I know that all the great Thai curries rely heavily on the freshness of the curry paste, but the packet substitutes work splendidly. Snip open a packet of Nam Jai and it has that perfect salty-fishy-hot and aromatic balance about it that makes me want to reach out for it more often than buying all the ingredients fresh. Plus, it’s cost effective and a whole packet can easily make curry for 4.
On the rare occasion that I would blitz together my own curry paste, it would be for a curry like this. Apart from the green peppercorns and sarson ka saag, everything else is fairly reminiscent of a Thai curry; I’ve used lemongrass, gur, fresh turmeric and the double whammy of coconut oil and milk. This curry’s bittersweet, fragrant notes go superbly with a nutty rice and I like to dole them out in bowls around the table. For times like these, I wish I had one of those coconut shell ladles.
Coming to the green peppercorns and the sarson ka saag, I used the former because it has a fresh grassy flavour, with a finish of pepper – not as hot as you’d imagine it to be, but it’s not standing in for chillies here anyway. I got mine from the Santacruz wet market, but I’m told you can find it easily if you enquire about it. The sarson ka saag or mustard greens are in season, and I love them in soups and with makki ki roti or corn flatbread, so I figured, why not?
Since this curry is very forgiving, you could serve it with noodles and swap the mushroom for some chicken, in which case I suggest you leave out the stock powder and let the juices from the chicken flavour the curry. You could also add potatoes, pumpkin, okra or beans to this for an even healthier curry. I served it alongside a mix of brown and black rice that was leftover from a black rice and orange salad I had made the day before, so this curry is essentially what came out of my Sunday fridge cleaning.
The Curry Paste
Coconut oil 4 tbsp
Garlic 4 cloves
Ginger a 2-inch piece
Bird’s eye chillies 2
Spring onions 4, green as well as white parts
A small bunch of coriander with stems, plus more for garnishing later
Mint leaves a few, plus more for garnishing later
Fresh Turmeric 1/2 tsp, freshly grated
Coconut Milk 2 boxes (I use Kaya)
Green Peppercorns 1 long stem, should yield anything between 15-20 peppercorns
Lime 2, one juiced and the other kept aside to adjust seasoning later
Chicken stock cube 1/2
Soya Sauce 1 tbsp
Lemongrass 1 fresh stalk, outer leaves discarded and the centre bashed in
Gur or Jaggery 1 tbsp
Button Mushrooms 100g, or more
Sarson ka saag 150g, shredded
Cooked Rice of your choice to serve
Salt and pepper
Begin by making the curry paste. Blitz together the ginger, garlic, chillies, spring onions, coriander, mint and turmeric. Next, drizzle in a tablespoon or two of the coconut oil and blend till it forms a thick paste. Keep this aside.
Heat the coconut oil in a wide but medium-sized pan and add the curry paste to this and fry the paste for a few minutes. Then to this, add the coconut milk, the peppercorns, half the chicken stock cube, the soya sauce, lemongrass stalk. Add in 300ml of water, and bring all of this to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer.
Leave it simmer for 8-10 minutes, then uncover and add to this the mushrooms and shredded greens. Let it all come to a simmer yet again and add in the gur or palm jaggery. Let everything cook for a few more minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with rice.
Set bowls out with freshly chopped coriander, mint leaves and lime wedges.