The first things I noticed when getting out of the metro were the humid heat and the amount of people on the street and in the traffic, buzzing around in an unstoppable flow. The second thing, following closely after the first observation, all the people selling food on the street. After a bit of a stressful trip, being driven specially from the first to the second plane in Zürich with about 5 minutes of transfer time, I had made it to Bangkok for the first time. To be honest, I was super excited to see what I would think of the city. It always seems to me that people either love it or hate it.
Since it was too early to check into my hostel, and since my luggage had not arrived on the plane with me so I only had a small day-backpack, I was thinking about what to do. Of course I wanted to buy some clothes to wear the next day until my luggage would (hopefully) arrive. But I decided that could wait until I would have gotten some food. After all, that was the thing I was most curious about: the Thai streetfood. So without much effort I found the first place to eat. Sitting on a plastic stool on the street, sharing the small table with a local lady, I was served a chicken and noodle soup. A few minutes later I decided my first impression of the city was a good one: delicious soup, sitting on the street watching the world and the traffic go by.. not a bad start at all.
After a quick shopping session and a short nap in the hostel, I figured I was hungry again. My sister had advised some street stall in Chinatown with really good curries. She mentioned I should go in the afternoon instead of in the evening, since they sell out pretty quickly. I easily found the place, and it really was one of the best curries I had. A spicy green curry with chicken. But maybe just as good as the food was watching the people go by, watching other people enjoying the curries and socializing, and talking to some local people who seemed to honestly like the fact I was enjoying their food.
And basically, this was my entire experience of Bangkok. It was a mixture of visiting a lot of the amazingly beautiful temples and just walking around, finding street food that looked interesting and sit on the street eating. I fell in love with the city due to the mixture of, and the contrast between, the quiet beauty of the temples and the golden Buddhas, and the hustle and bustle of the streetlife. Meanwhile, I spent as much time as possible talking to the local people; from the schoolchildren interviewing me for their school assignments at one of the temples to the market salesman who took the effort to lift his massive, heavy fish in the air for me to marvel at its size and take a picture.
Love it or hate it, for me it is an amazing city, that definitely left me wanting to discover more of the country and its food. And that certainly inspired me to try more and more Thai dishes and ingredients.
In the recipe below I have used chicken as the protein in this curry. But to be honest, there are other options as well. I often use prawns or tofu instead of chicken. When I use prawns I prepare the curry in the same way as below, but add the prawns later than I would add the chicken, around the same time as the eggplant, as they do not need as much cooking time. For tofu, I use a firm tofu that I cut into cubes and fry in some oil until golden brown before adding it to the curry at the last moment.
Ingredients (for 2)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 5 green chillies (more or less depending on your preference for spiciness)
- Lemongrass – 2 stalks
- Ginger – a piece around 2 cm long
- Cumin – 2 teaspoons
- Coriander seeds – 2 teaspoons
- Coriander – large bunch
- 2 limes
- 200 ml coconut milk
- Fish sauce – 2 tablespoons
- Brown sugar – heaped teaspoon
- 1 red chilli
- (Thai) basil – small bunch
- 1 small eggplant
- Vegetable oil – around 1 tablespoon
- Chicken thighs – without bones and skin, and cut into chunks, 300 grams
- 100-120 grams of long grain rice – e.g. Basmati rice
The first step in the process is to start on the curry paste. Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and chillies. If you want a curry that is not too spicy, take the seeds out of the chillies. I usually leave the seeds in half of them, but it depends on your own preference for spiciness and on the chillies you use. Finely slice the lemongrass. Grate the ginger and the skin of one of the limes using a fine grater. Take the leaves of your coriander and put aside for later use. Roughly chop the stalks. Add all those ingredients to a blender together with the cumin, coriander seeds, and a good pinch of salt. Blend all this together to a smooth paste. Taste a little bit of the paste: it should be spicy, but it should still be possible to taste the other flavours as well. If necessary, adjust the flavour.
Put your rice in a pot with a pinch of salt. Add twice the amount of water to rice to the pot. For example, if the rice fits into a normal glass, add two glasses of water. Bring to a boil over a high heat, and turn the heat down to the lowest possible fire as soon as it comes to a boil. Cover and leave it to boil for approximately 15 minutes, until the water has evaporated and there are little holes in the surface of the cooked rice. Turn the fire off and leave the rice covered in a warm place until serving.
Heat a wok with the vegetable oil, or otherwise a frying pan, over a high heat. Meanwhile, chop your eggplant into cubes of around a centimeter. Add those to the wok and fry until golden on all sides. Season them with salt, and set aside.
Add some extra oil to the wok if necessary, and fry off the curry paste for around seven minutes, until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Then, add the fish sauce and the sugar and stir well. Taste to see if you need any additional fish sauce, sugar, or salt. Leave the curry to simmer for around five minutes over a medium fire, until it starts to thicken up a bit. Then add the chicken and let it simmer for around fifteen minutes before adding the cubes of eggplant. Leave on the fire for another five minutes and check the seasoning.
While the curry is cooking, finely slice the red chilli. Roughly tear the basil and the coriander leaves that you set aside before. Quarter the limes.
Once the curry is done, divide the rice and curry over two bowls. Serve with the coriander, basil, red chilli, and limes on top.