When I decided at the beginning of this year to take a trip around the world with my Cookbook of the Month selections, I knew I’d be stepping out of my comfort zone. But I wasn’t too worried. After all, a recipe is a recipe, and I’m usually pretty good about following a recipe. But then this month came around. And I chose this cookbook. And for some reason, I’ve been completely intimidated. Completely intimidated. I’ve sat down and read through the recipes over and over, but even then, as I went to make this recipe, I was scared out of my mind.
But I had a little bit of help. First of all, a neighbor and friend of mine writes the beautiful blog White Lotus Cooks. When I couldn’t figure out what some of these ingredients were and where to find them, I knew she would be able to help! So I want to pass on the knowledge I learned from her to you. I already have my recipes chosen out for the whole month, so I emailed her about all of the ingredients I had questions about.
My first question – which had to do with this recipe, was regarding coconut cream. Coconut milk – I was able to find that, but didn’t know where to find cream. In the book, the author says that he doesn’t like canned, and since I wasn’t able to find canned, I actually bought a coconut and I was going to try separating the cream myself. But then Veeda suggested this:
If you buy coconut milk, the cream is usually separated from the milk. I’ll shake the can to incorporate everything, but maybe your recipe is telling you just to use the cream. I like using the brand Chaokoh for my coconut milk, it comes in an a can with a picture of a coconut and brown background.
So yeah, even though the author says he doesn’t like canned, this was sure an easier option!
The other ingredients I inquired about were palm sugar, galangal, and where to find Kaffir lime leaves. And I thought her tips – and the extra tips about fish sauce – would be great for everyone!
I think the palm sugar they carry is whole, and you’ll have to grate it into sugar yourself. I also just substitute with regular granulated sugar when I don’t have any palm sugar (or I’m too lazy to grate it). It works just fine. Galangal is like a root, kind of like ginger. I think they sell it fresh there, if not you can find it powdered too.And the Kaffir Lime leaves are sooooo great. They really elevate a curry dish. You can find those in the frozen or refrigerated section of the store. I don’t know if your book mentions this, but if I’m slicing them, I’ll cut out the middle stem and then slice the leaves into tiny strips.Have you bought fish sauce yet? I’m sure you’ll have to use it for your cooking. I like Tiparos brand (but if it’s in a plastic bottle, don’t buy it. I hate using that bottle.), Squid brand and I’ve heard good things about Tra Chang & Golden Boy. I haven’t tried those two because I usually just stick to the Squid brand.
- I wasn’t sure what potatoes to use, so I just used some red potatoes. This was probably my one mistake. They weren’t exactly perfect for this dish, or maybe I just needed to cut them smaller. They were still good, but not perfect.
- Speaking of the potatoes, I didn’t boil them in the coconut cream. From each can, about the top inch is coconut cream, and I figured it would just be a waste and too many cans to extract enough to boil the potatoes in it. So I used just water. And maybe that’s why my potatoes didn’t feel like they fit in perfectly!
- I used regular sugar instead of palm sugar
- I wasn’t sure what chilies to use. I had some dried chiles de arbol in my pantry, so I just used those. And I’m really glad the recipe said to de-seed them, because it was pretty hot!
- I used powdered turmeric instead of chopped
- Many of these recipes call for coriander root, but it’s something I haven’t been able to find. So I just used a handful of cilantro leaves and stems. I’m not sure if this original dish is so green, but I’m guessing mine is because of the cilantro!
- I used powdered white pepper instead of white peppercorns
Add potatoes to the curry. Shake the pot to ensure that everything is well incorporated but do not use a spoon as this could break up the potatoes. Allow to rest for a few minutes to enable the spices to ripen and the flavours to meld. Bring the curry gently to a boil, then check the seasoning: it should taste a little salty, rich from the coconut cream and spicy. Finish with the extra coconut cream and the deep fried shallots.
*To make the paste – the book suggests that the best and most authentic way is by using a mortar and pestle. And the second best way is with a blender, followed by a food processor. I don’t have a mortar and pestle, so I went with the blender method!