Monday, 25 February 2013

Tom Kha Gai – Chicken in coconut milk

A favourite Thai soup that bursts with flavour.

Tom Kha Gai – Chicken in coconut milk

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

  • ½ cup coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp galangal ginger, finely sliced (substitute with ginger if you cannot find galangal)
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, lightly crushed under the blade of a knife and cut in 1 inch lengths
  • 4 coriander roots, crushed (substitute with 10 coriander stems)
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn (substitute with 12 dry kaffir lime leaves)
  • 250g chicken, thinly sliced (against the grain)
  • 400ml (1 tin) coconut milk
  • 5-6 mushrooms, cut into quarters (oyster mushrooms work best)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 birds eye chillies, sliced in half lengthways to release flavour
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 medium lime
  • ½ tbsp tamarind paste (substitute with 1 tbsp rice vinegar and 1 tsp brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp white sugar

  1. In a pot, add coconut cream. After foaming hot add the galangal, lemongrass, coriander root and kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes to release the flavours.
  3. Add the chicken, when nearly cooked, add coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  4. When the coconut milk starts to boil add the sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, sliced shallots and chillies.
  5. Bring back to the boil and season with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and tamarind paste.
  6. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
  7. This soup works very well with rice noodles – simply follow the packet instructions to prepare the noodles. Pour the soup over the noodles in a bowl. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Massaman - my favourite

This is one of my favourite curries. It combines flavours from Thailand, India and Malaysia. It's a true amalgamation of cultures. Thailand gives us the fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime, India the star anise, cumin and cardamom, while Malaysia brings us the cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend these ingredients, and all the others together in a pestle and mortar to form a perfect spicy paste.

The more earthy flavours that makes this curry so moreish and un-Thai-like is in the roasting of the paste ingredients before it's combined, fried and stewed. Roasting the ingredients releases oils and and gives a slight smoked flavour to the paste. 

Being less fragrant and more robust than other Thai curries, Massaman requires full flavoured ingredients to really bring out the full potential of all the ingredients of the paste. I choose lamb or beef to make my Massaman but chicken and pork could work too if you're not a red meat fan. However, if you do go down the white meat route make sure you leave the meat on the bone for extra depth of flavour. 

Here's my recipe for the best Massaman curry I'm sure you'll ever have.

Massaman curry paste (Nam Prik Gaeng Masaman)

Paste for 6

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, roased
  • 8 dried spur chillies, soaked in water for 10 minutes then chopped (seeds removed)
  • 2 birds eye chillies, chopped (seeds removed)
  • 1 inch length of galangal, finely sliced and roasted
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped and roasted
  • ¼ kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped and roasted
  • ¼ cup / 4 tbsp garlic, sliced and roasted
  • 1 coriander root, chopped and roasted
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds, roasted
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, roasted
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 5 cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • ¼ tsp salt

  1. Roast all the ingredients above (except chillies, ground cinnamon and nutmeg, shrimp paste and salt) one at a time in a dry pan. (no oil) 
  2. Combine all the ingredients from the list above from top to bottom in a pestle and mortar bashing each as much as possible before adding the next ingredient. 
  3. The final paste should be totally smooth with as little whole pieces as possible. 
  4. The longer you pound the ingredients for the better your paste will be.

Now that your paste is complete you're ready to make the curry. Now this process does require some time but the results are remarkable. You and your guests will definitely go back for seconds...

Massaman curry with chicken (Gaeng Masaman Gai)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: up to 3 1/2 hours 
Serves: 6


  • 2 tbsp Massaman curry paste (from above)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1kg lamb knuckles
  • 300g lamb shoulder / leg, deboned and cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 brown cardamom pods
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon bark
  • 1 cup of potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into slices
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp tamarind juice
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (ideally fresh)
  • 3 tbsp peanuts, roasted and roughly broken for garnish


  1. Preheat the over to 125 degrees celcius
  2. In an oven proof pot (with lid) heat the oil and fry the paste for 1 minute.
  3. Add a ladle full of coconut cream to soften the paste and fry until the oil separates.
  4. Add all the lamb and coat is with the paste mix. Stir fry and seal the meat for roughly 5 minutes. 
  5. Add the remainder of the coconut cream and coconut milk.
  6. When the gravy comes back to the boil add the star anise, black cardamom and cinnamon stick and stir to mix in.
  7. Place the lid on the pot and put it into the oven to stew for 2 hours.
  8. After 2 hours bring the pot back onto the stove and bring the sauce to a boil. Add 4 kaffir lime leaves and potatoes.
  9. Boil for 25 minutes and add the onions for another 10 minutes.
  10. Lastly finish the gravy with palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind paste.
  11. Serve with jasmine rice and roasted peanuts.
It's an unbelievably simple curry to make with loads of complex flavours. The only thing you need is time and patience.