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A Curry from Chiang Mai

A Curry from Chiang Mai

One of a series of constantly changing, personal recipes that mean a lot to me.  For the full collection of hundreds of Nigel's recipes and weekly Observer columns click here. Archive.

Some of the most addictive things I have ever eaten are the hot, sour curries of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. They come, rough and ready in colourful, battered bowls at the dazzling night bazaar or in exquisite servings in some of the area's beautiful hotel restaurants. Most come with noodles in their midst, a tangle of chicken and vegetables with brick red sauces of varying thickness, bright with red curry spices, pungent with fermented shrimp paste and chilli and sweetened with coconut milk. I make them at home now, using whatever vegetables are to hand. The first mouthful is bracing, almost shocking in its sweet-sour pungency, yet you find yourself going back for more and more.

chicken thighs  4
groundnut oil  2tbsp
red Thai curry paste  1-2 tbsp
mild curry powder  2-3 tsp
coconut milk  400ml
thin-stemmed broccoli  125g
Thai fish sauce  1tbsp
juice of a lime
palm sugar  a good pinch
coriander leaves

to serve: boiled noodles or rice.

Warm the oil in a high sided casserole, add the chicken thighs, skin side down, then let them colour lightly. Turn the chicken over and cook the other side to a rich gold. Keep your eye on the temperature of the oil and try not to let it get too hot. Stir in the red curry paste and the mild curry powder and let it cook for a minute, stirring constantly, then pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover with a lid, then leave to cook, with an occasionally stir, for about 20 minutes till the chicken is cooked right through to the centre.

         Trim the broccoli then add it to the pan and continue cooking for 4 or 5 minutes till the stems are tender. When the sauce has reduced to a soupy thickness, season with the Thai fish sauce, the sugar and the lime juice. Stir in a small handful of coriander leaves. It is unlikely to need salt but check. The result should be hot, sour and bright. Serve with boiled noodles or rice. Enough for two.