When I asked my Cambodian friend So for some recipes, he sent me a few including this recipe for red curry. The curry is different from the Thai red curry many of us have tasted. The flavouring of this dish is fragrant yet subtle, and not spicy. Interestingly, the fish is pounded and added to the spice paste, so the curry is nearly smooth.
Luckily in London it is easy to find ingredients, including all of the fresh roots for the kroeung (paste). In West London, I would recommend Thai Smile in Hammersmith or Thai House Oriental Grocery in Chiswick. However, catfish was not readily available, so I used tilapia instead. Also, my mortar and pestle was quite small and it would have taken me all day to prepare the paste and fish. Therefore, I took a slight shortcut and used the food processor instead. One tip I would recommend is to use either fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves. I find the dried ones just don’t give enough flavour.
I am not sure where the original recipe for red curry has come from, but it was sent to me by text from my friend. Even with the adaptations, the end result was very tasty and surprisingly light. I could probably have eaten two bowls of it for lunch!
1 package of rice noodles, cooked according to the package
300g catfish (or tilapia fillets)
1 Tbsp prahok (fermented fish paste)
1/2 c coconut cream
2 c coconut milk
2 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
Kroeung (spice paste)
30g lemon grass stalks, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp galangal (ginger), peeled and minced
1 Tbsp rhizome, minced
1 tsp turmeric, minced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, crushed
1 Tbsp dried red chili, soaked and chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves
1-2 limes, sliced
First, make the kroeung (spice paste) using a mortar and pestle. Pound the lemon grass stalk with the turmeric and when smooth add the galangal and rhizome. Continue pounding then follow with the garlic and shallots. Finally add the red chili and pound lightly. Let the kroeung stand in the mortar.
Next in a saucepan, boil the catfish in 2 cups of water. When cooked, remove the skin and bones, and crumble into flakes. Reserve the broth for later. Add the fish flakes to the mortar and pound with the kroeung into a smooth and consistent texture. (for this I used a food processor and pulsed it, as my mortar was too small)
In a separate saucepan, boil the coconut cream over medium-low heat, and when it starts to bubble, stir in the kroeung-fish mixture. Simmer for five minutes for the flavours to blend. When well mixed, pour in the coconut milk, bring to the boil and season with salt, sugar and fish sauce.
Bring the reserved fish broth to a boil. Place the prahok in a sieve and plunge it into the boiling soup. Use a spoon to scrape the sieve and then discard the pieces in the sieve. Add the fish soup to the coconut curry and mix in the torn up Kaffir lime leaves. Serve over rice noodles and garnish with lime, basil and bean sprouts.
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