The tasty tastes of Thailand

Ah, Thailand. Once it was a far away land of enchantment, hinted at by poets and madmen, an exotic Kubla Khan where fantasies came true and nightmares lurked in the humid shadows. It was the whisperings of an ancient mariner that drew me to the jungles of Siam, where I fell under the sorcery of a tribe of cannibals, and lived out the next seven years of my life practicing the dark arts and consuming human flesh. My bamboo cage was strong, but the chains of the opium pipe were stronger. I finally cast off the shackles of the dream stick and escaped, trekking barefoot through the savage jungle for three weeks. When I finally emerged on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, I knew I must share my story, and quickly set about writing the singularly most incredible, revelatory, and important piece of information in the history of humanity: This recipe for yellow curry.

Nowadays, it seems traveling to Thailand is a requirement of any arts undergraduate degree, but back then it was what you did instead of going to university. Although I was exaggerating somewhat in my introduction, (I didn’t actually eat human flesh) I did trek through the jungles north of Chiang Mai, the Paris of Northern Thailand.
Our guide, Tom Cruise, was a prince of a man who opened up the forbidding jungle to us and shared the wonders of his land. One day he stopped us in the thick bamboo forest and dug up the fresh bamboo shoots. “Tonight this will be our dinner!” he laughed, and would say no more.
We arrived at our camp hours later and unwound drinking Thai whiskey, getting to know each other. The bamboo hut we were staying in only had two rooms, the large living area we were in and the smaller kitchen, where Tom Cruise went to prepare our dinner. I don’t know if it was the whiskey or the thin mountain air, but that yellow chicken curry with the fresh bamboo shoots was one of the best meals of my life.
 Here is my version, and you can get a can of bamboo shoots to put in if you like, but I prefer mine fresh from the jungle. Yellow curry paste is usually found in the Asian section of any supermarket.

Thai Yellow Curry

2 tbsp yellow curry paste
1 can coconut milk
2 potatoes
1 lb boneless skinless chicken
1 cup jasmine rice
Fresh cilantro

Put your rice on first, and yes, it has to be jasmine rice. Next, cut your chicken into one-inch cubes, then brown in two tablespoons of hot vegetable oil for a few minutes. Now throw the curry paste in with the chicken and sauté for a couple of minutes, making sure you coat all the chicken with the curry paste. By now, your whole kitchen should smell better than a Bangkok brothel. Go ahead and pour that can of coconut milk into the pan with the chicken. Stir in the coconut milk until there are no chunks of curry paste, bring to a soft boil and then quickly turn down and simmer.
So before any of this happened, you peeled the potatoes and diced them, same size as the chicken chunks (one inch). Then you steamed them in a small pot with a lid. (Place the potatoes in the pot with about an inch of water, pop on the lid and set on high heat. Keep an eye on the spuds so the pot doesn’t boil dry. You want them firm and cooked about 75 per cent).
Alright, put the steamed potatoes in with the curry and simmer until the rice is done, about 15 minutes. Spoon atop the fragrant jasmine rice, and enjoy.

//Kennedy Michaels

Kennedy is the Courier's former arts editor. He isn't technically a chef or anything, but we hassled him to write this column regardless. He said to us, “You want me to do a cooking column even though I always bring weird smelling stew to the office and have no experience writing about food?” We said yes.

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