with a kick

Last night was my Thai Cooking Class at the Charlottesville Cooking School and I really enjoyed it!  Unfortunately (fortunately) I didn’t have any time to take any pictures so it’s imagination only today.  We made green curry paste from scratch with a mortar and pestle and our teacher told us that in Thailand there’s an old wives tale that men would walk through the markets and identify suitable wives based on the strength of their pound and the consistency of their curry paste.  I think that she might have told us this to help abate any fears that we might have had about mashing rather whole ingredients into an eventual paste because a great deal of pounding was involved, and after about 10 minutes, the room was ringing as the pestles hit their marks and wonderful smells burst into the room.  In the future, I think that I’ll be all Cuisinart, but at least I know that if the power’s out or I haven’t been getting enough upper body exercise I mash leaves into a paste.  

We cooked in groups of four, and as I always am, I was struck by how quickly people can come together in the kitchen.  I worked with three women that I had never met (my friend was working with three ladies that had a less spicy pallet) and within a matter of minutes, lemon grass was being chopped, green mangoes were being julienned, spices were being toasted and ground and we were telling each other about ourselves effortlessly.  After the three groups had completed Hot and Sour prawn soup, green mango salad, and green curry with chicken, we set the table, were poured a glass of local wine and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  I was able to take this class through a deal with work, but I think (hope!) that I’ll have many others in my future!

Here are the recipes for the Mango Salad and the Curry:

Green Mango Salad

Som Tam 


2 green mangos, peeled and grated into thin strips

1 ripe mango, peeled and grated into thin strips

1 carrot, julienned

2 T fish sauce

2 T lime juice

1 tsp palm sugar

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 small birds eye chilies, diced (use less or more depending on spice desired)

2 T roasted peanuts (optional) 


Combine green and ripe mangos, and carrot in a bowl.   Mix fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and garlic and chilies in a separate bowl.  Stir until palm sugar dissolves.  Add sauce to mango mixture and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with roasted peanuts, if desired. 


                  Green Curry Paste (Nam Prik Gaeng Kheo Wan)

Dried Ingredients

1tsp coriander seed

1tsp cumin seed

½ tsp black peppercorns

Fresh Ingredients

1 T galangal or ginza (can substitute ginger)

1 stalk lemongrass, lower 1/3 only, chopped

1tsp lime zest

2 T coriander root or stem (the stems of cilantro)

3-4 shallots, sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp shrimp paste

¼ tsp turmeric powder

20 small green chilies, deseeded (or about 6 jalapenos)

1c. (1 oz) sweet basil leaves


Toast first 3 dry ingredients for 1 minute over medium heat until fragrant.  Grind in a mortar or spice grinder.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pound using a pestle for about 10 minutes until the paste is smooth.  Alternatively all fresh and ground dry ingredients can be put into a blender or small food processor until paste forms.  Gradually add water as needed.  Yields 4-5 T green curry paste. 

Recipe adapted from Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School Cookbook by Sompon Nabnian 

Green Curry with Chicken

Gaeng Kheo Wan Gai 


10 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

c. thick coconut milk

1c. thin coconut milk

3-4 T green curry paste

1 Japanese eggplants cut into ½ inch pieces

2 green eggplants, cut into 6-8 sections

1 T palm sugar (optional)

2 T fish sauce

2 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)

½ c. basil leaves, shredded


Put the thick coconut milk into a wok and fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the coconut oil begins to separate out.  Then add the green curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes.  Once the paste is cooked add the chicken and cook until the outside of the chicken turns white.  Then add the thin coconut milk and when it is boiling add the eggplant.  Simmer for about 5 minutes until the eggplants are slightly soft.  Then add the palm sugar along the edge of the wok so that it melts.  Add the fish sauce, Kaffir lime leaves and half of the basil.  Garnish with the remaining basil.  

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