This is not a dish that is familiar to non-Thais, and that’s probably because most westerners just don’t have the heat tolerance for it– it’s one of the most spicy dishes in Thai cuisine. Gaeng Pah translates to jungle curry, and “jungle foods”, even for the Thais, are something for the brave. If you ever see this name on the menu in most restaurants in Thailand, especially outside of Bangkok, you’ve been warned.
This recipe is less sadistic than what you might find in local restaurants in Thailand. And if you can handle the heat, then it is flavourful, healthy (as it contains no coconut milk, so lower in fat than most other curries), and totally delicious.
Clown Knifefish (in Thai: ปลากราย, Pla Graai) is a nocturnal tropical fish with a long knife-like body. By 'smashing' the puréed meat into a surface the meat becomes more sticky, and ready to be shaped into balls. Note that these fish balls contain no flour, the glutinous quality of the fish balls comes purely from agitating the protein in the meat.
Be careful not to burn the curry paste. I find it safer to put some water in the wok first and add the curry paste to it and let the water evaporate out, this way the curry will cook more evenly.
- Prep Time : 40 minutes
- Cook Time : 15 minutes
- Yield : 3 servings
- Red curry paste - 30 grams (Nam Prik Gaeng Phed)
- Clown Knifefish meat - 100 grams
- Fingerroot - 30 grams, fine julienned
- Thai eggplants - 5 ea., quartered, soaked in salted water (มะเขือเปราะ)
- Bamboo shoot - 60 grams, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, twice-boiled & drained
- Yardlong beans - 30 grams
- Kaffir lime leaves - 3 ea.
- Holy basil - 20 grams
- Red chilli - 1 ea., thinly sliced diagonally
- Fish stock - 2 cups
- Fish sauce - 3 Tbsp.
- Sugar - 1/2 Tsp.
- Vegetable oil - 1 Tbsp.
1. Beat the fish meat over ice bowl until sticky. Make sure to drizzle some salted water into the meat during the beating so the fish balls will be better seasons. Rest the meat, and boil a pot of water. Shape the meat into balls and boil them. When they are done they will float up to the surface. Remove and keep in cold water.
2. Heat oil and stir-fry the curry paste until fragrant. Add the fish balls and stir-fry in the curry paste.
3. Heat up the fish stock, when reaches low boil add the curry paste and fish balls and stir lightly until the paste is thoroughly dissolved. When the liquid reaches a full boil, add bamboo shoots, Thai eggplants, yard long beans; then flavour with fish sauce and sugar. Let boil until the eggplants are cooked all the way through (it should look slightly less opaque than before).
4. Add the kaffir lime leaves and holy basil and immediately turn off the heat. Serve.