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Green curry was the first Thai food I remember eating. My parents would make it with jarred curry paste, coconut milk, green beans, potatoes, and chicken—I trust many of you are familiar with this meal. I loved this curry, and in fact still make it occasionally when the craving strikes.
But the green curry in Andy Ricker's Pok Pok cookbook is nothing like that one. First, he has you make the curry paste from scratch using a fragrant mix of lemongrass, garlic, cilantro, chilies, shrimp paste, and spices. It's a laborious endeavor, but not an unpleasant one. Consider the pounding your workout for the day. Next, you'll fry the paste in coconut cream, out of which you've gently coaxed its fat. Then, in goes the coconut milk, fish balls, and tiny Thai eggplants. The final flurry of kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, fish sauce, and more chilies lighten the rich sauce, adding salt and sourness.
Why I picked this recipe: I wanted to try making curry paste totally from scratch.
What worked: Ricker's curry paste is far more nuanced than those little storebought jars I've been using all these years, and is certainly worth the effort of pounding.
What didn't: I would have preferred the eggplant cooked a little softer than written, but that's an easy fix.
Suggested tweaks: You could certainly substitute other proteins for the fish balls and eggplant; just about anything would work here.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.