Saturday, May 3, 2014

Basic Thai Curry + Homemade Curry Paste + Southern Thailand

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Curry. Curry curry curry. Just typing it makes me miraculously hungry and happy at the same time. Coconut curry was one of the many flavorful dishes I learned in Thai cooking school, and, very unsurprisingly, it was my absolute favorite one. Something about curry has always had a strong appeal to me; maybe it's the soothing coconut combined with the spicy flavor profile, or the way it manages to be rich and refreshing at the same time, or maybe it's simply the rainbow of colors it comes in. But from the moment the first Thai curry touched my lips, (the pumpkin red curry from the Thai restaurant down the street from my parents' house in Oregon, to be exact), there's been a long and loving relationship between us.

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Red curry has always been my favorite of the three general varieties, but while in Thailand I came to appreciate the other two much, much more, and so I decided to share a recipe for a basic curry that will work with a red, green, or yellow curry paste, and of course recipes for each of the pastes. The key to making curry paste easily is to use a rough stone mortar and pestle. The rough surface of the stone provides enough traction and grit to grind down the ingredients, whereas the smooth mortar and pestles will take much longer and more effort to grind everything down. I suppose you could also use a food processor, but I really enjoyed doing it the old fashioned way and found the smashing of the mortar to be strangely exhilarating. Just pummeling away any excess stress or anxiety into a fragrant, creamy, delicious curry. And since you're going through the effort of making it from scratch, I'd recommend doubling or tripling the batch, then scooping it out in little tablespoon heaps on a baking sheet and freezing it, then dumping the little frozen tablespoon servings into a freezer-safe ziplock bag and keeping it in the freezer so you have pre-measured it on an as-needed basis. But enough about my curry obsession, and onwards to Southern Thailand!

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

We spent our time in southern Thailand at a few different places. First, we arrived in Phuket, which is a very long island. Arriving there after our stay in the north was a bit of a shock, since Phuket is kind of the Venice beach/Jersey shore of Thailand. Lots of tourists, people trying to sell you cheap trinkets on the street, and anglicized food. This kind of feel works for some people, and a lot of people love Phuket; a whole lot of people, as was evidenced by how incredibly crowded it was. And I will say that the beaches there were beautiful, but the pandering touristy vibe just wasn't really our thing. Luckily we'd only allotted one night there, after the night in Phuket we headed up north the next morning on a trip to Kao Sok national park. We went with Phuket Trekking Club and they picked us up at the hotel and took us on a small road trip (about 3 hours of driving) up into the jungle.

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Our first stop was at a small elephant park, where we got to go on a little ride on a very lovely elephant who I nicknamed Becky. Becky was quite a sweetheart, and let me pet her trunk a little and at the end of the ride I got to feed her a pineapple, which was pretty much the highlight of my trip. It was cut into pieces, but she was reaching for them with her trunk so fast the entire thing was gone in well under 30 seconds. Riding her was a little scary to me, since I was sitting on her neck and she was so wobbly I felt like I was going to fall off the whole time. It was pretty high up, but once I leaned forward and rested my hands on her head for extra grounding I felt much less terrified. Once we were on solid ground, I would have liked nothing more than to feed her pineapples all day long, though, and I'm pretty sure she felt the same way I did.

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Rubber Tree, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

After that we stopped at a rubber tree and date palm plantation, where the white sap from rubber trees is used to make actual rubber (this completely blew my mind). While we didn't get to eat any dates, it was still really interesting to get to see them growing in big bunches on palm trees like a bushel of bananas. From there it was back in the car and onwards to our main destination, Kao Sok national park.

