Thursday, December 18, 2014

Authentic Jungle Curry (Kaeng Pa)

Jungle curry is a primitive dish that comes from the remote regions of Thailand. It is a blindingly hot dish that was traditionally made with bush meat and whatever other ingredients were on hand. Today, it remains a popular dish in Thailand, and although it is still an incredibly spicy dish, the random jungle meats have been largely replaced by duck or pork (I use seitan). The reason for the severe hotness of the dish is twofold: first, hotness was often used to mask sometimes dubious meats or vegetables used, and second, there is no coconut milk used to add sweetness and creaminess to absorb the heat. This is a watery curry—almost a stew. This is an adventurous dish.

Shopping hints: for the seitan, there are a lot of different types out there. Go with traditional flavored (not barbecue, bacon, chorizo, or any other varieties that are now available). And there are also strips or other "cuts" also now out there; just go with the plain old chunky stuff. Also, there's some unusual ingredients here, such as karachi, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and lemongrass. All these are available at most Asian grocers. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

For the paste:
1-3 habenero peppers, stems removed and halved (amount should vary depending on your tolerance--I use 5 peppers)
4 fingers of krachai, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
¼ cup shallot, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
2 TBSP galangal, chopped
Pinch white pepper
1 Anaheim pepper chopped

For the curry:
3 TBSP peanut oil, divided
1 8-ounce package seitan, torn into thin strips
3 cups veggie stock
2-3 TBSP fish sauce
3 Anaheim peppers, chopped
2-3 cups mixed vegetables (can include broccoli, bamboo shoots, zucchini, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, etc.)
2 TBSP drained green peppercorns, out of a jar (available by capers and other condiments at the store)
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
5 fingers of krachai, chopped finely
1 large tomato, sliced
Handful Thai basil (tear largest leaves in half)
Prepared forbidden black rice, sticky rice, or sticky noodles

Prepare the paste by combining all the paste ingredients in food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Process until you have a smooth paste.

Heat 2 TBSP of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add seitan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to get a bit browned and crispy on the exterior. Remove from heat and set aside.

With your burner on medium, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of the oil in a large wok or pan. When hot, add 1/3 cup of the paste (save the rest of the paste for another use). Stir constantly for 90 seconds. Add stock and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and then add Anaheim peppers, vegetables (but NOT the tomato), peppercorns, lime leaves, and krachai. Stir frequently for a couple minutes until veggies becomes a bit tender.

Stir in tomato and Thai basil remove from heat. Let sit for a minute or two then add Seitan and serve over warm rice.

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