Thailand

Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines in the world and I’ve been lucky enough to experience it first hand. In 2002, I spent 6 weeks travelling around Thailand, exploring the sprawling mass of Bangkok, visiting temples, elephant riding in Chiang Mai and of course lazing on white sand beaches. I also did a cookery class for the day in Chiang Mai and have used a recipe from the book I was given on the course for my challenge.

Thailand is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonised by Europeans. This has been ascribed to the long succession of able rulers in the past four centuries who exploited the rivalry and tension between French Indochina and the British Empire.

The Andaman Sea is a precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga and Trang, and their islands, all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and, despite the 2004 tsunami, they are a tourist magnet for visitors from around the world. Tourism makes up about 6% of the economy and it was the most visited country in Southeast Asia in 2013.

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and salty. Common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, coriander, galangal, palm sugar, and fish sauce (nam pla). The staple food is rice and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. Popular dishes include Yam Nuea (Thai Beef Salad), Nua Pad Prik (fried beef with chilli) , Tom Kong (hot and sour chicken and shallot soup), Grat Doo Moo Yang (BBQ spare ribs) , Gung pad nam man hoy (prawn with asparagus and oyster sauce) , Pla Moo (hot and sour pork salad) , Ped Yang (roast duck with cloves) , Gaeng Mussaman (Mussaman curry) , Tod Man Pla (fish cakes with kaffir lime leaves), Tom yam gung (hot and sour soup with prawn and lemongrass). It was tough trying to choose from all the delicious recipes, but it seemed only right to do the most famous Thai dish – Gaeng Key Au Waan Kai (Green curry chicken). I made the paste myself and I think I may have gone too light with the chillies as we didn’t think it had enough of a kick, but the flavour was yummy.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tbsp namphrik gaeng key au wan (green curry paste) – see below
3 tbsp groundnut oil
75g aubergine (small asian ones if you can get them), cut into cubes
1 tin coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp palm sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves
Fresh Thai basil or coriander

For the Namphrik gaeng key au wan (Green Curry Paste):
(you can increase the qty as it’ll store in the fridge for 4 months)
4 green finger chillies (use 6 if you want it more spicy)
1 tbsp asian shallots, finely chopped
1/3 tbsp garlic, minced
20g ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
1/3 tsp garlic chive or fresh chives or spring onions
1/3 tsp shrimp paste
1/3 tsp salt
4 kaffir lime leaves
1/3 tsp coriander stems, chopped

For the Namphrik gaeng key au wan (Green Curry Paste)
Place all the ingredients in a large pestle and mortar (if you only have a small one, do it in small batches) and blend to a paste

Put the oil in a pan over a low heat
Add the green curry paste and bring to the boil, stirring continuously
Add the chicken over a high heat and stir well to coat with the paste
When the chicken is cooked, after about 5 minutes, add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, cook for a few minutes
Add the aubergines and bring to the boil
Stir in the sugar and fish sauce
Taste and add more sugar if necessary
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with chopped basil or coriander
Serve with steamed rice

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