Northern Thai Fish Curry with Holy Basil

I really craved some spice tonight. I’m off on holidays in the Aussie Outback tomorrow so just know I won’t be eating anything exciting while I’m there, so wanted something to tide me over. I love Northern Thai food, for it’s spice and this curry is no exception – 20 red chillies may sound a lot, but the resulting dish, while spicy won’t blow your head off. The coconut milk diffuses a lot of the heat. That said, it was enough to leave a tingle in the mouth for 20 minutes which is just great. It was a really flavour filled sauce – jam packed with complex heat and spice. Top 10 Thai curry.

For the paste:

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (chopped)
1 large shallot (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 lemon grass stalk (white only chopped)
8 kaffir lime leaves (4 shredded, 4 whole)
1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
15-20 fresh birds eye chillies (chopped)
2 teaspoons palm sugar (or normal sugar)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
large pinch of white pepper

Other ingredients:
400g firm white fish fillets (I used john dory)
1 1/4 cup peanut oil
400ml coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce
200g French beans (trimmed)
1/2 cup fresh Thai holy basil (whole leaves)

In a food processor, blend together all the paste ingredients (except the 4 whole lime leaves) for about 5 minutes until very smooth. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a wok over a moderate heat until hot – then tip in 3/4 of the paste and the remaining lime leaves and fry for 1-2 minutes. Pour in about 100ml of the coconut milk and fry for a further 5 minutes until the oil separates. Pour in the remaining coconut milk, plus 200ml water and the fish sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Heat the remaining peanut oil in a large frying pan over a moderate/high heat until hot. Drop in the fish fillets, skin side down and fry for 3-4 minutes each side until just crunchy on the edges. Drain on paper towels briefly then slide into the curry sauce. Shake the pan to submerge then turn off the heat.

Stir in the Thai holy basil and serve.

Lots of Jasmine rice to soak up the thinnish gravy.

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