Thai Green Curry is my personal favorite curry and my go-to every time I visit a Thai food cart in Portland. Six dollars for a variety of crunchy veggies, swimming in spicy, fragrant curry sauce alongside Thai Jasmine rice? Yes please!
Thai curries differ from those of most other countries because they’re made from a wet paste, not solely a dry mixture of spices. The three predominant types of Thai curry pastes are: red, green, and yellow. Panang (phanaeng), avocado, mango, and other variants are formed around a base of one of these three pastes, then paired with slightly different sets of ingredients and cooking methods to achieve different end results.
Key ingredients in green curry paste are:
- cilantro stems
- kaffir lime peel
- green thai chilis
- coriander seeds
The other ingredients play to the tune of these core flavors.
Green curry itself contains a variety of mixed vegetables, sometimes protein in the form of chicken, shrimp, or tofu, a generous amount of sauce (akin to soup), and is always served alongside Thai Jasmine rice. The sauce is pungent with kaffir lime, toasted cumin & coriander seeds, and fresh cilantro & Thai basil, laced with a fiery kick from green Thai chilis; if this were on the menu of a Thai restaurant, I would rank its spice level from 2 to 4 animated chili peppers.
There’s no real science as to which veggies are the correct ones for green curry; the only theme to stick by is to use vegetables that are green and white. For our variation, we reached for asparagus, celery, onion, and eggplant, which is botanically a fruit (if you’re concerned about the lectin content of eggplant, check out the ‘What About Lectins?’ section in this linked post).
In order to achieve maximum flavor from spices, it’s imperative that you use whole, freshly toasted spices. And to do that, you need some sort of device to grind them up into an edible powder. What’s the best tool for the job? Mortar and pestle!
Mortar and pestle’s should be heavy for their size and made of out of some sort of stone – our’s is made from a grey substance that’s akin to granite. Albeit, if you don’t have a mortal and pestle nor have any desire to purchase one, you can run your freshly toasted spices through an electric coffee grinder or personal blender carafe, if it’s small enough.
Traditionally, a mortal and pestle is used for the entire process of making curry paste, from grinding the spices, to grinding down aromatics – such as lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and shallots – into a smooth paste. I appreciate any chef strong, resilient, and patient enough to do that… but I am not that guy.
For a quick, modern method that still yields beautiful results, run all of the paste ingredients (except for spices) together in a food-processor or blender carafe, which reduces tough vegetables into a smooth paste in a couple of minutes. While I like to stick to traditional cooking methods – especially for a dish with as much cultural umph as curry – if there’s another method to accomplish similar results with less hassle, I see no reason to turn that method down. However, if the modern method degrades the quality of the dish, then it’s not one worth pursuing. In this case, an electric blender is my preferred way to go for making the paste.
A few more tips before we let you at this tasty recipe:
- To find kaffir limes, visit your local asian market, particularly one that has Thai ownership.
- If you can’t find kaffir limes, it’s best not to substitute their zest with that of a western lime. Simply leave it out and add kaffir lime leaves, which are called for in the sauce.
- White peppercorns are used for their subtle flavor and neutral color, which doesn’t throw off the feng shui of this paste.
- Be sure to only use the bottom 1/3 of lemongrass stalks and remove the outer leaves, as the upper 2/3 and outer layers are too woody to be pureed.
- Galangal is more floral and sweet than ginger, thus it should not be substituted for ginger at all costs. However, if you absolutely can’t find any, use ginger in its place.
- Soaked seaweed adds “fishiness” to this paste which lacks shrimp paste, a normal ingredient in Thai curries.
- Mushroom broth is milder, earthier, and deeper in flavor than typical vegetable broth, which contain a multitudes of vegetables – not all of which would be a positive addition to the flavors of green curry. Plus, mushroom broth doesn’t contain any tomatoes and therefore no lectins. Yay!
Looking for a way to eat white rice without spiking glucose levels? Combine coconut oil with rice during the cooking process, refrigerate it overnight, and re-heat whenever you’re ready to enjoy some. What does this do exactly? It converts the simple sugars into resistant starches – akin to that of a sweet potato – which are fermented in the colon and turned into short-chain fatty acids to be used as fuel, not glucose, which spikes insulin levels as well as blood pressure. Read here if you’d like to learn more!
