Although I eat out a lot on the streets of Bangkok, the foodie inside me always wants to keep cooking at home – nothing beats the sense of satisfaction to be had from whipping up a dish from scratch using fresh ingredients. And the Thai capital is certainly no bad place to get the freshest of produce from its plethora of local markets. So in this new feature, I want to share with you recipes for some of my favourite dishes – some Thai, some not – from my travels. Wherever you are in the world, even if you are not blessed with the same markets as Bangkok, you should be able to source these ingredients in your local supermarket or Asian store.
Grilled duck Thai red curry (gaeng phet bped yaang)
This curry, my favourite of all Thai curries, is difficult to find on the street as the relatively higher cost of duck makes it difficult to vendors to produce it in the street stall price range. Perhaps this is why it is not as well-known as simple green and red curries that are so popular in westernised Thai cuisine. You can find gaeng phet bped yaang in more formal restaurant settings, but for me nothing beats this homemade version. The wild mix of flavours, and the acidity of the pineapple and tomato to cut through the fatty duck, make it a dish to rave about.
1 duck thigh, skin on
1tbsp red curry paste
5tbsp coconut milk
a handful of diced pineapple (fresh or tinned is fine)
5 kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn
a generous bunch of horapa Thai sweet basil (use regular basil if you can’t get it)
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
2tsp granulated sugar
a squirt of fish sauce
1tbsp vegetable oil
Rub the outside of the duck thigh generously with salt, then place it under a grill preheated as hot as it will go. I would prefer you to use the two burner gas grill as this will make the process of preparing a side dish to go with it much easier. Leave it to cook until the skin is browned and crispy on both sides (don’t worry if it is not cooked through, as you can finish it off with the curry later). Carve the duck into small, bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Heat the oil in a saucepan until very hot, then add the curry paste. Use a spatula to break down the curry paste and move it around the pan so that it combines with the oil. Heat until you can smell the onions and garlic cooking in the paste, then pour in the coconut milk, let it bubble briefly and continue to swirl it around the pan to combine.
Add the duck pieces, pineapple, kaffir lime leaves and cherry tomatoes, and stir well so that everything is covered in the curry sauce. Add a few tablespoons of cold water to give a slightly thinner consistency. Add the fish sauce and sugar to taste then hrow in the basil leaves, removed from their stems, and stir again.
Bring the curry to a simmer, but don’t let it boil – allow it to cook for a little longer until all the flavours are well infused and the duck is cooked through. Remove from the heat and serve in a bowl, with separate individual portions of steamed jasmine rice.