Geng kiao wan, my baby. The first recipe in my little recipe notepad. The most worthwhile butthole burn in the world. A flavor synthesis so complex, so diverse, yet so distinct and unmistakable.
First, the paste. Using a mortar and pestle is preferred to a blender, as it completely pulverizes and releases the flavor of each component as its added. Fresh coconut milk is preferred to canned, which does not split into oil/cream after frying (still a mysterious phenomenon I haven’t been able to realize). Kaffir lime is essential to capturing its essence, along with other rarefied plant parts like cilantro root. I’ve found eggplant (hearty, meaty texture), green beans (fresh pop, added later in cooking), squash (melty sweetness), and mushrooms (umami) to be optimal. Topped or served with some crispy marinated fried tempeh is ideal. Tempeh soaks up so much of the paste when fried together that you might as well forget the other ingredients, which will subsequently get no love. Maybe you could just roll with that and marinade the tempeh or try out frying/cooking in coconut cream/milk until completely absorbed.
Thai dishes, and curries especially, are so spicy and flavorful that they are not meant to be eaten by themselves, but rather in combination with fresh herbs, plain/boiled/grilled/pickled veggies, and of course an ungodly heap of rice. Gin kao means to eat, but literally translates to “eat rice”. People ask each other if they’ve eaten rice yet as a way of saying hello. I thought they were inviting me to second breakfasts and late night snacks. Silly farang.
Before I jot the recipe down (which exists in a million variations elsewhere) be warned: few recipes online are authentic. They are the mama bloggers (whom I truly admire and derive tons of ideas from) trying keep you in the illusion that you are eating real Thai Green Curry. It is scrumptious, it is curry, and it should be its own thing. Like “Southeast-Asian Style Cilantro Lime Curry”. We keep a tight butthole about authenticity here. A couple articles to help:
“The best green curry pastes take no prisoners.”
“unless you have all of the fresh herbs and spices required to make authentic and traditional Thai curry pastes, you’re better off using commercial curry pastes than trying to make do with ill-advised substitutes.”
Just check out those two recipes, cuz nothing eclipses David Thompson’s “Thai Food” (the bible of Thai cooking). Here’s a montage of Geng Kiao Wan, an important culinary fixture in my brief culinary life. The one with the little green dots (mung bean sprouts) was the best I ever had, since I scoped out the kaffir lime tree in the town over from me in Melbourne where a presumedly southeast Asian family likely planted it long ago, and it was actually fruiting (that’s like finding a shiny legendary Pokémon). Also copped a pic of David Thompson’s green curry paste recipe.