Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Thai feed: southern style curry, grilled pork & chilli jam relish

On a recent day off i made the effort to go to Chinatown and pick up fresh Thai ingredients for a bit of a cook up. I went to Loon Moon - far as i know it's by far the best shop in Chinatown / central London for Thai ingredients, that is apart from when giant Icelandic ash clouds are stopping flights of Thai goodies coming over.

A couple of friends were coming over, one of which was Ben who kindly took some pics of the food.

I didn't have an exact plan of what to cook before i went out shopping but ended up deciding to make fresh coconut milk and using that to do a yellow curry with prawns, then some Northern Thai style grilled pork and an easy relish using bought Nam Prik Pao (a smoky Thai chilli jam) along with a few herbs, a grilled banana blossom and a various bits and bobs of garnish.

Here's some snaps and rough recipes:

First the curry...

I made my own coconut milk for this, which is not something I've done much before at home. But it's not as hard as it sounds, and, while more hassle, does produce much tastier result than opening a can. I'll take a load of pics next time i do it and do a whole post on it.
The curry itself was based on a quite a simple yellow* curry paste, which works well with lots of different types of seafood. I was going to put some torn up betel leaves in there at the end, but forgot!  No matter, but for the record they go well in this kind of curry.

*n.b I say 'yellow' here because the paste contains a good dose of fresh turmeric which makes the final curry.... you guessed it, yellow.  But!  That's slightly confusing because, in Thailand, if you ask for yellow curry (gaeng leung) you'll get a quite different spicy boiled curry with no coconut milk.  Hmmm...perhaps I should call this a 'turmeric curry'.  Any ways, i digress, back to the recipe!   

Here's the recipe for the paste:

- 6 long dried red chillies, soaked and de-seeded
- about 5 cleaned coriander roots
- 4 sticks of lemongrass, tough outside peeled off
- 5 Thai red shallots, peeled
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- a small piece of fresh tumeric, peeled
- a square inch of peeled galangal
- a tablespoon of shrimp paste (gapi)

Chop all the above nice and small and then ideally use a pestle and mortar to pound the ingredients one by one (hardest first) into a paste. If you're not feeling motivated enough to go the authentic route then a small hand blender thing will whizz it all up in half the time with the addition of a splash of water to help it bind.

So to make the curry I heated most of the coconut cream until it cracked (split and became oily), then fried the paste in resulting 'crack' until fragrant (about 5 mins). I then seasoned this with a pinch of palm sugar and a few tablespoons of fish sauce, added a little more cream and some plain chicken stock to let it out.

Next went in the prawns (tail and heads still on but I'd taken the vein and middle section of armour off) and a couple of torn lime leaves, which i let cook for 4 or 5 more mins. Finally I added some sliced long red chillies (the forgotten torn betel leaves would have gone in now too), double checked the seasoning and dished in to bowls, finishing with shredded lime leaves:

At the same time I also cooked some slow grilled pork - using pork neck, but any not-too-lean cut would work, and marinated it in a paste of coriander roots, garlic and white peppercorns along with some sweet soy sauce. I cut it pretty thick and grilled it on my cast iron griddle thing long and slow, turning regularly.

Next time i think I'd cut it bit thinner (maybe 15 cm), just so it cooks bit quicker and gets a more caramelised crust, which is obviously the best part.

With the sliced grilled pork I served a sauce which Dtew (a Thai chef from Chiang Mai showed me recently) made from lime juice, tamarind water, roasted chilli powder, fish sauce and a v.small pinch of white sugar (i topped it with ground roasted rice for a bit of extra texture & nuttiness). Plus some fresh mint and coriander sprigs, lime & cucumber slices.

Finally I did a relish based on nam prik pao, which is a chilli jam made from fried garlic, shallots, chillies, dried shrimp etc. You can buy quite good stuff in Thai shops. Which is what i did here - just warming a few tablespoons of it up in a pan and seasoned it with fresh tamarind water, palm sugar, roasted chilli powder and fish sauce. We do similar at Nahm, and then use it as a dressing for a salad.

Alongside the relish: some grilled banana blossom, blanched green beans and betel leaves:

Thanks to Ben for the great snaps.


Khanh said...

Looks great Andy. Quick question: where do you get your betel leaves from? I'm always on the look out for them - there's a Vietnamese dish I absolutely love which requires them. Cheers!

Andy said...

hey mate, thanks.

re the betel leaves - most thai stores should have. otherwise chinatown - loon moon or see woo. or vietnamese stores in hackney mare st way....assuming you're in london that is! A.