Friday, 9 May 2014

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Gaeng Khieo Wan Gai) - with FIVE delicious variations!

There really is just nothing quite like a good Thai Green Curry...

And I absolutely love Thai green chicken curry - so much so, that I have included no less than five variations of it, a couple of which have a special place in my heart! (You may not be surprised to learn that I have more Thai green curry recipes which don't involve chicken...they will also be posted!)

Authentic Thai green chicken curry recipe

Green curry is the most classic of all Thai curries. It generally thinner, hotter and more pungent than red curries. My recipe for making your own green curry paste is here (and is what is used for the purposes of calorie counting below). You could however buy a ready made curry paste – if you do, I would suggest buying a decent quality one such as “Thai Taste” brand, (which is available from oriental supermarkets and Ocado, Sainsbury’s etc. in the UK) and following the instructions on the packaging (generally 1 tbsp per serving).

Unlike some curries, this is actually incredibly easy to make – you just fry the curry paste, add the coconut milk and sauce ingredients, then drop in the chicken (and vegetables) for a few minutes until cooked. That’s pretty much it, so do have a go – you can’t go far wrong!

From 348 calories per serving between two (see variation 1, which is pictured), or from 178 calories per serving between four as part of a meal.

The original green curry recipe (as below) serves four as part of a meal (in Thailand this might be served with steamed salted duck eggs, freshly salted beef, dried fish etc. along with steamed rice), or two to three as a standalone meal (with rice). You could add another 200g of chicken breasts if you want it to serve four as a standalone meal, as there is plenty of 'sauce'.

Calories - if you're not counting, then skip past this to the ingredients, or it will just hurt your head:  For the basic Thai Green Chicken Curry ingredients below there are 297 calories per portion if divided between four (with full fat coconut milk), or 594 calories per portion if divided between two hungry people!

If you decide to cut calories and use a 400ml can of ‘light’ coconut milk, this drops to 178 calories per portion (divided between four), or 355 calories per portion if dividing the whole curry between two hungry people. You could serve with cauliflower rice to keep this meal under 450 calories.

If you up the chicken breast meat to 450g to serve four as a standalone meal, then it’s an extra 55 calories per portion (added to the calorie counts above for between four people).

I have written the calories for all of the variations next to each ingredient, so you can easily figure out what they will be depending on what you choose to cook – or just add any vegetables you fancy – you can’t go far wrong! [Calories in square brackets]

  • 250g chicken breast, sliced (about ¼” / ½ cm thick) [275]
  • 64g green curry paste (home-made, see recipe here – or use bought e.g. Thai Taste) [29]
  • ½ tbsp coconut/sunflower/groundnut oil [68]
  • 500ml full fat coconut milk (you could get away with a 400ml can as in variation 1, but it will be a little hotter; if you use 500ml ‘light’ coconut milk instead of full fat, the calories will be 365) [770]
  • 3 ‘double’ kaffir lime leaves (preferably fresh or frozen) [flavouring – not eaten]
  • 15g palm sugar (or use stevia / raw honey for Paleo) [17]
  • 20ml fish sauce (this should generally be gluten free, but check bottle just in case) [9]
  • 40g ‘pea aubergines’ (available in jars, e.g. Thai Taste brand, sold by large Sainsbury’s etc. - not included in all of the variations - you could substitute cubed aubergine/eggplant) [11]
  • 10g sweet (Thai) basil leaves (not holy basil, just use normal basil if you can’t get sweet, no basil in variation 1 below), or more to taste [2]
  • 10g red and/or green sliced chillies (e.g. 1 large red, or to taste), to garnish (optional) [7]

Optional variations (see below method for the different variations and ingredients - the picture above is variation 1)

1. Fry the paste gently in the oil in a good (non-stick) wok or pan for 3 or 4 minutes, until it becomes aromatic. Keep stirring to avoid sticking, and then add a little of the coconut milk to soften it up.

