Chu chee curry is a wonderful Thai home style dish that packs in so much flavour that you’ll wonder why it’s relatively unknown outside the country. Make it yourself and you’ll see that it’s a relatively minimalist dish: it requires little in the way of pots, pans and utensils, but you will have to make your own curry paste to get the best taste. You may need to do this anyway if you’re outside Thailand, as the ready-made paste may not be easy to track down.
A trip to the market is the crucial start when cooking this dish. See what’s on offer, but thanks to the versatility of this curry, there are plenty of swaps possible, so you don’t have to hunt around for prawns in particular. Something else may take your fancy, depending on what’s looking fresh on the slab. You may also use a hearty combination of prawns and/or scallops in this recipe. It’s also wonderful with fish, too. You can either cook filleted fish, cut into chunks in the spicy sauce (so long as the fish is the robust kind that won’t fall apart), or spoon the sauce and seasonings over grilled or poached fish. Just ensure that everything’s fresh, otherwise the taste will suffer.
Ingredients: for the curry paste:
• 4 mild peppers, sliced and diced
• 8 small dried red chillies, chopped after soaking for 30 minutes. (Use fewer for a milder heat!)
• A dozen cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• A half dozen or so shallots, chopped
• 1½ to 2 tsp shrimp paste
Ingredients: for the seafood:
• 500 grams large prawns, scallops, or fish
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 cup coconut cream, or use coconut milk if you’re happy with a more diluted taste
• 2-3 tbsp. fish sauce (adjust according to taste)
• 1½ – 3 tsp palm or coconut sugar (adjust according to taste)
• Up to 10 small kaffir lime leaves, finely cut into slices
• ¼ cup of coriander leaves
First, start by shelling the prawns, then butterfly and place in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and half a cup of water. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain after carefully ensuring the salt has been washed away by rinsing under a tap. For the paste, pound the peppers, the chillies, garlic and shallots in a mortar and add the shrimp paste last. You can also puree them if you have a blender.
Take a spoonful of coconut cream or use the milk from the top of a carton of coconut milk and place in the wok or frying pan and heat over high heat. Once the cream has thickened, immediately stir in the chilli paste and stir-fry until the oil has separated from the cream. This is the sign it’s ready. Now add the fish sauce and palm sugar and reduce the mix so that it becomes very thick. Now you can add the prawns/seafood along with the kaffir lime leaves and fold into the mixture.
Keep stir-frying until the prawns/seafood is nearly cooked. Now turn down the heat a little and fold in the chilli sauce. Stir until all the ingredients are well distributed in the wok or pan.
Everything’s now ready and all you need to do is to place the mix on a serving dish and top with the coriander leaves. This dish is definitely one that needs to be served hot, so don’t let it stand around for more than a minute and ensure your guests are ready to eat.
This kind of curry goes extremely well with stir fried Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, or simple fried rice. It’s a very moreish dish and once you’ve tried it, you’ll no doubt want to make it again and again.