She Saturday night for me is the night when I like to prepare a good, simple dinner to share with my loved ones. I love that dinner is quick to prepare, while catching up with my friends, but still impressive.
One of the lesser-known Thai dishes is Choo chee curry. In southern Thailand, choo chee pla tu is a small mackerel from the Indian Ocean cooked in a curry sauce and sprinkled with very finely julienned makrut leaves, but this dish is very versatile and many types of fish, seafood or tofu can also be used.
I like to use tiger shrimp because they are quick to cook and look great on the plate. It should be served with jasmine rice. I also like to serve it with a som-tum papaya salad. The sour, salty and sweet flavors of this salad pair very well with the moist choo chee curry sauce.
Raw ingredients and curry sauce can be prepared ahead of time. The cooking time is short but enough time should be allowed for preparation.
For 4 people
For the red curry paste
large dried peppers 20g, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained and cut into small pieces (the smaller the pieces, the easier the dough is to make)
Lemongrass 25g, thinly sliced
Garlic 3 cloves, thinly sliced
lime zest makrut 5g, thinly sliced, or 3 makrut leaves, thinly sliced
fresh turmeric 10g, thinly sliced
black pepper 1 teaspoon
salt ½ teaspoon
shrimp paste vs.
For the curry
vegetable oil 60g
Garlic 2 cloves, finely chopped
makrut lime leaves 2
Red curry paste (see above)
coconut milk 120g, 1 tablespoon reserved for drizzling the curry sauce
the water 100 ml
nam pla (fish sauce) 15g
Granulated sugar 25g
tiger prawns 12 large, shelled and deveined (leave the head)
makrut lime leaves 3, finely cut into julienne
Red pepper 1 large julienne
First, prepare the curry paste. Pound the ingredients in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a smooth paste. If using a hand blender, add 50ml of water to make blending easier.
Heat 40g of oil in a deep-bottomed pan over medium heat, until hot and lightly smoked.
Add the chopped garlic and the makrut leaves to the hot oil. Sauté until the garlic is lightly browned. Lower the heat, add the curry paste and continue to stir with a spatula for 1 minute. Then increase the heat to medium, keep the spatula moving, especially at the bottom of the pan. At this point, the curry paste should start to smell very fragrant. Keep stirring the batter for 2 minutes, add the coconut milk and keep stirring for another minute. Now add the water, fish sauce and sugar until the sauce begins to bubble – keep stirring for 1 minute. Taste the curry sauce at this point; it should be slightly sweet and salty. Lower the heat while keeping warm over very low heat until you are ready to assemble the dish.
To cook the shrimp, heat a large, shallow nonstick skillet over medium heat, adding the remaining oil. When the oil is hot, place the shrimp in the pan, brown the shrimp on each side for one minute each, cover the pan with a lid for another minute; the steam will help cook the thickest part of the shrimp and keep the shrimp moist. Then remove the cover and continue cooking the shrimp for another 1 minute on each side. The shrimp must be ready when no translucent flesh appears in the middle of the deveined part of the back of the shrimp; they should be slightly bouncy to the touch. Total shrimp cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp – standard size tiger shrimp normally take around 5 minutes, but larger ones may take longer.
To assemble the choo chee, choose a large, shallow dish and place the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Then place the cooked shrimp on the sauce. Pour the reserved coconut milk over the sauce and shrimp. Then, finally, pour the oil used for cooking the shrimp on the dish, and sprinkle on the leaves of makrut cut into julienne and the red pepper. Serve with jasmine rice.
Wichet Khongphoon is chef-owner of Supawan, London N1