How I learned to make yellow curry in Thailand (with recipe!)

Sà-wàd-dee kráb (Formal greeting in Thailand)

If you're like me, you probably think curry is next to impossible to make. I was shocked to learn that with the right ingredients, it's surprisingly easy to prepare. Keep reading to find out how I learned to prepare this delectable dish and how you too!

For those of you who don’t know - I have been traveling abroad for the past few weeks.  Here's a quick cliff-notes version of what I've been up to: I was accepted into a PhD program in Wellington New Zealand where I will be focusing my work on creating sustainable food systems in Polynesian island populations. I couldn't be more excited for what the future holds. 

Before I begin my studies, I decided to take a 'gap month' between my day job and graduate school to travel around Southeast Asia - one of my favorite parts of the world. 

For the majority of the 6 weeks I'm traveling, I have been spending much of my time in Thailand.  Nicknamed "The land of smiles", Thailand combines kindness, divine cuisine, and overall affordability (coming from an American perspective, that is).  So far I could not be happier with my decision to spend time here and to learn more about Thai culture and cuisine.

One of my favorite experiences thus far was a Thai Cooking Class taught by Thai Farm Cooking School.  I spent an entire day learning how to cook authentic Thai meals, taught by a local chef.  Our chef's name was 'Ae', and she took us shopping at the local markets, educated us on how to properly prepare ingredients, and gave us a hands-on lesson on how to cook a variety of Thai meals.  While there are many wonderful Thai dishes to choose from, we ended up making pad thai, yellow curry, basil stir fry, and bananas sautéed in warm coconut milk. Everything was absolutely DELICIOUS! 

I never thought curry was possible to make on my own until this class.  In fact, it's surprisingly easy using the recipe provided below (credit: Thai Farm Cooking School).  If you can't find the ingredients at your local grocery store, I dare you to venture to your nearest Asian grocery store.  They are always a fun time.  In fact, my motto for Asian supermarkets is "no rules, just fun".  Warning, once you go, you may just never want to return to your usual supermarket :-D. 

For the purpose of this blog, I wanted to focus on the yellow curry we made.  Not only was it INCREDIBLE, it was so easy to make…. really!

Ingredients needed for the Yellow Curry Paste:

  • 1-2 red dried chili pepper (soak for 20 minutes and chop)
  • 1 small chopped shallot
  • 1 tsp chopped galangal root (fresh)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped lemongrass (fresh)
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic (fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp of roasted coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. chopped turmeric (fresh)

Prep
Add all ingredients to mortar and pestle and pound until everything is ground evenly.  Don't worry - you can use a food processor too. However the the flavor might be a bit weaker.  Just be sure to add a bit more of everything. 

Ingredients for rest of curry:

  • 1-2 red dried chili pepper (soak for 20 minutes and chop)
  • 1 small chopped shallot
  • 1 tsp chopped galangal (fresh)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped lemongrass (fresh)
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic (fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp of roasted coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. chopped turmeric (fresh)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lime to taste 

Cooking instructions:  
Pour 5 tbsp of coconut milk + 1 tbsp. oil in saucepan.  Add curry paste and turn on medium heat.  Stir the curry paste into the liquid until you can smell the curry.  Then add your protein, veggies, and the rest of the coconut milk and water.  Turn up to high heat, add sugar, fish sauce (or soy sauce), and salt.  Stir occasionally until everything is properly cooked (about 2-3 minutes).  Turn off heat and add basil leaves.  Garnish with red chili pepper and BAM you have a delicious curry in no time at all. 

This recipe serves about 2 people, however it's super easy to multiple this recipe to serve larger groups for a dinner party. It's best when served with white or brown rice. 

If you get a chance to come to Chiang Mai Thailand, you must meet "Ae", the incredible instructor at Thai Farm Cooking School.  You will laugh all day and somehow end up learning how to prepare Thai delicacies from one of the best chefs in town!   You can check out all of their recipes online for FREE here.

Let me know if you try it out, I'd love to hear what you think!

Sà-wàd-dee kráb (also means goodbye!)
Chris