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Kao Sok is an incredible place, it has rivers and a lake and very unusual rock formations that tend to get wider as they get higher and have plants and trees growing from every which way on the rock face. If you've ever seen the movie Avatar (I don't recommend it), the floating islands are basically a rip-off of this place. We went on a canoe ride down the river and saw some of the most beautiful birds of the trip, along with a snake hanging out in a tree. There was also a spot that had a giant school of fish swimming around, and the tour guide gave us some fish food to toss in the water which brought them to a flurry of activity. The natural surroundings and the wildlife made it one of the most incredible parks I've ever been to, and my biggest regret of the trip was not having a couple extra days to spend there. Unlike national parks in the United States, in Thailand they have little cabins and raft houses you can stay in within the actual park. We're planning to stay in one of the cabins for a few days the next time we go and just rent a canoe to take out on the lake and cruise around the rivers. If you go this route, just make sure to pack a lot of mosquito repellent.

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

The next day we hopped back on a plane and flew a bit further east to the island of Ko Samui. The two days we spent here were the most relaxing part of our journey. We stayed at Sandalwood Samui, an amazing resort at the top of a hill with stunning views of the island and surrounding sea. We spent a lot of our time hanging out by the pool, soaking up the sunshine and taking in the incredible surroundings. Sandalwood has a huge library of books and dvds (literally hundreds), so I was able to take in some good ol' Michael Crighton literature while lounging around outside. They also have a shuttle that takes guests down to the more private local beach, or to the larger commercial beach at the island's town center, which we ended up taking to both.

IMG_858Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking30

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui, Thailand | Adventures in Cooking

Ko Samui | Adventures in Cooking

After checking out both beaches, we much preferred the smaller more private one that was just down the street from the hotel. Jeremy convinced me to swim a bit in the ocean there, which was quite a feat because I'm slightly (incredibly) phobic of putting my face underwater. I hadn't been in the ocean that deep since I was 11 years old, but once I went under the first time all the fears I had were swept away by how buoyant I felt in the water and how warm and relaxing it all was. There was a little bar and restaurant right on the seashore, so we ate our dinner there while the sun went down, enjoying some fresh seafood with noodles and a chicken stir fry while the restaurant's dog kept us company.

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

IMG_8773

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

We went down to the commercial area of the island that day and walked around the markets, buying a few things to take home and stopping at a pub for a nice cold beer (nothing tastes quite as good as a perfectly chilled hefeweizen on a hot and humid day, and the humidity in Thailand is unique in its intensity). After the beer we stopped at a massage parlor, where I got the most inexpensive pedicure of my life. It was $3! And Jeremy's Thai massage was $6!! For an HOUR. So that pretty much cemented our decision to retire to Ko Samui when we get old.

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking
Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Sandalwood Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. It worked out that we were able to upgrade to the Jasmine room the second night we were there, and while the view from the first room was awe-inspiring, the view from the second room left me entirely speechless. I'd never been anywhere tropical before, so seeing the ocean so bright and blue with so much greenery everywhere made me park myself out on the balcony for a good few hours just taking it all in. I eventually motivated myself to leave the balcony to go the breakfast serving, where we had some Thai iced tea and the best curry of my life. I'm usually more of a red curry fan, but their yellow curry was absolutely incredible. It had just the right combination of sweet, savory, spicy and the richness that can only come from coconut milk.

Hansar Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Hansar Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Hansar Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Hansar Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Hansar Samui | Adventures in Cooking

Our minds at ease, we headed over to Hansar Samui for dinner. Hansar Samui is a stunning modern resort right on the seashore of the island. Their chef, Stephen Jean Dion, puts together an 8-course course dinner service every night, and we were lucky enough to be able to spend a night dining there on their terrace that backs up right onto the beach. My favorites were the seared scallop with morel sauce and the veal loin with potato puree, leek, baby turnip, and micro carrots, but every course was delicious in its own way (as is evidenced by the regularly cleaned plates at the end of each one). They also have an expansive organic garden on the resort's grounds and offer a cooking class that takes guests on a tour of the garden to learn about the various Thai produce, and ends in the kitchen with them preparing some traditional Thai dishes. The hotel was also a short walk along the beach from Fisherman's Village, a popular night market where you can find all sorts of Thai trinkets and, of course, some tasty Thai street food, with a special emphasis on seafood. We wandered around the market after dinner, taking it all in, and regretted not having an extra night to come back to the Fisherman's market for some fresh caught and grilled seafood, but three's always next time.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and headed straight to bed since we had a very early flight back to Bangkok the next morning. We got up at 4 am with our bags packed, went to the wonderfully open and tropical Ko Samui airport, and upon seeing free juice, water, and pastries everywhere I promptly decided that it was my favorite airport of all (the deal for this was sealed when a little airport kitty came by meowing for pets). So we hopped on the plane and went back to the center of Thailand, and all the wonderful street food it had in store for us. Till next time....

