Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thai Green Curry with Tilapia

I want to go to Thailand. Sometimes it seems that practically all my friends have already visited this very famous tourist-destination-neighbor of ours (one very good friend just got back). In fact, a lot of them are already off to less visited places around our little Asian block, while I have not even seen the major go-to points…places that are in my own backyard! Criminy.

They say people take for granted that which is familiar…and I suppose I am guilty. All my life I dreamed of far-off destinations, when some of the most exotic where right beside me (instead of a debilitating 18+ hour flight away), not to mention all the incredibly amazing places to visit right here (but that’s a whole other story)!

Ah Thailand! What secrets have you shared with everyone but me? When I go, will you be weary of visitors and have no gusto left for a latecomer? Will the cuisine I have heard so much about, whose flavor is incomparable to any of its replications in other countries, still lash out with the same power and heat to slay me? Will all your goodies still be as reasonably-priced? Wait for me Thailand! day. Meanwhile, I pacify myself with homemade Thai curry.

I love Thai food (another reason I am itching to go!) but I have never really thought of making it at home. Until I saw these recipes on Rice and Noodles…Mae’s fabulous site of which I am a big fan. I combined some of her recipes, along with some others from my own cookbooks and this is what I came up with.

Thai Green Curry with Tilapia
(adapted from
Mae’s recipes)

  • 300 grams tilapia fillets
  • 1 cup coco evap (Nestle coconut evaporated milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • One 50-gram package green curry paste (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass (sliced 1 inch diagonally, crushed)
  • 1/3 cup dried kaffir lime leaves (not packed)
  • One onion, sliced
  • 2 slices dried galangal
  • 3 pieces calamansi (one for the curry and two for the fish)
  • ¼ cup of dried holy basil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

- Squeeze calamansi on the tilapia and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pot on medium heat.
- Fry the onions, lemongrass, and galangal until onions are soft.
- Add the curry paste and kaffir lime leaves and sauté a bit.
- Add the coco evap and water. Let simmer until flavors develop, about 20 minutes. Add fish sauce and calamansi/lime to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering, add the tilapia fillets. Stir (carefully! take care not to crush the fillets), cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the holy basil and stir (carefully!). Simmer a bit more then take off the heat.

The curry came out much better than I expected. I thought my first attempt at Thai cooking at home might not capture the full flavors that I expect of Thai food…plus I was using a lot of dried/not fresh ingredients. Well, I was pleasantly surprised that all those Thai flavors did come forward, without overpowering one another! It should still be tweaked to your taste though, depending on how spicy you like it. The tilapia fillets worked really well with this. They were just the right amount of tender and held the flavors perfectly.

I used dried kaffir lime leaves and dried galangal which I found in Spices 'n Flavours. This was before I found out that you can get fresh kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and holy/Thai basil from Gil Carandang's Herbana Farms stall at the Salcedo Saturday Market. I have, since then, also found fresh galangal at Rustans Supermarket. My good friend who just came back from Thailand brought me back some kaffir lime leaves as well…in a very spiffy-looking blue tin! Thank you Gypsysoul! I will be using these next :)

I have yet to try Thai dishes in Thailand, which I am told is one of life’s amazing food experiences. Until then I have this...thanks Mae for always inspiring!

To try next time:
- Using fresh kaffir lime leaves/galangal/holy basil
- Adding fresh cilantro at the last minute
- Using real lime instead of calamansi (first I have to find some)
- Substitute the tilapia with prawns or chicken
- Adding a vegetable like kangkong or spinach or eggplant


Katrina said...

Don't feel bad, Joey. Many of us envy *your* magical trips to Spain, Greece and Egypt! I've dreamed of going to Thailand for years, too, and only now is it starting to look like it'll happen. I can't wait to experience what everyone's been raving about!

Of the traffic light colors, green's my favorite curry. Your tilapia version sounds delicious!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That looks absolutely gorgeous! I love curry and fish, so that dish is for me...

the philosphical bastard said...

well.. that's the yummiest thing i've seen today. and you have an awesome blog.

mae said...

Hi Joey, green curry is my favourite curry of all time! Your Tilapia version looks superb. I wish they sold Tilapia here so i may cook some.

Have you ever eaten 'ginataang gabi' or 'laing'? If so, don't you find that the flavours are very close to green curry? I think it's the use of coconut milk, ginger, lemon grass and birds eye chillies in our ginataan that makes it so very close. This is the very reason why i loved my very first green curry taste and have been hooked ever since.

Ditto to Katrina. :)

Thanks for the mention!

Oh, and for last 'Good Friday' fish treats, i cooked 'Chancre Crab Green Curry'! I didn't use a ready made paste this time; i pounded them myself and i've used fresh galangal too.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Joey, I've not been either, so you're not totally alone. Tilapia is such a wonderful fish, I wish I could have a nice warm bowl of this for lunch!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Katrina! I told myself that I will explore more of Asia now :) More of the Philippines too! Of the Thai curries I like green too :) Good luck on your trip!

Hi Rosa! Thank you! :) Curry and fish go great together!

