April Flurries Bring Green Curries

94b66-photo3Mid April in Seattle is usually mild (in rainy terms), but this year some parts of town got hail and snow. What better way to warm up from this freakishly cold weather than to make some homemade green curry? Ever since we used the recipe from the cookbook, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, we’ve never gone back to store-bought curry paste. Even though it takes a long list of ingredients and some elbow grease, the flavor is totally unmatched by what you can get in the jar. Plus, you can control the spice level and freeze the leftover paste for quick meals during the week.

Thailand has always been one of our top travel destinations. When I was daydreaming with my friend Sandra on the appeal of Thailand, I mentioned that I could go for the food alone. Sandra confessed that she didn’t care for the flavor; she couldn’t stand the taste of fish sauce and unfortunately, it’s everywhere in Thai food.When we invited Sandra over for our curry dinner, I forgot all about her dislike for the cuisine. We decided to cook the curry as planned but to save some leftover pasta as a back-up meal for her just in case. After all, homemade is always better and if she didn’t know about the fish sauce, would she even notice it? Would we manage to curry favor with Sandra?

Ingredients for the Curry Paste:
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup minced lemongrass (4 to 8 stalks)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shallots
2 tsp. minced ginger
1 tbsp. minced lime zest
1/4 cup green serrano chiles (if you can find fresh bird’s eye chiles, use those instead)
1 tbsp. crushed bird’s eye chiles
1 tsp. fish sauce

Ingredients for the Curry:
1 lb. pork tenderloin, sliced on bias
1 red and 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 eggplant, cubed
3 cans coconut milk
Thai basil
Lime leaves
Dried galangal (optional)

Dry-roast coriander seeds in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder, grind to a powder, and set aside. Use the same method for the cumin seeds and dry-roast for 1 minute. Grind to a powder and add to the coriander. Grind the peppercorns and add to the spice mixture.

a0963-photo1Pound the lemongrass stalks with a meat tenderizer and mince finely. The more work you put into chopping each of these ingredients, the less work you have to do with the mortar pestel. Add the lemongrass to the mortar and pound until well mashed. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and continue pounding. Once the garlic starts breaking down, add the shallots and continue mashing. Add the ginger and lime zest, another pinch of salt, and the spice blend. Add the chopped chiles and pound until smooth. Set aside (our mortar is not nearly large enough to fit everything, so we had to do the final round in batches).

Open the cans of coconut milk, being careful to not break the layer of fat. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the thicker layer and add it to a skillet that has been pre-heated on medium-high. Boil the coconut oil for a couple of minutes until it starts to separate. Add 4 tbsp. curry paste (adjust to your liking; more paste = more flavor/heat) and 1 tbsp. fish sauce. Saute the paste in the coconut oil for a few minutes until it has incorporated well and smells super aromatic. Add the pork slices and sear in the paste for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

9778a-photo2Turn down the heat to medium-low, add the rest of the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Add the eggplant, bell pepper, 5 to 6 lime leaves, 5 pieces galangal, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. fish sauce. Bring back to a boil and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until the eggplant and peppers are tender. Add the pork back to the pot and cook through. Just before serving, remove the lime leaves and galangal and add the fresh basil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and dried bird’s eye chiles.So did we succeed? Did Sandra like our attempt at a mini-Thai vacation? Since we decided to make a double batch of the curry paste, we finally sat down for dinner 3 hours later (remember all the hard work now pays off in weeks to come when you just drop the curry paste into a pan). Perhaps it was the fact that we starved our guest, or the many opportunities Elliott took to add the fish sauce when her back was turned, but Sandra finished her bowl and even took home some curry to share with her husband, Rob. Perhaps a trip to Thailand is in her future after all…

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