I was lucky enough this past summer to spend a week in Thailand, settling in the small tourist-oriented town of Ao Nang in Krabi province. Aside from taking some time to enjoy the incredible beaches in the area (the one pictured above is Pileh Bay in the Phi Phi Islands), I took my first-ever cooking class in a foreign country with Smart Cook Thai Cookery School. I think a new tradition has started!
Unbelievably, in four short hours we made no less than SEVEN recipes: hot and sour soup, spring rolls, green papaya salad, Pad Thai, homemade green curry paste, green curry, and mango sticky rice. The teacher was hilarious, pulling open a jar of fish sauce and commenting that it “smells like Bangkok”. Not only did he do a great job of walking us through the recipes and techniques, but he introduced to us the key local ingredients that provide Thai food with its signature flavors: chilis, galangal, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, fresh turmeric, and Thai basil.
I left feeling prepared to make Thai food at home. Since then, I’ve been working on recreating the recipes that Smart Cook provided me, transferring the ingredient lists to cups and ounces rather than grams, making it vegetarian, and testing substitutes for some of the hard-to-find ingredients.
I did make an effort to get the local ingredients for this recipe. Despite living in New York, a city overcrowded with Thai restaurants, it was harder than I expected to acquire the full ingredient list. The hardest items were Thai eggplant, Thai basil, and makrut lime leaves. Most eggplants sold in the US are of the globe variety, with Thai eggplants relatively rare. Makrut limes are a variety native to Southeast Asia and used heavily in regional cuisines, but it’s tricky to find them fresh or even frozen given the distance. After checking the grocery stores within walking distance, which are large chains, I went to H Mart hoping for better results only to come up empty-handed again.
Luckily I discovered Bangkok Center Grocery in Chinatown, fully stocked with Thai products, including Thai eggplant, Thai basil AND makrut lime leaves! I was so happy to find this place, and I know I’ll be back again to pick up the best ingredients for Thai cooking.
This recipe is a vegan version of the green curry I learned how to cook in Thailand. It can be cooked in 15 minutes, only needs one pan, and is made to order so you can always have it fresh! Remember that green curry is the spiciest of the Thai curries, so if you’re not into spicy this isn’t the recipe for you.
Prep all the ingredients before starting because the cooking goes quick. Having everything ready at hand makes a big difference!
Start by frying the curry paste and the eggplant, which takes the longest to cook.
Add the coconut milk, tofu, baby corn, and makrut limes leaves and let it simmer.
Finish off with soy sauce, sugar, and Thai basil. Serve over rice.
Thai Green Curry
Makes two servings
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons green curry paste
- 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk, divided
- 1 cup (60g) Thai eggplant, cut into wedges* (~ two eggplants)
- 2/3 cup (100g) extra firm tofu, sliced into cubes
- 1/2 cup (60g) baby corn, cut into slices
- 4 makrut lime leaves, torn in half lengthwise**
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 12 Thai basil leaves, torn into pieces***
- Large pan (if you have a wok, use it!)
- Put sesame oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add green curry paste and bring to a simmer (1 minute). Add a tablespoon of coconut milk to prevent burning.
- Add eggplant and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add remaining coconut milk, tofu, baby corn, and lime leaves. Stir occasionally until eggplant is tender, about 6 minutes.
- Add soy sauce and sugar. Taste and adjust as desired. Stir for 1 minute.
- Sprinkle with Thai basil leaves and remove from heat.
- Serve over rice of choice. I recommend Jasmine as that’s the most common in Thailand.
*If you can get your hands on Thai eggplant, it will increase the authenticity of your recipe. But any type of eggplant will do as a substitute.
** Substitute with one teaspoon of lime zest if you cannot find.
***Regular basil will do if you cannot find.