Red curry is found at pretty much every “curry over rice” shop up and down the country, with many regional variations. In England it’s often sweetened to the point of being sickly. Please don’t make this mistake! There is a lot of room to manoeuvre with quantities, as with a lot of Thai dishes, so all measures of the ingredients are approximate.
Cracking the coconut cream is essential to allow you to fry the paste in the coconut oil, giving depth of flavour and unparalleled body to your curry. This is achieved by putting creamy top 2/3 of the can into a deep saucepan and heating on medium until the oil separates out leaving it with a strange congealed look. The vast majority of canned coconut milk is not only homogenised, but also contains stabilisers to prevent it from splitting in the can, on the shelf. This can have more or less of an effect on the cracking process, often making it very difficult. If you’ve heated it for more than 10 mins and you still just have a thick white mass with no oil showing, you can seed the process with about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. The brand AROY-D normally cracks with ease, but it can even vary from can to can. I also suggest using a deep saucepan to crack the milk as it helps prevent a big clean up job afterwards! If you accidentally burn it during this process then chuck it and start again.
1 can of good quality coconut milk
2 table spoons (approx.) of your favourite red curry paste
1 coconut can full of water or stock
some extra chillies (to raise the heat to the desired level)
1 inch piece of grachai, chopped very finely
250g of chicken thigh or breast meat, chopped into bit sized chucks
4 or 5 baby egg plants, split into halves or quarters (or an equivalent amount of another variety)
1 splash of fish sauce
1 small pinch of sugar (optional)
Handful of Thai basil (or other variety of basil)
1. Remove the top 2/3 of the can of coconut milk (the nice creamy) and place in a deep pan. Heat on medium until it “cracks”, stirring all the time.
2. Once the oil has separated from the solids, add the curry paste and continue to heat on heating, stirring all the time, until the paste is fragrant and has darked just slightly. This will take about 5-7 mins, depending on the heat.
3. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Then fill up the empty can with water or stock and add that to the pan. Heat until simmering.
4. Throw in the chillies and grachai.
4. Add the chicken and the egg plants.
5. Once the egg plants are soft enough, add the splash of fish sauce, pinch of sugar and the basil. Taste it!! Adjust seasoning if required.
6. Take off the heat and serve in a bowl, with a plate rice.