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Red Curry Paste


2-3 dried red chile peppers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes with seeds removed (more peppers = more spicy)
1 teaspoon toasted cumin
1 teaspoon toasted coriander
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh or dried galangal root
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
2 tablespoons  finely chopped shallots

Yellow Curry Paste


1 dried red chile pepper, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes with seeds removed
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger 
1 and 1/2 teaspoons tumeric
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh or dried galangal root
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
1 and 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon toasted cumin
1 teaspoon toasted coriander

Green Curry Paste


2 small fresh green chile peppers
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or dried galangal root
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro stems
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin
1 and 1/2 teaspoons toasted coriander
2 cloves minced garlic

Basic Thai Curry


2 cups coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons curry paste
2-3 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 cup vegetables cut into 1-inch pieces or cubes, such as potatoes, squash, mushrooms, or eggplant
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, cut into slices
meat cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (optional)
1-inch piece of lemongrass
fresh thai basil (can substitute fresh italian basil)
1 kaffir lime leaf
4 cups cooked jasmine rice, for serving


Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Note I recommend doubling or tripling the curry paste recipes, then scooping the paste out in little tablespoon heaps on a baking sheet and freezing it, then dumping the little frozen tablespoon servings into a freezer-safe ziplock bag and keeping the bag in the freezer so you have it on hand in pre-measured tablespoon servings for a good long while. Also, to toast the coriander and cumin, place them in a small frying pan over medium heat for about 1 minute until fragrant, then remove from heat.

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Begin by making the curry paste. Crush all the curry paste ingredients together with a rough stone mortar and pestle until a smooth paste forms, or blend all the ingredients together in a food processor. Cover and set aside.

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

To prepare the curry, simmer the meat in boiling water until nearly cooked through, remove from water and set aside. In a medium-sized pot, bring the coconut milk and curry paste to a simmer over medium low heat. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring every minute. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, water,  vegetables, and onion and simmer until the vegetables are nearly done, (length of time depends on type of vegetable, i.e. potatoes take longer to cook through than mushrooms).

Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

Add the meat, lemongrass, basil and kaffir lime leaf and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked through. Remove from heat and serve immediately alongside the cooked jasmine rice.




Thai Curry | Adventures in Cooking

24 comments:

  1. This is incredible. Gorgeous photos!! I have been wanting to make my own curry past for a while now, so I cannot wait to try your recipes!
    I will be dreaming about the photos in the post for weeks now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so very much!! Definitely give the curry a try, I cannot emphasize enough how tasty it is!!

      Delete
  2. I would love to make a curry paste with a mortar and pestle. Your food photos here are so evocative--I just want to reach in and grab that mortar! And of course, your honeymoon photos are beyond gorgeous. I love that you rode an elephant! I've always been afraid to try that--we have this circus museum in Wisconsin where you can ride elephants, and I was always vehemently opposed to trying. They're so big, and they're real wobbly! I'm glad you conquered your fears and enjoyed that experience...I'm not certain I would have been able to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww thank you Brianne!!! Riding the elephant was so exciting yet scary, they are such tall animals! I can see why you haven't given it a try yet haha. But if you eventually do, just lean forward and rest your hands on them too so you have a three-prong support system :)

      Delete
  3. gosh, beautiful photos! I went through them 3 times already. I make thai curry a lot when I don't have very much time to whip something indian up and am craving some spice. I may make some of this in bulk as it is so quick and perfect for weekday meals. Thank you for ANOTHER lovely recipe :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so, so much Supal! I am so glad you enjoyed the photos so much! :D And yes, making it in bulk and freezing it is an awesome way to enjoy the effort of a homemade curry on a regular basis without having to spend so much time making it each time you want to enjoy it :) Let me know what you think!

