Chicken and Roasted Eggplant in Red Curry Sauce – Gkaeng Ped Gkai (or Gaeng Ped Gai)*
A Recipe of Kasma Loha-unchit
Recipe Copyright © 1999 Kasma Loha-unchit.
- 1 lb. boneless chicken
- 2-3 long Asian eggplants (Thai, Japanese, Chinese or Filipino)
- 2 cups, or 1 can coconut milk
- 2-3 Tbs. red curry paste
- Fish sauce (nahm bplah) to desired saltiness
- 1-2 tsp. palm or coconut sugar
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- Slivered chillies to desired hotness
- 1 cup fresh Thai sweet basil leaves and flowers
Trim the chicken of any visible fat and, if you wish, pull off the skin. Cut against the muscle into bite-size chunks. Set aside.
Eggplants may be roasted a few hours or a day ahead of time. Poke them with a fork in a few places and roast over hot mesquite coals with a small handful of damp mesquite chips added. Cover barbecue kettle to smoke the eggplants, turning them occasionally until they are partially softened and the skins slightly charred. Remove from coals and place in a brown paper sack for a few minutes to sweat. Then peel off the thin film on the surface of the skin and cut crosswise into 1 1/2- to 2-inch segments and each segment into half lengthwise.
(Eggplants may also be roasted directly on the stove by holding them with a pair of tongs through the flame of a gas burner until they are partially softened and charred. They may also be broiled. However, roasting over mesquite will add a wonderful smoked aroma to the curry.)
If using canned coconut milk, do not shake the can before opening, so that the cream remains on top. Spoon 2/3 to 1 cup of this thick cream into a medium-size saucepan. (If you are making your own coconut milk, use the cream from the first pressing of coconut pulp for this step.) Heat over medium to high heat and reduce until the cream is smooth and bubbly and the oil begins to separate. Add the curry paste and fry 3 to 5 minutes in the cream to release the aromas and flavors. Then add the remaining milk.
Bring to a boil, stirring to mix the curry paste thoroughly into the sauce to a smooth consistency. Season with fish sauce to taste and balance with enough palm sugar to bring forth a fuller range of spice and herb flavors, with just a hint of sweetness in the back of your tongue. Stir in the chicken pieces and return sauce mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through.
Add the roasted eggplants, kaffir lime leaves and slivered chillies as desired for extra hotness. Simmer a few minutes to warm and cook the eggplants to the tenderness of your liking. Toss in the basil and stir until the leaves are just wilted. Spoon chicken, eggplants and sauce into a serving dish and serve with plain steamed rice.
*Because the Thai language has it's own script, there are different ways of transliterating Thai into English. A phonetic is Gkaeng Ped Gkai; the more usual spelling is Gaeng Ped Gai or Kaeng Ped Gai. See A Note on Thai Pronunciation and Spelling.
See Also: How Fish Sauce is Made