A proper Thai curry isn’t quick, but it’s a dish that will blow people away and remind them just how stimulating food can be.
There’s nothing wrong with the convenience of ready-made curry pastes, but we make no excuses that for a real-deal Thai curry, nothing beats homemade.
We’re taking no shortcuts when it comes to the shopping or cooking of this next level recipe. You’ll have to take a trip to a special supermarket and it isn’t quick to make, but sometimes the point of cooking something from as far-flung as Thailand is about learning new things and the journey it takes you on to get you there.
10 tips for the perfect Thai curry:
1. Homemade paste for the best taste
2. Fresh Thai ingredients for vibrancy
3. Toast the spices to wake them up
4. Turmeric for colour and seasoning
5. Pound the paste to release its flavour
6. Fry the paste in coconut oil
7. Caramel adds sweetness and depth
8. Choose your protein
9. Balance the flavours
10. Finish with Thai basil and chilli
1. Homemade paste for the best taste
Thai curry paste is based on ingredients with big, zesty flavours, and to enjoy them at their most pungent, freshly made curry paste wins every time. That said, when you just don’t have the time, there are some good curry pastes available. Ones made in Thailand in large white plastic tubs with vac-packed paste are the best. Use 2 heaped tbsp for this recipe.
2. The right stuff
It’s really worth seeking out the right fresh ingredients. Freeze-dried or ready chopped lemongrass, lime leaf and galangal are more readily available but not as potent. You’re actually better off using a good shop-bought paste. If you don’t live anywhere near a specialist supermarket, there are lots of websites that deliver nationwide.
3. Nice and toasty
Toasting the spices wakes them up and makes the curry more aromatic. Toasting the shrimp paste makes it more pungent and adds a smoky flavour.
4. Turmeric magic
Fresh turmeric isn’t always found in green curry pastes, but it adds a rounded, peppery heat and depth to the colour of the finished dish. If fresh isn’t available, add ¼ tsp ground turmeric.
5. A good pounding
The best curry pastes are pounded together in a large pestle and mortar, as this crushes the ingredients together and releases their natural oils rather than just finely chopping them. Pounding the ingredients to a paste does involve a lot of work, so you could pound them to a rough paste, then finish them in a mini food processor.
6. Essential oils
Skimming the fat off the coconut milk and then ‘splitting’ it for frying the paste is more flavoursome than dry-frying the paste, and gives the curry an authentic slick finish.
7. Cooking with caramel
Most recipes just add unrefined sugar for sweetness, but by caramelising it in the pan first, you get a deeper flavour. Plus, it creates an intense heat to cook the curry paste and seal the chicken.
8. Swap meat
We’ve gone with chicken thighs as they stay succulent, but the same curry base works for sliced pork, sliced beef, whole prawns, or large cubes of tofu. Be aware that the fish sauce keeps this recipe from being vegetarian.
9. Balance and harmony
A Thai curry should deliver a big punch of hot, sour, salty and sweet flavours. Taste the curry at the end and adjust the chilli, fish sauce, lime or sugar accordingly so each flavour is balanced with the rest.
10. The finishing touches
Thai basil has a strong aniseed flavour, and fresh red chilli adds colour and more heat. Scatter the two over just before serving.
See the full recipe for our next level Thai green curry.
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