Welcome to the jungle: Thai jungle curry

Lately, in an attempt to get a better handle on Thai cuisine, I’ve been cooking some of the recipes in Hot Sour Salty Sweet, the latest (and last – the book is due back at the library tomorrow) of which is “jungle curry.” The way I understand it, jungle curry is differentiated from other Thai curries primarily through the absence of coconut milk and the resulting coconut oil: the one I made uses vegetable oil as a frying medium, and chicken broth as the liquid. I’ve also seen recipes that call for water, or that use lard to fry the paste.

Another distinguishing characteristic of jungle curries seems to be the inclusion of krachai in the curry paste. It’s been a long time since I last made a Thai curry paste, and it’s a process I’m still not completely comfortable with. Traditionally, curry pastes are pounded smooth in a mortar, but I don’t have a mortar large enough even for this relatively small recipe. So I minced all the ingredients (I was even able to find coriander roots!), and attempted to puree them in a food processor. But the batch was so small that it mostly ended up sticking to the sides of the processor bowl while the blade whirled through empty air. Eventually, I pounded it in batches in the small mortar I do have, which seemed to produce an acceptable – if not entirely homogeneous – result.

The raw curry paste, pungent with shrimp paste but bright with aromatics, smelled simultaneously revolting and appetizing, but once incorporated into the dish, it mellowed considerably, and the curry itself was delicious, aromatic, salty and savoury. If I had one complaint, it would be that it wasn’t spicy enough: jungle curries are supposed to be scorchingly hot, while this one was barely tepid. I’m not sure if my chillis were old, or if there simply weren’t enough of them, but I guess the benefit to making your own curry paste is that you can correct the flavour.

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  1. Mortar-fied: Thai curry paste with a mortar and pestle | Kayahara.ca - August 1, 2012

    […] I recently made curry paste for a Thai jungle curry, I did it in a combination of food processor and small mortar and pestle, in batches. Since then, […]