Raffles is something of a curry aficionado and in his eight short years has built a tolerance for heat that leaves most adults slack jawed. The kid likes it hot! So much so that in Phuket, he virtually bathed in the stuff.
When restaurants would ask how we’d like our curry, based on a heat level of 1 to 3, Raffles would ask them to turn it up to 11. In fact, he wasn’t happy unless he broke into a fever and his face turned numb while eating them. Thankfully, it is said there are many health benefits in the consumption of chilli peppers, including a hefty injection of Vitamin C and an increased metabolism rate – which could explain why he’s stick thin when he consumes more than a stable of sumo wrestlers. Mind you, I eat a substantial amount of chilli myself and still have the metabolism of an elderly walrus, so I don’t know that it really works as advertised.
In Phuket, Raffles was in curry heaven. He learned to whip a fragrant and fabulous massaman curry with Novotel Phuket Karon Beach’s Executive Chef Cyril Mougin.
He got hot tips from the cool locals at Phuket’s many foodie street markets.
From morning to night my human compactus gobbled his way through a rainbow of colourful curries. There were several standouts including yellow curry crab, a ridiculously tasty local concoction of noodles, chunks of fresh crabmeat and fiery curry sauce. But his all time favourite still remains a fiery Thai style red duck curry and, given I collect recipes on our travels the way most folk collect souvenir tea towels, I made sure I nabbed one from someone in the know!
The only condition of my whipping up some of the spicy Thai staple at home is that due to my inherent laziness, Raffles is being held responsible for red curry paste production…
Though that may have been a mistake as I swear he slipped in a couple of extra chillies while I wasn’t looking.
Thai Style Red Duck Curry
- 270ml coconut cream
- 135 ml coconut milk
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp. palm sugar
- 2 duck breasts
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup Thai eggplant cut into large chunks (any eggplant can be substituted)
- 3 fresh Kaffir lime leaves, diced
- 1 fresh red chilli, sliced lengthways
- 1 can lychees, drained
- ½ cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1/4 cup firmly packed fresh Thai basil leaves
- Steamed Jasmine Rice, to serve
- curry paste:
- 8 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water, drained
- 1 fresh Birdseye chilli, roughly chopped
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. finely sliced fresh lemongrass
- 1 tsp. finely sliced fresh galangal
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh coriander roots
- Grated rind of one lime
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. rock salt
- 1 tsp. shrimp paste
- To make curry paste, place cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a frying pan and dry fry over medium heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Using a mortar and pestle pound chillies, onion, lemon grass and galangal until crushed. Add garlic, coriander roots and lime rind, then dry ingredients and shrimp paste, and pound until very smooth.
- In an ovenproof frypan cook duck breast skin side down for two minutes, or until crisp, then turn and place in medium oven for five minutes.
- Remove and set aside to rest.
- Heat a wok over medium heat and add 4 tbsp. of the coconut cream, cooking until it separates.
- Add two tbsp. of curry paste and cook, stirring continuously, for four to five minutes or until mixture is fragrant and soft.
- Add remaining coconut cream, coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer then add duck, tomato, eggplant and lime leaves.
- Simmer for 5 minutes then stir in lychees, pineapple chunks and sliced red chilli.
- Add Thai basil only after the curry is off the heat to stop the leaves turning black.
- Serve with steamed rice.
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