice
100-120g Maesri green curry paste
400ml Coconut milk
200ml Coconut cream (thin consistency) or 300ml Coconut milk
500g chicken breasts, diced
40g Garden peas or Edamame soybeans
2 Zucchinis (medium to small size), cut in discs
6-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves or double the quantity if using dried
2 tbsp fish sauce (for the best fish sauce ever, check my product recommendations at the end of the post)
10-12 Thai basil leaves
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
Meat Substitute: Sweet Potato or Pumpkin: Replace the meaty protein with potato or pumpkin or squash and you have the vegan version of the same dish. The rest of the ingredients, technique and cooking times remain the same.
Thai basil leaves with any basil leaves: Thai basil leaves have an amazingly sweet, citrusy and peppery fragrance that makes them unique. I've tried this recipe with normal European basil and while it's not the same, is still good.
Soy Sauce: the vegan Fish Sauce substitute: Effectively a similar flavour, utterly salty in both cases. A fishy salty and slightly sour flavour for fish sauce and a roasted nutty flavour for soy sauce. I prefer using fish sauce as it gives a unique Thai flavour to this dish, but soy sauce would do the trick too, so feel free to experiment. Taste-wise is not much different as the dominating flavour in this curry is the creamy green sauce. This dish allows a lot of improvisation.
Heat a large wok (or large soup pot with a matching lid) on medium heat with vegetable oil, add the green paste and cook for 1-2 min until fragrant. Add 200ml coconut milk and stir until the paste dissolves. Add the rest (200ml) of the coconut milk and bring to hard boil.
Cook the chicken: When the sauce starts bubbling, reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken with the kaffir leaves (slightly bash them first to release a more intense citrus scent), and stir regularly for the first minute. Let the chicken cook for 5-10 minutes until you prepare the vegetables.
Prepare your veggies: Pick all basil leaves by discarding stems and cut the zucchini (discard the ends) into round discs 1 cm thick.
Toss the zucchini, peas (or beans), fish sauce and the 200ml coconut cream (or another 300ml coconut milk) into the pan and stir carefully. Bring to boil and let it simmer with a closed lid for another 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender cooked. If the sauce looks too thick, add a couple of splashes of water.
Remove from heat and stir the basil leaves to wilt. Let the curry sit to infuse the flavours before serving. I usually prepare it in the morning to be served at lunchtime or even for dinner.
Wash the rice thoroughly to remove the starchy outer layer and put it in a pan with the lid on and 3 cups water (around 700ml; best rice-water ratio is 2:3). Bring to boil and once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 min. Take the pan off the heat and set it aside with the lid on for another 10 min before serving.
Tip #1: This curry needs no salt. Saltiness comes from the fish sauce. Give it a try before serving and only top up if needed.
Tip #2: do not let the curry over boil as that will dry up the sauce. Check how it goes regularly and add splashes of water if it looks too dry. The consistency we are looking for the sauce is like a thick and rich soup.
Although spicy food better washes down with ice-cold beer as a good friend suggests, this dish is not that spicy and can be accompanied by wine too. I'm not a wine expert but when I asked my Thai cook teacher chef about wines, he suggested either a light acidic rose with fruity flavours (like a provencal rose) or some rounded and zingy white like Sauvignon blanc which both make a good match for Thai curries.
Can I freeze kafir lime leaves?
The answer is YES, kafir leaves are perfectly suitable for freezing. Wash them, pat them completely dry in a towel, wrap them in cling film and freeze them all together in a sealable freezer bag. Although there's no need to unfreeze before use, I usually thaw them in warm water for a few seconds. They can keep in the freezer for 6 months (and even more)
Check some more of my recipes with kafir lime leaves here.
Below are my favourite authentic products I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links, please deactivate your ad-blocker and refresh the page :-)
Thai Cookbooks: If you like good looking and exceptional content cookbooks and you'd only go for one Thai cookbook, that'd be definitely Phaidon Press Thai Cookbook. Bulky but comprehensive, this book is the A-Z of Thai food; with recipes collected from chefs and locals throughout the whole country, you will find here all authentic food that you've tasted in Thailand or in your local Thai restaurant. But if you are addicted to Thai food and cook Thai a great deal, I'd totally recommend getting at least one more book. My personal preference would be something from Bangkok as it's not only the capital of Thailand but the whole Thai cuisine too. My first choice would be Bangkok Cookbook: Unique twists to authentic recipes that you can only find being cooked in Bangkokian street stalls, food stories from the capital and beautiful photography. Alternatively, I also liked a lot the Busaba cookbook. Not just for being one of my favourite casual Thai restaurants in London, but also because the recipes are designed for a party table or casual dinner with friends, meaning they are fun and simple to recreate and the ingredients easy to be found.
Shop the look: If you like the serving styling in my photos, here are some suggestions for products you can buy from Amazon and build similar dining sets of your own:
Thai Green Curry Paste: The whole essence of this dish is this green paste. Not only gives the characteristic colour to the rich, creamy sauce but also gently infuses its aromas into the meat or veggies braised within the sauce. As technically and practically is very difficult to make at home, I totally recommend this Maesri brand and authentic Thai product which I have been using for a while and is one of absolutely one of the best I have found out there! Look at this stunning green colour in my photos! I never got that with any mainstream supermarket product before!. Having said that, I've tried Barts and Blue dragon pastes just for benchmarking and they are nowhere close to resembling the true, authentic taste and colour of Maesri paste. 5-star product!
Fish Sauce: A staple and essential product in Thai cooking, is called Nam Pla in Thai and is used in a similar way to soy sauce. It's characteristic aroma when tossed in stir-fries is the first thing your nose picks up when you land on Bangkok's streets. Not to mention recent research suggests fish sauce as a better low-sodium flavour booster than salt. So there you go, it's healthier and boosts flavour too :-) Now this Tiparos brand was used by all the chefs I was taught Thai food cooking in Thailand and I'm so happy I could find this brand in my local Thai supermarket in the UK and Amazon too (a little more expensive but works wonders really and is not as salty and intense as other brands).
Coconut Milk: It goes without saying that succeeding in this dish means getting the best coconut milk. My first preference is the Aroy D brand. I used in my cooking school in Thailand, and Thai chefs totally recommend it due to its intense coconut consistency. The tinned product is cheaper and usually less in coconut extract content (around 50-60%) whereas the tetra-pack version is richer in coconut (70-80%). I've also come to like Thai Taste brand that I recently discovered in Waitrose.
Coconut cream: It is a more concentrated, thicker version of coconut milk, made by pressing fresh coconut flesh. It is used quite often in most Thai recipes along with coconut milk as it packs more flavour, thickens the sauces and mitigates the burn effect from the chillies. Flavour and consistency wise, I prefer the canned products (like this Biona organic cream from Amazon) as opposed to the dried blocks of creamed coconut that you dissolve with water or the very thick creamy products coming in a tetra pack. They are totally different thing. One piece of advice though is when you cook with thick and creamy coconut be aware it will absorb lots of the water from your soups or curries hence stay alerted and regularly check the consistency and add splashes of water to maintain the humidity.
Jasmine Rice: If there's any rice I like as much as Basmati, this is Thai Jasmine. Apart from its unique popcorn-like fragrance, I like its fluffiness and slightly sticky texture when cooked. A staple in Thai cuisine and always present in my cupboard. Royal umbrella is an authentic Thai product that I totally recommend buying.