2. Add two thirds of the coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and the fish sauce, and bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer. (Please note that Thai green curries should have a thin 'sauce'. If this is not to your taste, then you're welcome to thicken it up, e.g. with cornflour/cornstarch mixed with a little cold water, but this will dull the flavour a little, so you may need to add more seasoning, i.e. fish sauce / lime juice - you could also thicken by adding a handful of cashew nuts, or similar and blending, but do this before adding the kaffir lime leaves).

3. Add the chicken and keep gently stirring to ensure it cooks evenly. When all of the chicken has just turned white, add the remaining third of the coconut milk and the pea aubergines and gently heat up again until the chicken is *just* cooked through (take out a piece and test it is cooked – it should be lovely, moist and tender through this method of cooking if you don’t over-cook it).

4. Check the curry for seasoning – if it’s too hot or salty, you could add a little more palm sugar, if you think it needs more seasoning or zing, then reach for the fish sauce or lime juice, and adjust to your tastes, then you can either stir through 2/3 of the basil leaves as you’re about to serve, and scatter the rest on top with the sliced chillies, or serve all of them on top if you’d rather. See below for other variations. Enjoy (whichever variant you go for!).

Optional variations

V1)    As pictured above:
Serves two people as a meal, with only 400ml light coconut milk [-73 calories overall], using 200g chicken breast [-55] 1 small courgette (120g) sliced down the middle, then cut into triangular wedges (cut diagonally to the left, then the right alternatively) [22], 80g green beans topped and tailed [20], ½ a green bell pepper (60g) cut into small diamonds [16], with NO sliced chillies or basil or pea aubergines [-20], 10g coriander leaves [2]. Method: Make the sauce as above, then add the vegetables for 3-4 minutes once the sauce is simmering, before adding the chicken for a few minutes as above. Add most of the coriander just before serving, reserving a few leaves for garnishing [348 calories per portion]

V2)    I sometimes like to add the following to my thai green chicken curry – it may sound a little strange, but
it’s something I experienced in Thailand, and adds interesting texture and flavour dimensions – plus the tomatoes and grapes are in such small quantities, that each person will only get a couple or so of each if split between four:
  • 10 grapes (45g) [30]
  • 8 cherry tomatoes (60g) [12]
  • Handful green beans or mangetout, topped and tailed, cut in two (blanch green beans until just-cooked) (75g) [19]
Add all of the above with the last third of coconut milk, to heat through for an extra 30 calories per portion between two (or an extra 15 calories between four).

V3)    A more common Thai variation:
12-20 baby corn (you can halve them lengthways if you like, but reduce cooking time), blanched until just cooked [6 calories per ear]. If whole, add just after the chicken has started to turn white, to heat through. Corn is very complementary to the flavours of a green curry.

V4)    Another traditional Thai inclusion:
If you can get hold of them, 3-4 small green (apple) aubergines, quartered.  Add them and simmer for a couple of minutes before you add the chicken. Or cube some regular aubergine and add that instead, but for longer, until cooked through. [There are 25 calories per 100g aubergine]

V5)    The first time I had a Thai green curry in the UK (at least 15 years ago!), they had taken the ‘green’
element to the max! It was a totally new experience for me, and I have fond memories. Omit the chilli and basil from the recipe/garnish, and instead include the following ingredients:
  • ½ cucumber, sliced in half down the length, deseeded and cut into diagonal half moons [20]
  • ½ green pepper (65g), deseeded and cut into thin slices (top to bottom) [19]
  • 75g sugar snap (snow) peas [32]
  • Large handful coriander leaves to garnish [2]
Add the cucumber, green pepper and sugar snap peas with the last third of coconut milk to heat through. Serve “90’s style”, presenting the rice in the middle of a round plate (moulded in a dariole mould first, of course!) and spoon the curry around it, then scatter the curry with the coriander leaves. [37 extra calories per serving between two, 18 between four]

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