Citizens, it would seem to be a simple truth that all Thai curries require coconut milk, since virtually every curry you see in Thai restaurants seems to include it.
Not so, brave Citizens – not so!
Jungle curry (Kaeng pa in Thai) is specific to the Northern Thailand highlands, where coconuts do not grow and the curry paste is nearly face-melting levels of hot without coconut milk to temper its revolutionary flames!
Why the name “Jungle Curry”? Simple – the Thai highlands are ALL jungle, and this particular curry used many ingredients found therein!
Kaeng pa is a highly spicy and watery curry that has a distinctive full taste. Ingredients usually include: kaffir lime peel and leaves, lemongrass, green pepper corns, galangal, garlic, pea eggplant and chili. It was originally prepared with wild boar but is now more commonly prepared with pork or chicken.
Citizens, let me emphasize again for good measure – this curry is extremely hot even by Thai standards! If you are a chili head, or merely aspiring to try the ultimate in heat – trust me, this is it!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For curry paste
20 fresh Thai birds’ eye chilies (red or green), chopped
5 dried Anaheim chilies, boiled first then chopped
5 dried Chiles de Arbol chilies, boiled first then chopped
4 shallots, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped galangal
1 lemongrass, pale bottom part only, chopped
½ tbsp fermented shrimp paste (interchangeable with the Malaysian belachan)
1 tsp chopped kaffir lime peel – if unavailable, use microplaned regular lime zest
1 coriander root (or substitute with twice the amount of coriander stems)
1 tsp fresh turmeric (or substitute with dried)
1 tsp White pepper – toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
1 tbsp. ground coriander seed – toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
1 tsp. ground cumin – toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
1 ginseng root from a ginseng herbal drink (if unavailable, just leave it out)
For making curry
1 stalk of kaffir lime leaves (it comes in doubles), sliced very thinly
2 tbsp fish sauce – TFD strongly recommends Red Boat brand
2 ½ tsp palm sugar (or use unrefined cane sugar)
1 stalk fresh green peppercorns, available canned in Asian markets
300g or 11 ounces of meat, sliced (chicken is common now, but wild Jungle boar was in the original recipe. Use whatever meat you like, or you can even make it vegetarian)
2 handfuls of vegetables (Asian eggplants, carrots and string beans work well, but use whatever you like)
1 handful of Thai holy basil leaves
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 tbsp oil (unrefined palm or coconut oil)
Chicken stock or water – water is tradtional
Pound (or blend) all the ingredients for the curry paste. Jungle curry paste texture is supposed to be rougher than most, not totally smooth.
This is the order for grinding or pounding:
1.1) toasted white pepper, toasted coriander, toasted cumin
1.2) cilantro root, galangal, ginseng, kaffir lime peel, lemongrass
1.3) dried chilis, salt
1.4) garlic, shallots, turmeric
1.5) shrimp paste
Add the oil to a wok or pot, and add the curry paste. Fry over low heat till you can smell all that chili hitting your nostrils.
Add some chicken stock (preferred) or water to stop burning, then the chicken, keep stirring till cooked.
Increase the heat, and add the vegetables, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar bring to a boil and then let it simmer until everything is cooked. You may want to add water/reduce the curry till you reach your desired consistency.
Finish off with the basil leaves and red bell pepper.