Basic of Thai Curries
The Definition of Curry:
A generic term referring to dishes, most commonly Asian, usually containing turmeric, hot chilies or chili powder, cumin, coriander and several other spices that differ from region to region.
As in India, curries in Thailand differ by region. In the South, curries tend to be based heavily on coconut milk. In the Northeast, the cuisine uses more lime juice and less coconut milk. Most Thai curries contain chili peppers, garlic, and coconut milk, as well as galangal or “blue ginger”, a plant that looks like ginger but does not taste like it. Thai curries are largely influenced by Laotian and Chinese cuisine as well as South Asian cuisine.
Sweet Green Curry
Green curry, hailing from Central Thailand, is commonly considered the hottest Thai curry. It is also sweet, because it uses large quantities of coconut milk and lime juice. Usually, it consists of eggplant, green chilies and fish, chicken or beef in a green curry sauce. The sauce is made from green chilies, fish or shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, kaffir limes, Thai basil, shallots, blue ginger, krachai (a milder cousin of ginger), garlic and turmeric.
Red curry, known as “spicy curry” in Thailand, is another fiery Thai dish from Central Thailand. It derives its color from copious amounts of red chilies. The chilies are crushed with garlic, shallots, blue ginger, lemongrass and shrimp or fish paste. This forms the base red curry paste for the dish. The curry paste is mixed with coconut milk to create the curry sauce. A variety of meats and vegetables can be simmered in the sauce, including eggplant, pumpkin, chicken, beef, pork, duck and tofu.
There are many different forms of “yellow curry” in Thailand. The most common Thai yellow curry is especially rich because it contains coconut cream, usually served with chicken and mixed vegetables. Other yellow-colored curries include gold curry – a spicier version of the basic yellow curry; elephant curry, an especially spicy curry without coconut milk; and orange curry – a sour version of yellow curry, also without coconut milk.
All of the yellowish curries contain plenty of turmeric. Usually they also include cumin, yellow mustard seeds, nutmeg, fish stock and kaffir lime leaves and juice. Often, the sauce is served with meats like chicken, duck or fish. In the west yellow curry is frequently seen with potatoes, but this is not an authentic ingredient to yellow curry except in southern Thailand.
Unlike many other Thai curries, which are based off of Laotian curry, the Massaman curry is derived from Indian curry, and it is often eaten by Thai Muslims in central and southern Thailand. The Massaman curry paste is made from shallots, garlic, red chilies, blue ginger, cardamom, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Coconut milk, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves are added to create the sauce. Usually, peanuts, potatoes and proteins are added, beef being the most common protein addition.
Panang curry came to Thailand from Laos. It is usually eaten in Central Thailand. It is generally milder and more subtly flavored than other, spicier Thai curries. It is made from dried chillies, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, lemongrass, cilantro, cumin, garlic, blue ginger, shallots and shrimp or fish paste. Sometimes it includes peanuts as well.
While most Thai curries have a specific origin in one region or another of Thailand or Laos, they have spread throughout the island, and most of these curries can be found in any part of modern-day Thailand, or in any Thai restaurant in the West.
Editor-Mir Niaz Morshed and Nusrat Nabila