Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thai Red Chicken and Bamboo Curry

Imagine you are married to this handsome young man for the past 18 years.  Not that he is young and handsome any more, but nonetheless, still the love of your life.  The paunch he has with the loads of beer he drinks every evening with his pals is huge, but you still love the way his eyes twinkle every time he smiles at you.  And then imagine one evening he gets home and informs you that the marriage is not working and he has met someone else and would like a divorce.  The tears you shed asking him to stay, to help you work this through, to think about the children if nothing else and the love you shared once.  All your pleas fall to deaf ears.  He packs his bags, wishes you well and off he goes in search of his new life albeit in the same city as you.

Days pass into weeks and you gather your life back together.  You learn to live with the gaping hole in your heart.  You learn to stop crying every time you see a picture of his or when someone mentions his name.  And then one day you learn you won the lottery – a 3 million euro lottery.  You had been buying the lottery every week for past few years and never won more than a couple of euros.  And now, all of a sudden your luck has changed.   You are a rich woman.  Single and rich – and you do not care anymore about the former.

And a few months after you have won the lottery and living a contented life in luxury, this story is being shared by a middle-aged man, unshaven and un-kept with a paunch that has grown even bigger over the past 6 months.  His pals laugh and joke about his rotten luck and in turn share it with their pals.  The pathetic story of the middle-aged man then reaches me and I share it with you, my readers.  It is not fantasy – it happened.  And then I ask myself – whom do I pity – the lady who loved and lost and was rewarded materially later or the man who did not value the love he had and walked out on it?

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4


4 cups coconut milk
450 grams boneless chicken breast portions, diced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
225 grams canned bamboo shots, rinsed and sliced
5 kaffir lime leaves
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper powder

For the garnish:
2 red chillies, chopped
10 fresh basil leaves
10 fresh mint leaves

For the curry paste:
12 fresh red chillies, seeded
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1”piece ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, tender portions chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves
4 coriander roots
10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder
½ teaspoon shrimp paste
2 tablespoons corn oil


For the curry paste 
Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a mixer.  Add salt and process till smooth.  Add oil to the paste and blend well.  Store this paste in a jar in the refrigerator until ready for use.

For the curry 
  1. Pour 2 cups of the coconut milk in a large pan.  Gently bring to a boil, stirring all the while until the milk separates.  Then reduce the heat.   
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the curry paste previously prepared and stir it into the milk.  Cook for five minutes.   The sauce should begin to thicken and may need to be stirred frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 
  3. Add the chicken pieces, fish sauce and sugar.  Stir for another three minutes until the chicken changes colour, stirring constantly. 
  4. Add the rest of the coconut milk with the bamboo shoots and the kaffir lime leaves.  Bring to a boil.  
  5. Stir in the salt and pepper.   
  6. Serve garnished with chopped chillies, basil and mint leaves. 

Tip:  Surplus curry paste can be stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks.

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