Making your own fresh curry paste requires a bit of effort but it’s worth it and makes all the difference. Freshwater catfish are extremely popular in Thailand, but you can use any freshwater fish such as Murray Perch or trout.
- 1 cup freshwater catfish cut on the bone into 3 cm pieces (about 4 small)
- 250 ml (1 cup) coconut cream
- 3 tbsp shredded Thai wild ginger (grachai)
- 2-3 red Thai chillies
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
- 2 long green chillies, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp finely grated palm sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
- 250 ml (1 cup) water or fish stock or water
- 3-4 apple eggplants, cut into large chunks
- ½ cup holy basil
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- steamed jasmine rice and extra coconut cream, to serve
Red curry paste
- 7 long dried red chillies, halved, seeded and soaked in water until soft
- large pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced lemongrass
- 1 tbsp thinly sliced peeled galangal
- 1 tsp grated kaffir lime zest
- 3 tbsp chopped red Asian shallots
- 3 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp peeled and chopped Thai wild ginger (grachai)
- 1 tsp chopped coriander root
- 1 tsp Thai shrimp paste (gapi)
- pinch of ground white pepper
- large pinch of ground cumin
- large pinch of toasted Thai coriander seeds (see Note)
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.
Soaking time 30 minutes
To make the red curry paste, drain the soaked chillies and squeeze out as much water as possible, then finely chop. Place in a mortar and pestle with the salt and pound until a coarse puree forms. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time and in the order listed, pounding each one into a paste before adding the next.
Soak the fish pieces in lightly salted water to remove some of the fattiness and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients for the curry.
Drain the fish and pat dry on paper towel. Heat 125 ml (½ cup) of coconut cream in a wok or heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 heaped tablespoons red curry paste and stir until fragrant. Add the fish and most of the ginger and simmer for one minute, then add the red chillies and kaffir lime leaves and simmer until the coconut cream begins to separate from the paste. Add another 60 ml (¼ cup) coconut cream, the thinly sliced green chillies, palm sugar and the fish sauce and stir until well combined. Add the water or stock, eggplant, basil and the remaining ginger and simmer just until the fish is cooked through. Ladle the curry into serving bowls, drizzle with the remaining coconut cream and serve with steamed rice.
• Thai coriander seeds (luk pak chee) are very different in flavour from the Western variety. If you are going to the trouble of making your own curry paste, it’s worth seeking out the right ingredients so try to source your coriander seeds from a Thai or Asian grocer.