The light penetrated the tiny apertures, known to me as eyes. Sensations began to return to my toes, feet, legs, body, head… and brain. The surroundings became focused in contrast to the Gaussian blur from a few hours previous. The land I was in was an unknown, an eastern paradise that had magnetised this wet behind the ears traveller. For 48 hours I had been consumed by this city; but what happened? Ten years before movies with a group of blokes forgetting themselves in Vegas and Bangkok were in vogue, this happened:
It started off with a green curry. The highest expectation I had of this land was the promise of the magical chicken green curry, a dish that I first experienced at an establishment next door to the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. When I say next door it was opposite Windsor Castle, the Thai Castle as it was known. But now I was in Khao San Road and the dish was exquisite, as was the Singha beer, which I believe with the single malt whisky that my newly found Swedish travelling partner had procured was the start of 48 hours in Bangkok.
After socialising with the world’s travelling fraternity in this most famous of backpacking roads my Swedish friend and I were accosted by the most painfully boring Englishman (this is an anomaly, please believe me) that caused us to decide to either a) go back to the ‘hotel’ and call it a night, or b) carry on. There wouldn’t be much story if I told you that we chose ‘a’, so ‘b’ it was. Wouldn’t it be cool to grab a tuk-tuk at 3am in the morning and tour Bangkok? With Chang beer in tow, we grabbed a tuk-tuk and for two hours had the most incredible guided tour – down back alleys, traversing roads of neon lights, past beautifully lit temples and pagodas; a city that never seemed to sleep.
On our return to Khao San two hours later we seamlessly joined back with the party until day broke. Then it was straight to breakfast were we met a fantastic American dude who had just spent 5 years doing time in a high security penitentiary, part of which he was cooking for some mafia boss. You couldn’t write about it could you?
We spent the rest of the 48 hours with this guy which from the hazy recollections involved playing cards with motorcyclists; walking through the back door of some building down a back alley only to end up walking through the kitchen of a major hotel restaurant; the Englishman, the Swede and the American whistling some anthem whilst casually smiling at the head chef and giving an ‘a-ok’ to the presentation; arm wrestling with locals for baht, playing darts with some Norwegians, drinking local whisky with some dodgy dudes from somewhere in the world, boating down the river with some Danes, eating street food ranging from bugs (come on you have to try it once) to coconut and banana fritters, and eventually arriving back at the hotel 48 hours later; stupefied, exhausted, exhilarated and slightly worse for wear.
Of all that I did in those wonderful times travelling the memories of the food has always stuck with me, and in particular that Thai green curry has. I can’t promise you 48 hours in Bangkok but what I can promise is that my version of Thai green curry paste has been through as many adventures to arrive at its present form, and I am sure you’ll love it. By the way I didn’t end up with a Mike Tyson tattoo or a missing tooth.
Serves: 8 Servings | Preparation: 20-30 minutes | Cooking: 2-3 minutes
3 Stalks Lemongrass | Use the heart only. Remove the outer layer and then finely chop the white part.
6 Green Chilli | Use chillies with medium heat. Use 3 seeded and 3 deseeded. Finely chop.
2 cloves Garlic | Peeled and sliced.
40g (when peeled) Galangal | Peeled and chopped.
1 bunch Coriander plus roots | Clean the roots and finely chop. Chop the leaves.
½ tbsp. Cumin seeds | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
1 tbsp. Coriander seeds | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
½ tsp. Black peppercorns | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
1 lime Lime zest | Grated.
1 lime Lime juice | Use the same lime that was zested (above).
20g Shrimp paste (belacan) | Wrap in foil and heat under a hot grill for about 2 minutes. Unwrap from the oil.
3 tbsp. Nam pla (fish sauce) |
50g Asian shallots | Finely chopped. Asian shallots have a purplish skin.
1 large Kaffir lime leaf | Or two small. Remove the central vein and finely chop.
2 tbsp. Peanut oil |
Prepare the ingredients as per their relevant notes. Put all ingredients in to a food processor and blitz until smooth. I find that a food processor doesn’t produce a paste as smooth as I like, so after processing I then blitz the paste with a hand blender, which really does the job quite superbly.
Another way is to put all the ingredients in a large mortar and pestle and to pound and then grind. This takes a bit of muscle power and energy, but the final paste is excellent.
You can store this in sterilised jars in the fridge for a few weeks. For a curry for four people I usually use half of the total amount of curry paste produced in this recipe.
- I will post recipes using this paste in future blogs.