Monday, March 7, 2011

Thai prawns

So a whirlwind trip to Phuket and back ticked off the to do list, and while the hazy fog of jetlag is still with me, I thought there'd be nothing better than a killer prawn curry to keep the memories alive.  There was only so much that could be done with barely 48 hours in the country, but splitting the time between the heart of the island in Thalang which is in the shadows of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, and the truly magical Khao Sok a couple of hours north of Phuket proved to capture all my attention and more.

I think it must be the simplicity of approach to the food that draws me, one of the best things I ate was a little dish of rice topped with slices of roast duck and a bowl of peanut chilli dipping sauce. Perfect and moreish, loved it for what it wasn't trying to be, and that I think is Thai food in a nutshell. I adored the smells, colours and sounds, there is always a certain vibrancy in that corner of South East Asia that will for ever steal me away, and in a food sense will continue to be an endless inspiration. Even on a wet and miserable Sunday in DC, the Maine Avenue fish market was a must for the prawns, aiding this story (with audio!  ) to continue for a little while longer.

This is quite a thin curry, which I've seen served with spiced salted beef. Kaffir lime leaves; fresh long chillies and Thai basil as essential garnishes, to give the dish its characteristic flavour.

Tradition demands that the prawns are added to the frying curry paste, but I feel that this can lead to such delicate items being overcooked, as they then continue simmering after the coconut milk is added. I think it's ultimately better to add the prawns once the base of the curry is made, when adding the vegetables. Almost any meat or fish can be used in place of the prawns, and the combination of the vegetable element has flexibility also.

Serves 4

5 tblsp cracked coconut cream
2½ tblsp green curry paste
tblsp fish sauce, to taste
250ml coconut milk and/or chicken or prawn stock
3 apple aubergines, stalk removed and each cut into sixths (if cut in advance, keep in salted water to prevent discoloration)
100g picked pea aubergines
8-12 good quality large, raw prawns, cleaned and de-veined
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
3 young green chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced at an angle
handful of Thai basil leaves
1 rounded tblsp shredded wild ginger

To make cracked coconut cream, simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. It will then separate into thin oil and milk solids.

Heat the cracked coconut cream, add the curry paste and fry over a high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until fragrant. Make sure the paste is quite oily.

Season with fish sauce, and then moisten with the coconut milk or stock, or a mixture of the two. Bring to the boil, and then add the apple and pea aubergines. Simmer for a few minutes to cook before adding the prawns. Continue to simmer until they too are cooked.

Finish with the remaining ingredients, and then allow to rest for a minute or so before serving. The curry should have a dappling of separated coconut cream floating on top. 

For the podcast click here!