Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thai chicken curry recipe (Kanom Jeen Kang Kai) warning: extreme authenticity


Kanom jeen is another well known local Thai dish still largely undiscovered abroad.  It is made up of vermicelli noodles topped with various kinds of curry.  Kanom jeen kang kai in this recipe is made with chicken curry made from scratch.  Here's a good blog post I found on more information on kanom jeen.

 I have no idea why I didn't publish this recipe sooner.  I guess with the cold weather settling in, I started craving more wholesome food that packs more heat to warm myself up.  I looked through the summer pictures and found a series of pictures I took while I was shown how to make Thai chicken curry kanom jeen from scratch.  Even though I am Thai, born and raised, I had no clue what curry pastes were made out of.  I usually just settled for the already made ones you find at the grocery stores :S  But now I get to share it with everyone my lesson and how dangerous it was to find the fresh ingredients.  For my first task, I was directed to go collect some of the Thai eggplants, which were abundant around the corner from our house.  Thai eggplants are different than chinese eggplants in that they are round and green, and much smaller.

Thai eggplants
Umm... I don't think these were full grown.  They are usually small but not this tiny -_-''

Don't kill me!
As I was collecting the baby eggplants, the giant red ants all came out and greeted me.  They were very territorial.  It wasn't fun getting attacked by the army.  They were....everywhere.......

A compilation of herbs and spices used for curry paste.  From the top and clockwise, fresh cumin, lemongrass, bird's eye chilli peppers, dried roasted peppers, black peppercorn, garlic, galangal, and shallots. Gotta love Thailand! So abundant in fresh herbs.

One of the main key ingredients, seafood paste.  Thai seafood paste has an insanely strong and pungent smell and flavour.  It smells like dried shrimp and is overwhelming at times, which is why we only used 2 tbsp. in total.  

Mortar and pestle were used to crush and grind the herbs and spices together.  Then, they were blended together with the seafood paste until a smooth paste was formed.    

Here is the trick.  When you open up a can of coconut milk.  The creamy fatty part is usually on top.  Separate the creamy chunky part of coconut milk and heat it in a separate sauce pan.  In a large pot, lightly stir fry curry paste with 1 tbsp. of canola oil at medium heat. Slowly add the remaining coconut milk and stir the the mixture well together.  Add about 1lb. chicken (we used drumsticks and thighs because they're juicier), 4-5 lime leaves, 1/2 cup eggplants, and 1/2 cup of water.  Bring the mixture to boil and slowly add in the creamy coconut milk.  Season with fish sauce or salt, and about 2 tsp. of brown sugar.  

Let the curry simmer for an hour or more.  The longer you leave the curry to simmer, the more flavour from the curry paste will come out.  You will see that the oil will start to separate from the coconut milk.   It means that the curry will be very flavourful.  Add 1/2 cup of Thai basil when the curry is almost ready.

2 hours later, it's finished!  It was worth the wait.  The chicken was tender. The curry was packed with flavours from the paste and added aroma from the lime leaves and basil.

Serve the curry with rice, or in this case, vermicelli noodles.  For the side, we prepared bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and cucumbers marinated in vinegar, salt and sugar for a refreshing side to go with the curry noodles.  

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