Thai Green Curry: The “only slightly harder” way

In my almost completely uninformed opinion, there are two ways to make Thai green curry.  The super easy way is this: buy some curry paste and coconut milk, both of which are available at your local chain grocery store, cook up some random vegetables, then mix in said curry paste and coconut milk.  Easy!

However, I’m a big advocate for the “only slightly harder” way.  You’ll see that it deserves its name. Basically you just buy some fresh Asian herbs and spices and grind up a curry paste for yourself — then mix with cooked veggies and coconut milk out of a can. Only slightly harder!

What does it take to make the paste? Well, I’ll start with the generic stuff: cumin, lime juice/zest, garlic, ginger, cilantro, fresh basil (or Thai basil), and fresh jalapeno pepper (or the smaller, spicier Thai chilies, a.k.a. “bird’s eye” chilies).

You definitely have a handle on those. Now here are the more obscure ones:

Lemongrass: it is a hardy, reed-y grass with a sharp, citrus-like flavor.  The husk is inedible, though, so it’ll require some forceful peeling before you get to the tender core.  (That said, if you’re interested in making Thai-style soups or broths of any kind, then you can save some of this stalk/husk business and get some future flavor out of it.)

Galangal: looks like fresh ginger, except it is hard as a rock.  It has a bright, tangy taste with a hint of sour, as opposed to ginger’s warmth and spice.

Kaffir lime leaves (on the left): my vocab for describing tastes is stretched to the limit on this one.  These leaves have a fresh, zesty, grassy taste — and just a tad bitter.  It’s one of those tastes that you’ll instantly recognize from Thai restaurants.  The secret is out!

As long as you’re looking at the stuff on my kitchen counter, note the little round baby eggplants on the right.  They’re a nice segue into the next topic, i.e. what vegetables to include in your curry.  You can really choose anything you want! Carrots, snap peas, various peppers, squash…whatever lends buoyancy to your sea faring vessel.  I was a little strapped for vegetables at the time, so I just cooked up those cute little egg-y planties with some green pepper:

Meanwhile, assemble your curry paste ingredients and pulse them into submission in a food processor, like so:

I would recommend starting with the galangal, as it requires a lot more automated chopping than the other ingredients I’ve mentioned, which will all puree pretty easily.  I would also add a little oil as the paste is forming, because it will give it a nice consistency.

Now add this paste to your cooked veggies, mix around, *turn down the heat* and add as much coconut milk as you dare.  (Coconut milk has a tendency to curdle if it gets too hot too quickly.)  The coconut milk won’t require much cooking to lend its rich flavor to the dish, so once the milk has arrived, just let the mixture simmer on low for 5 or 10 minutes.  Some recipes call for diluting the milk with vegetable broth or water, so that’s an option — however, you’ll have to cook the curry longer so that it simmers down to the desired thickness.

If you can’t eat all of your curry, it will be even more delicious once it’s been in the fridge for a few days.

And of course, serve over rice. Oh crap, you remembered the rice, didn’t you?!

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About Thomas

Thomas currently tutors Chinese, writes blog posts, and works in the non-profit sector.
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