A Taste of Thailand

Curry. I love curry, Thai curries especially. I think it has to do with the creaminess from coconut milk blended with the fragrant spices and herbs. I grew up eating mild beef curry that I now find myself cooking weekly for my three boys. But once introduced to Thai curry in my teens – in Rome, Italy (of all places) by a lovely Thai friend of my mum’s – I have been addicted to Thai curries. The first Thai curry I had was the green curry and it had me hooked, I couldn’t get enough of it. The aroma, the richness and the beautiful pale pea-green colour all appealed to me.

But after visiting Thailand several times, I’ve come to appreciate the other Thai curry even more – the red curry. Thai dishes feature so many herbs and spices and I find delectable the different flavours present in one dish; bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, sourness and hotness…and of course, the aroma. The red curry has a stronger shrimp and chilli aroma, while the green curry has a stronger kaffir lime aroma.

at the cooking schoolOn a recent holiday to Phuket I was excited to discover that my resort offered cooking classes, a chance to make the holiday more memorable by learning a skill that can extend the travel experience well beyond the week we had there. So I signed up for an afternoon cooking lesson from chef Pachon Pakham on how to make some classic Thai dishes – laab gai (spicy minced chicken with fresh mint), tom yam goong (spicy and sour soup with prawns, lime, lemongrass and chilli), gaeng phed seeda (red curry of roasted duck, pineapple and cherry tomatoes) and for dessert, kluay buad chee (bananas poached in coconut cream).

The Ruen Thai restaurant is located within the Dusit Thani Laguna Resort north of Patong on Phuket Island and it has won many awards for fine Thai-style food, along with admirers who appreciate the stunning cuisine that is unique to this part of the world. The cooking class was set on a beautiful veranda, overlooking the lagoon that snakes through the world-class resorts that pepper the area.

The classes are not daunting large groups but more intimate small groups. Our group of three was the perfect size. We each had a cooking station, complete with an induction cooktop, pots and pans, and all the fresh ingredients required. As we were taught how to prepare each dish, Chef Pachon Pakham explained in detail each ingredient and why it was included.

Surprisingly, all the dishes were quite easy to prepare. I’m sharing the red curry recipe for you to try out at home. You won’t regret cooking this! As long as you have all the ingredients, it’s easy to prepare. You can get roasted duck at a Chinese restaurant, but your local grocery store will probably sell a vacuum-packed roasted duck. Most ingredients are easy to source from your local grocery store, or if not seek out an Asian grocery store. Serve your red curry with steamed jasmine rice and a glass of your favourite white wine. This dish will amaze your taste buds…and your family and friends!


Serves 2

  • 60 g red chilli paste. This can be purchased ready-made at an Asian grocery store or you can make it yourself (see receipe below)
  • 2C coconut milk
  • 400g roasted duck, sliced
  • 80g cherry tomatoes
  • 80g pineapple
  • 30g red and green chilli
  • 4 leaves kaffir lime
  • 4T fish sauce
  • 30g palm sugar
  • ½g sweet basil (Thai basil)

curry close upSauté the red curry paste and ½C of the coconut milk in the pan over medium heat and stir until mixed well. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Heat on medium for a few minutes until on the boil.

Place sliced duck meat, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, chilli and kaffir lime leaves into the pan. When the curry is boiling, season with fish sauce and palm sugar. Place sweet basil leaves in and stir gently. Place into a serving bowl and garnish with fresh sweet basil leaves.

Red curry paste

  • 2T coriander seed, roasted
  • 2T caraway seeds, roasted
  • 10 pieces dried red chilli
  • 2T galangal root, sliced
  • 4T lemongrass, sliced
  • 1T kaffir lime rind, sliced
  • 1T cumin, roasted and ground
  • ½T black peppercorns
  • 1T shrimp paste
  • 3t salt
  • 4t peeled garlic, sliced
  • Coriander root
  • 5t peeled shallot, sliced

Roast the coriander seeds and caraway seeds in a pan on medium heat until the aroma is released. Crush toasted seeds in a mortar and pestle until fine, then put aside.

Nip the tip off the dried red chilli, wash and chop. Put the hot chilli, galangal root, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, coriander root, black peppercorns, shallot, garlic, cumin and salt into the mortar and pestle and grind until a paste is formed.

Add shrimp paste and the crushed coriander and caraway seeds and mix well.

Recipe courtesy of Ruen Thai Restaurant, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket.

For more information about cooking classes offered by chef Pachon Pakham and Ruen Thai Restaurant at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket resort, visit: www.dusit.com.


About the Author – Shiori Cochrane

Shiori has been involved in the book and magazine publication and TV production industries for almost 15 years. Her articles are focused on travel, food and sustainability. When she is not writing or editing, she spends her time travelling with the Explore TV team, producing the popular travel series Explore TV on Nine. She lives in the beautiful hills of Western Australia with her husband and three boys.

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