Or, if you’re looking for a grain-free option, serve with miracle rice or cauliflower rice!
Like what your taste buds are tellin’ ya? Leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
All the best,
Ryan & Kim
Thai Green Curry
Fragrant, creamy, spicy green curry, made as traditional as possible within the bounds of a vegan, lectin-limited diet.
Green Curry Paste:
- 1/2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp whole white peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/2 c tightly packed cilantro, stems included*
- 1/3 c tightly packed thai basil leaves*
- 1/3 c soaked seaweed, we used wakake*
- 1/3 c shallots, finely chopped
- 1/4 c garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 green Thai chilis, roasted, de-skinned, and de-seeded (see how to do that here)
- 2 tbsp chopped lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed
- 1 1/2 tbsp galangal, peel removed & finely chopped
- Peel of 2 kaffir limes (about 2 tsp when chopped or zested)
- 1-2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp tamari sauce
Green Curry Sauce w/ Mixed Vegetables:
- 6-8 tbsp green curry paste from above
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 c full-fat coconut milk
- 1 1/2 c mushroom broth
- 2 frozen or fresh kaffir lime leaves
- 1/2 small eggplant, cut into large chunks
- 8 asparagus spears, cut into quarters; woody stems removed
- 2 celery stalks, cut on the bias (diagonally)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, cut into wedges
- 1/3 c canned bamboo shoots
- 1 tbsp vegan fish sauce
- 1 tsp golden monkfruit sweetener*
- Resistant Starch Thai Jasmine Rice
- Cilantro or Thai basil chiffonade (cut into ribbons)
- Lime wedges
- To make curry paste: In a small pan over medium-high heat, toast together coriander, cumin, and white peppercorns – stirring every 10-15 seconds – until they’re fragrant and lightly browned. 2-3 minutes.
- Evacuate spices to a mortar and pestle and grind until they reach a relatively fine consistency. They won’t become as fine as pre-ground spices, but that’s okay. Mix in salt and nutmeg.
- Combine all of the curry paste ingredients – including spices and only 1 tbsp of coconut milk to start – in a blender or food processor and blitz on high until smooth. About 2 minutes. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add the extra tablespoon of coconut milk.
- Use curry paste immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks & freezer for up to 6 months.
- To Make Curry Sauce w/ Vegetables: Place a large high-walled sauté pan or wide soup pot over medium heat. Once hot, add in coconut oil, then, add in 6-8 tablespoons of green curry paste, depending on your spice tolerance. Remember, you can always add more later, but you can’t take any out.
- Cook curry paste for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heavily fragrant. While curry paste cooks, bruise kaffir lime leaves by massaging in hands for a few seconds. Then, stir coconut milk, mushroom broth, and kaffir lime leaves into curry paste and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Toss in all of the vegetables and cook for 8 minutes, stirring a few times. Mix in monk fruit sweetener and vegan fish sauce. Taste a vegetable for tender-ness; they should be crispy, but not unpleasantly close to raw.
- Taste sauce for seasoning and adjust if needed, adding more curry paste for spiciness, vegan fish sauce for saltiness, and monkfruit for sweetness.
- Serve alongside resistant starch Thai Jasmine rice, a fresh sprig of cilantro or Thai basil chiffonade, and a couple of wedges of lime. Best enjoyed while fresh! Although, leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to two days. To reheat, bring to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, stirring often.
*To accurately measure cilantro, seaweed, and basil leaves: pack down the greens as tightly as you can into their respective measuring cup size to remove all of the air. 1/2 cup of loosely packed cilantro is much less than 1/2 cup of tightly packed cilantro. *To soak seaweed, place a handful of dry wakake in a bowl of tap water and wait 5 minutes. Remove, squeeze out excess moisture, and use as much as needed for the recipe. *Can’t find golden monkfruit sweetener? Replace with an equal amount of powdered xylitol, erythritol, chicory, or stevia based sweetener. *One last thing: please don’t use light coconut milk. The fat in coconut milk is needed to form the desirable body of this sauce. If you choose light coconut milk, you’ll have water-y curry flavored soup instead of authentic green curry sauce, which probably isn’t what you want.