METRO PLUS

Cool it with hot Thai chilli peppers

IT IS said that there are only two seasons in Thailand. Hot and hotter. What better way to thrive in the tropical warmth of this country than on a cuisine whose spicy heat helps to cool the body. The intensity of many Thai curries is due to the use of Thai chilli pepper.

Chillies are found in Thailand's famous green curry, whose cool, lime green colour deceives the unwary diner of its telling taste. Taste a bit of it and it bites back, tantalising you to ask for more. The green colour comes from fresh green jalapenos peppers and the small chilies (kandhari).

For those who favour milder curries, the choices are many. Thai Red curry is made with long red chillies and lemongrass, with an array of other spices and herbs. This is equally flavoured, but is less fiery

Cool it with hot Thai chilli peppers

The perfect complement to the searing assault of chillies is rice, which is served at every Thai meal. Thai jasmine rice that is long grained is the best choice, possessing a faint fragrance like jasmine and is sweet in taste.

Begin with choosing the freshest ingredients available. Grind them using a mortar and pestle. As you grind in mortar the herbs retain their aromatic flavour and get the right texture needed for curries.

In making of fresh, traditional Thai curry paste, first pound the dried spices such as cumin, coriander in the mortar. The other ingredients such as fresh or dried chillies, lemon grass, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime rind (Thai lime), coriander root, galangal (krachai) (Thai ginger) are added to yield a smooth paste.

Cool it with hot Thai chilli peppers

Most Thai curries, unlike Indian curries, are easy to make because the cooking stage requires a short time.

Thailand's costal region yields an abundance of fresh fish, crab, shrimps, clams and mussels. The harvest from land is rice, coconut, palm and tropical fruits. Most of the curries are made with coconut milk and are similar to Kerala curries, but the flavour of fresh basil is distinct. The dominance of Indian spices in Kerala food and the usage of oil make it richer than other curries.

Thai red curry paste

Ingredients

Dark red chillies-175 gms Kashimiri chillies-50 gms Lemon grass (chopped)-75 gms Thai ginger (chopped)-75 gms Thai lemon rind (chopped)-10 gms Onion (chopped)-60 gms Shallots (chopped)-60 gms Garlic (chopped)-75 gms Coriander seeds roasted-10 gms Cumin seeds roast-10 gms Refined oil-10 ml Dry shrimps-10 gms

Method

Mix together all the ingredients and combine in the blender, till smooth. Put this mixture in a wet grinder and further grind into a fine texture. Smear a kadai with oil and lightly cook the paste on a slow fire. Add a little salt and sugar to increase the shelf life. Refrigerate and use when required.

Thai green curry paste

Ingredients

Dark Green Chillies-200 gms

Bird Chillies-25 gms( kandhari) Coriander roots (chopped)-25 gms Lemon Grass (chopped)-75 gms Thai Ginger (chopped)-75 gms Thai Lemon Rind (chopped)-10 gms Onion (chopped)-60 gms Shallots (chopped)-60 gms Garlic (chopped)-75 gms Coriander seeds roasted-10 gms Cumin seeds roast-10 gms Refined Oil-10 ml Dry shrimps-10 gms

Method

The same as that for Thai red curry

To Finish

Coconut milk -400 ml (first extract)

Sugar- To taste Salt- To taste Lemon leaf- 5 gms Basil leaf- 15 gms Add 150 gms of Red / Green curry paste in a saucepan. Cook on slow fire. Add lemon leaves, sugar and salt. Cook till sugar and salt melts. Add coconut milk and cook on slow fire. Adjust the seasonings. The Red/Green Curry is ready. To this base curry you can add Chicken / Fish / Prawn / Tenderloin / Vegetables and cook till done. Finish the curry with a handful of Basil (Tulsi) leaves. Serve hot with rice or noodles.

HRUDANANDA BEHERA

(The author is an Oriental Chef at the Taj Malabar, Kochi. He can be contacted at, behera_in@yahoo.com)