      Delete
  4. Beautiful photos! I want to get on a plane to Thailand immediately...but since that isn't likely to happen anytime soon, your curry recipes look like a good alternative! Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Shannon!! Yes, the curry gives you a nice taste of what food awaits you in that lovely, delicious place :)

      Delete
  5. Wow! What an amazing trip, I am incredibly jealous! And that food, oh that food! Thank you so much for sharing those curry paste recipes! I am a big fan of red curry as well and am looking forward to the prospect of being able to make my own, as well as experiment with the others! The only thing I am unsure of is if I will be able to track down galangal root... I live in a rather rural part of New Hampshire where most people seem to lack culinary imagination, still clinging to the safety of the basic yankee ingredients (I had one heck of a time tracking down turmeric root for instance). Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question! You can use dried galangal or dried and ground galangal as a substitute for the fresh stuff, and I'd recommend getting it from Mountain Rose Herbs here: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/catalog/herbs/index/g#product-676 They have really affordable prices and their shipping rates are really low, too, which is great :)

      Delete
  6. FANTÁSTICO REPORTAGE EVA
    Mil gracias por hacernos soñar!!!
    Abrazos :)))
    Conxita

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Muchas gracias, Conxita!! Me siento muy halagada :)

      Delete
  7. Hubby and I are planning a trip to Thailand in August, so your blog posts recently have been PERFECT daydreaming fodder. Thanks for that! To that end, the link is broken to the cabins in Kao Sok -- could you send it my way? I'm definitely interested in copying your stay-and-canoe idea. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you for letting me know about the link! I have fixed it now, you can take a look at their accommodations here, the jungle cabin and raft house are listed at the bottom of the page: http://www.phukettrekkingclub.com/accommodation.htm

      I hope you and your husband have an amazing time! If you ever have any specific questions don't hesitate to shoot me an email or blog comment, I'm happy to give any tips about traveling there, such an incredible place :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much, Eva! I'm copying it straight into my little daydreaming document this very moment. And yes, thank you so much for offering -- I'll definitely hit you up for tips as I start hammering out the details.

      Delete
  8. I learned how to cook Indian food in India, and now I am thinking I need to learn how to make Thai food in Thailand! Wow, your photos are so gorgeous! Some of the best I have seen in a loooong time. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so very much, Kristie!! I highly recommend taking a cooking class in Thailand when you travel there, they offer them all over the country pretty much no matter where you are staying, and they're so much fun! Plus you get to eat a bunch of delicious Thai food at the end :)

      Delete
  9. These photos are gorgeous. And I'm just dying over the curry recipes! Can't wait to make them! And seriously, a $6 massage?! I'm going there first!

    ReplyDelete
  10. your photos are absolutely stunning!!!! what a fantastic trip! i took a thai cooking class here in Austin but somehow I image it's much better when it's the 'real thing' :) do you mind me asking what lense you were using? I'm in the market for a new one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Wow! Wow! Your Thailand images are like a dream!!!!!!! I started hearing the waves and my heart felt relaxed and started to swell! A momentary magic! I'm so pleased for you - both for the vacation and the celebration of your skill in capturing it! =)

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is probably my favorite travel post of all-time. I had to read everything really slowly and carefully, and the images... wow. Those fish!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amazing picture.The name itself is making me mouthwatering.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I blogged about your green curry and IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Thank you for such amazing recipes.

    http://food-ology.blogspot.com/2014/07/green-thai-curry-from-scratch.html

    ReplyDelete
  15. I want to go there so badly. Everything looks amazing. Thanks for the recipe for the Basic Curry! Great article as always.

    ReplyDelete