I m not an expert on Japanese curry but I am fascinated by it, and it’s one of our favorite umami foods. Most of our experience or at least our interest in curry started in Japan, where curries have been well adapted to meet the Japanese palate, and are not spicy at all. No doubt Japanese curry is amazing because they clearly understand the taste elements and sequence of adding ingredients when developing taste. Maybe because of their skill to dissect and to analyze details? However Japanese curry is not by a longshot the beginning of curry. We all know very well that curry started in India and developed and spread from there across the eastern Asia. But Thai curry and each curry from each respective region has its own unique taste and flavour.
Curry India: https://mesubim.com/2016/04/30/curry-masala/
Depending on the type of Thai curry, additional ingredients for the paste can include spices such as coriander seeds, cardamom cumin, turmeric and pepper. Thai chefs love fresh kaffir limes leaves, or fresh herbs such as Thai basil, all are added accordingly for expansion of flavor. The idea of curry cannot begin without a mortar and if you do it any other way it is not the same.
Today I will focus on Thai curry, which is divided into different levels of hot and spicy to rich fat, or very thin yet flavourful. In the north and middle of Thailand I am told coconut milk is much more prevalent but in the south it is used less frequently. I guess it has to do with the climate and terroir, and in the south where it is hotter, and more fresh seafood available so less coconut milk, and the sea is best for a natural salty taste. Yes, shrimp paste is the umami and used to give the curry the bite.
The ingredients are essential and unlike Indian curry, the Thai curries are very different in color and taste. The Thai green curry base is green chillies and they are spicy but not that much. What I find fascinating about the Thai curries are their diversity and they can be used in so many ways, i.e. stir fry, broth and or a stew or even dry. Their curries have an immediate punch and you cannot miss the first mouthful.
In fact, most Thai chefs rarely cook true Thai spice as it is uber hot. I walked into our kitchen and the chef was eating a stew from the fish head. It was local fish caught by the ex-general manager of Aman Fred, whom I really admire his commitment to the people and to fishing. Back to the curry: the chef was sipping and eating a sour curry and it was soured with local limes. I had this idea pop into my head, and since then I am experimenting with fresh lime.
The curry was so damn spicy it blew my top off, and not my head but the roof and tongue of my mouth. It was superb and it was a sour curry, just amazing!
However once people desire fat coconut milk becomes the favourite added ingredient. The one issue I have about coconut milk is the fact that it is canned and you don’t want to use canned when you can get fresh. So basically speaking let’s consider that we will use fresh ingredients because we are in Thailand. If you need to cook at home outside of Thailand where you cannot have fresh ingredients, use less milk.