Hi Paolo! Thanks for dropping in and thanks for a nice comment...glad you enjoyed the post :)

Hi Mae! Your curry recipes, as well as your other recipes, are great! Will you post about the Chancre Crab Green Curry? Will you share your paste-from-scratch recipe? I hope so! I love laing but I never made the connection with green curry are so right! No wonder I love them both :)

Hi Tanna! Thanks :) This is great over some (ok, lots of) steaming rice! :)

Freya and Paul said...

I love Thai curry but always find that I make it a bit hot! So, my husband always gets the leftovers!

Mila Tan said...

Fish curry! Green Curry fish! Curry, curry, spicy. Sorry, I'm soooo hungry, and your picture makes me even more hungry, but will go to bed hungry (part of my post-lent penance, long story).

Go asia! You and Katrina will follow in Nena's footsteps, and lurv bkk and other great asian places. Siem Riep, Luang Prabang, Bali, and imagine all the places in China!!!!! Now i'm hungry and want to travel.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Freya! I like it spicy so maybe I can have some of your leftovers too! :)

Hi Mila! Hahaha! You sound delirious with hunger! I know the feeling...surfing the food blogs late at night = grumbling tummy! Yes, I hope to follow Nena's footsteps...your's too! :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

Tilapia is so big here, Joey!

This dish looks refreshing and delicious!

Hamster said...

Don't know if you've seen this already but if not Yu might be interested in this website.
It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along
Good if you like to try cooking Thai food at home

valentinA said...

Hi Joey!
I so wanna go to Thailand one day too. I heard that not only the food's awesome but the shopping as well!:)
Your curry looks utterly yummy, I should be brave like you & whip out my own Thai dishes!

home cook said...

Wow, I totally love this blog. It’s so clean, professional looking, and I love the recipes to be found here! You totally have a new reader!


yummy yummy! but please do try it to with my bangus belly filets :-) i have thai green chili dagupena bangus belly out in the market but you need to follow joey's recipe for more sauce.

bon appetit!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Patricia! Thanks! :) Tilapia is big here too...very available and cheap to boot! I can eat it over and over :)

Hi Hamster! Thanks for the link :)

Hi Valentina! Thank you :) Yes, food and shooping is supposed to fantastic! I have friends who come back loads of new clothes and all sorts of interesting things for the home :)

Hi Home Cook! Thank you!!! (blush) I'm so happy you like and and hope I see you here again :)

Hi Anne! You know, I was thinking of the possibility of doing this with bangus...great to know you have those fillets! Will check them out :)

christine said...

Ooohhh yummy! I love that you used tilapia for this, great idea! Great timing with the recipe too. Now that I'm slowly settling back in , I want to start using the spices I bought over there (and you're most welcome for the kaffir lime leaves!). I bought Jim Thompson's cookbook so I'm pretty excited to use that. There are so many Thai dishes I love!

Maybe one day we can go to Thailand together, that would be great since we travel so well together! :)

canDIshhh said...

Looks good! I love curry and I love fish! I never thought of doing it with Tilapia though..

My mouth's watering now....

Melting Wok said...

ger, don't feel bad, I've gone home for over 10 years now, its gonna be 18+ hour flight your green curry rendition, a few basic herbs should do the trick, and the talented chef, of coz hehe :)) I've a question. Did you use evaporated milk or coconut milk, or Nestle evaporated milk mix with Coco's brand coconut milk ?

Linda said...

mmm ive been looking for a good green curry recipe. thanks a million. sounds delish!!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nens! Thanks! It (tilapia) is so available and reasonably-priced so I like to use it often :) Aside from the fact that I like it of course! Can't wait to see what you whip up with your spices and Jim Thompson book! :) Would love to travel with you again!

Hi Candishhh! Thanks :) Sometimes it's great to give these local fish a try in recipes :)

Hi Melting Wok! Thanks! Nestle (over here at least) makes an evaporated milk that is coconut flavored :) I had bought some out of curiosity when it came out, and then used it in this recipe. I liked how creamy it came out :) You can probably substitute coconut milk and then lessen the water a bit...

Hi Linda! Thanks! :) Hope you like it! Isn't Thai green curry just so good? :)

Anh said...

Oh my, I would love to eat some Thai Fish Curry now. :D I miss the time I spent in Thailand, too. So much good food there!

Midge said...

Hi, Joey! That green curry looks absolutely delish. For your next take on it, why not try labahita fillets and either pechay or malunggay? It's a nutritious, delicious, and visually-pleasing combination by my book.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anh! I think I will be making this again soon :) I hope I can visit Thailand one day!

Hi Midge! Thanks for the suggestions...sounds good! :) And I love malunggay :)

Kitchenbabble, fom Blouberg to Bangkok said...

Wow you really nailed the essence of a thai green curry !

Just one comment about the lemongrass. For best results, slice only the white part of the lemongrass stalk, then pound it a few times with the back of your chef's knife. You dont really need to cut or chop it, and this method allows for it to be removed very easily once the dish is done.

Lemongrass is a wonderful ingredient, but can be nasty and overpowering encounter when shared with something as delicate as fish, in the same mouthful!

Either chop it extremely fine, or better, removed in one piece before serving.