Before the sumptuous and decadent Thai curries go the Indianised-Chinese way (read loaded with masalas and artificial flavours), Chef Suriya Phusirimongkhonchai, the expat chef at The Lalit Chandigarh, seems to have decided to take matters into his own hands, or better still, garden. “What makes our Thai food stand apart is the authentic ingredients, which I have been growing in our herb garden,” he asserts, pointing out to a dozen herbs and vegetables growing in a patch within the premises of The Lalit and Chandigarh.
The morning glory (in all its glory), sweet and hot basil, saw parsley, Thai chillies, aubergines, capsicum and of course, the must-have lemon grass are a sight to behold! “Back home in Thailand, we use certain varieties of lemon grass as mosquito repellent. Which is red and hard lemongrass but for a Thai culinary experience we have used a very specific authentic kind,” says the Thai master chef.
The enthusiasm Chef Suriya has for his greens has to be seen to be believed as he will pluck a ripened aubergine to show you how it is completely organic and free from pesticides. From time to time, he plucks a sprig of mint or a couple of lemongrass fronds and asks you to smell (or taste) them for their rich flavours. No wonder Oko, the oriental eatery at The Lalit Chandigarh is such a huge draw.
Ask him what is the one thing he would like to add to his burgeoning kitchen garden, and pat comes the reply – “Why one? I want to be able to grow bamboo shoots, galangal, kafir limes, so much! If only the nilgai, buffaloes and cows would not come grazing!”
Bovine hindrances notwithstanding, Chef Suriya, armed with his fresh-from-the-garden is committed to keeping the delectable fare at Oko as authentic as it could be!
Chef Suriya Phusirimongkhonchai ‘s Thai Yellow Curry
A) For the Curry
- oil, to cook
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, whole
- kafir lime leaves
- 1 tablespoon whole turmeric
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 sweet basil leaf
- 100 grams yellow pumpkin
B) For the Paste
- 1 onion, large
- 1 bunch lemongrass
- 1 bunch coriander root
- 2 teaspoons galangal
- ginger root
- 1 teaspoon red chili, whole
- 1 teaspoon kafir lime fruit skin
- 2 cloves garlic
- Grind onion, ginger root, coriander root, kafir lime fruit skin, garlic, lemongrass, galangal and red chilly together to make a fine paste.
- Heat oil in a wok. Add shrimp paste and sauté well (this step is optional for vegetarians). Add freshly ground curry paste, salt, pepper and sauté till the oil floats.
- Add fresh coconut milk and sugar. Then add the vegetables/boiled chicken/prawn. Add kafir lime leaves, sweet basil and boiled yellow pumpkin cubes and cook well.
- Garnish with a sweet basil leaf and serve hot with jasmine steamed rice.
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh