Apple eggplants (green or white and golf-ball sized), Thai purple eggplants and pea eggplants (bitter and the size of large peas) are a common inclusion in Thai curries, especially green and jungle curries. This curry is a combination of ho mok gai, a medium-strength chicken curry wrapped in banana leaves from northern Thailand, however, we have added a southern influence by using yellow curry paste. You will need 2 metres of banana leaves for this recipe. You can substitute 3 baby or finger eggplants, cut into 1.5cm cubes, for the apple and pea eggplants.
- 2 tbsp glutinous rice (see Note)
- 8 apple or Thai purple eggplants*, halved, large ones quartered
- 90 g pea eggplants (see Note)
- 500 g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1cm-thick slices
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 x 20 cm squares banana leaf
- steamed rice and Thai basil leaves, to serve
Yellow curry paste
- 3 long red chillies, chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
- 1 large Asian red eschalot (see Note), chopped
- 2cm-piece galangal (see Note), finely chopped
- 5cm-piece fresh turmeric, finely chopped or
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tsp shrimp paste (belachan)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make yellow curry paste, using a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients to a paste. Alternatively, process all ingredients in a blender; add 2 tbsp water, if necessary, to loosen mixture and form a paste.
Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add rice and cook, shaking pan occasionally, for 3 minutes or until golden. Using a mortar and pestle, grind rice to a coarse powder. Alternatively, use a spice or coffee grinder.
Place apple and pea eggplants in a bowl and cover with water. Add 1 tsp salt and stand for 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
Place 750 ml water in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until chicken is firm and just cooked through. Increase heat to high. Add the eggplants, fish sauce and curry paste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until eggplants are starting to soften. Stir in ground rice and cook for a further minute or until mixture starts to thicken. Set aside.
Meanwhile, blanch banana leaves in a saucepan of boiling water for 4 minutes or until pliable. Using tongs, remove leaves and place on a clean tea towel shiny-side down. Top each leaf with cup curry, then fold in sides to enclose filling. Secure ends with toothpicks.
Place in a steamer over a pan of simmering water and cook for 25 minutes or until parcels feel firm to touch. Serve with steamed rice and Thai basil leaves.
• Glutinous (sweet) rice is a starchy, short-grain rice that becomes sticky when cooked. This, and the shrimp paste are from Asian food shops.
• Apple, Thai and pea eggplants, banana leaves, Asian red eschalots and galangal are from selected greengrocers and Asian food shops.
• Drink Chang Beer, Thailand (330ml, $3)
Photography Chris Chen