Do you ever think about making authentic, aromatic, and flavorful Thai green curry at home? NICBC student Thanit (Pao) Vinitchagoon shares his favorite recipe he brought from Thailand, with a small twist for better nutrition!
Since I’m a Thai student living in Boston, my friends often ask me about the best Thai restaurants to visit in the area. I have to admit that, though I eat out occasionally, I don’t go to Thai restaurants often – I only go to Thai restaurants when I crave dishes that are too complex for me to cook!
Many people are discouraged from cooking Thai food recipes because they seem complicated. I think Thai food is complex, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be challenging to prepare. Nowadays, you can easily find the ingredients to make Thai food at home. As a student, don’t have a lot of time to spend cooking, so I appreciate anything that helps simplify traditional recipes. Although this may mean less flavor, that’s still OK for me. The recipe I share with you today will let you enjoy a typical dish you can find at Thai restaurants at home, too.
“แกงเขียวหวาน” in Thai, literally, translates to “Thai Sweet Green Curry.” Even though the curry has “sweet” in its name, it’s also salty, spicy, greasy, and has umami. This is typical of Thai cuisine that uses a lot of herbs, spices, and condiments to make flavors explode in a single dish. This recipe calls for a DIY curry paste. The advantage of making fresh curry paste is that the flavor and aroma will be much more intense compared to commercial premade curry paste. Premade curry paste is usually made by blending ingredients instead of pounding them with a mortar and pestle, and then heating the mixture to preserve it. Premade paste loses some of the aroma and flavor, but most Thai students here in the U.S. don’t make curry paste from scratch. I believe we all use the premade ones because it is much more convenient, and we value time slightly more than taste. I like to buy a brand with large Thai labels – such as Mae Ploy, Mae Sri, and Roi Thai – because it generally tastes better for me. However, it will also be spicier, so take this recommendation with caution.
As a registered dietitian, I acknowledge that this curry is pretty calorie- and fat-dense since the soup is based on coconut milk. During my undergraduate studies, I did a project to adjust Thai recipes to make them more nutritionally balanced. Substituting half of the required thin coconut milk with unsweetened soymilk helped reduce the amount of saturated fat without sacrificing the flavor. I also want to highlight that you can put in more vegetables if you wish for a delicious way to incorporate more fiber into your meal. Also note that premade curry pastes often have shrimp paste as an ingredient, so check carefully if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or have a seafood allergy. Some brands don’t contain shrimp paste, but these will be slightly less flavorful.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Green curry is one of my favorite comfort foods. I am happy every time I eat a delicious bowl of curry, and I hope you will be, too! 🙂
Recipe: Thai Green Curry with Chicken
This recipe is originally from The Complete Thai Cookbook by Srisamorn Kongpun. She is one of the Master Chef of Thailand with over 60 years of experience in Thai cuisine. For this recipe, the curry should be light green with a slightly thick consistency and shiny texture. The coconut milk should blend well with the curry and not separate into layers. The chicken meat is tender while the eggplants are cooked but their skin not darkened. The spicy flavor dominates the dish. The overall taste is well-balanced with the coconut-milk giving a perfectly sweet flavor and fragrance.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Servings: about 4 – 5 servings
- 1 lb. chicken breast – I personally like to have chicken thigh instead – Pao
- 1 cup clear thin coconut milk for simmering the chicken (prepared by mixing 1/4 cup thick coconut milk with ¾ cup water)
- 1 cup thick coconut milk – you can substitute ½ cup thick coconut milk with ½ cup unsweetened soymilk – Pao
- 3 ½ cup thin coconut milk (prepared by mixing 1 ½ cups thick coconut milk with 2 cups water) – you can substitute 2 cups thin coconut milk with 2 cups unsweetened soymilk – Pao
- 1 cup pea eggplants, stems removed – or any small-sized vegetables – Pao
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- 3 tbs. fish sauce
- 2 tsp. palm sugar
- 3 tbs. vegetable oil
- 2 red spur chilies, diagonally sliced
For the curry paste: pound all ingredients below together with a mortar and pestle until fine. – again, remember that you can buy premade curry paste. It will save you a reasonable amount of time in exchange for slightly less flavor – Pao
- 30 green bird’s eye chilies, stems removed
- 4 green spur chilies, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp. ground sea salt
- ¼ peeled shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tbs. peeled garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tbs. galangal, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tbs. lemongrass, finely chopped
- ½ tbs kaffir lime zest, finely chopped
- ½ tbs. coriander roots, finely chopped
- 1 tbs. coriander seeds, roasted, powdered
- 1 tsp. cumin, roasted powdered
- ½ tsp grounded pepper
- 1 tsp. shrimp paste
Clean the chicken and pat dry. Vertically slice into thin pieces. Add the thin coconut milk into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and reduce the heat. Simmer the chicken until the meat is tender. Remove from the pot and put aside.
Add the vegetable oil into a pan and heat on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the curry paste and stir-fry until fragrant. Slowly add ½ cup of thick coconut milk and stir-fry until fragrant with the oil floats up to the surface. Add the chicken meat and stir-fry well.
Add the mixture into a pot and heat over medium heat. Add the thin coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. Once boiled, add fish sauce and sugar. Add the pea eggplants and make sure they are submerged under the water. Once the pea eggplants are cooked, add the remaining thick coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the Thai basil leaves and red spur chilies. Taste to adjust the flavor to be well-balanced. Turn off the heat and remove it from the stove.
Serve in a bowl and garnish with Thai basil leaves. Enjoy with steamed rice or rice noodles.
Tips: when cooking the chicken, make sure the thin coconut milk is boiling before adding the chicken meat, this will make the meat tender with no foul smell. The thin coconut milk that was used to boil the chicken should be discarded as it will have a foul smell. Thai eggplants can substitute pea eggplants.
Thanit (Pao) Vinitchagoon is a U.S.-based Registered Dietitian who worked in a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand for a couple of years before joining the Friedman School as a first-year Ph.D. student in Nutrition Interventions, Communications, and Behavior Change. His interest is in eating disorder prevention and the “non-diet” approach to nutrition and health. He enjoys eating out occasionally in different places since experimenting with new foods (for him) is very fun!