Friday, January 9, 2009

Thai green curry with lots of veggies and Kra Chai (wild ginger)

By mistake hubby brought me this strange looking herb from the Chinese grocery store which I had no clue to what it was. I was sure that it was not galangal, which I actually wanted. Initially I as quite skeptical and was wondering if it has gone bad or what, as the outer layers looked darker than the centre. But, once I used it I liked this earthy but still so aromatic fragrance of it. It smells distinctly different than galangal or ginger. Recently I went to the Asian grocery shop myself and bought it again and this time there was also a name on it, to my delight. It said "tumicuni". I showed hubby how galangal looks like which was also lying just next to it. So, after searching for "tumicuni" through Google, I found out what it was.
It seems to have many names in English and in different Asian countries and regions. Tumicuni (I think is from Indonesia) or 'Kra Chai'* (Thailand), 'chinese keys', 'wild ginger', 'finger root' or 'galingal' (not galangal). Its binomial Latin name is Boesenbergia pandurata. Here is a good informative page on finger root at Gernot Katzer's spice pages. Just like ginger, galangal or turmeric, it belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberacea) and the part used in cooking is a rhizome.
While searching for a recipe for Kra Chai I came across this recipe of wild ginger at After seeing how it is really used, I was confident enough to try using it on my own and tried to make something using them with Oregon pink shrimps.

*A couple of days ago I had a Thai friend, also an ex-colleague, visiting me from Regensburg and she told me that the word Kra Chai is pronounced as Kra Shai - \ai\ as i in ice. Through her I also got to know that Kra Chai is a sparely used spice in the Thai kitchen and comes in use for only a few selected recipes.

Thai green curry with shrimps

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

150-200 g cold water shrimps (I used MSC certified Oregon pink shrimps)
1 medium carrot, sliced or julliened
1 long stalk bamboo shoot (15-20 cm), cut into 1/2 cm rings or 5 -6 cm vertical slices
10 mushrooms, quartered or halved, depending on size
1/2 green bell peppers, chopped into mouth sized pieces
1/2 red bell peppers, chopped into mouth sized pieces
1 lemon grass, the green part kept as stalks and the white part crushed
a few lemon leaves, each leaf slit a number of times on both sides of the midrib
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large garlic, chopped finely
1 inch ginger, chopped or grated fine
1 small stalk of Tumicuni (Kra Chai or wild ginger), finely chopped
1 tsp Thai green curry paste** (I used Lobo)
2/3 can coconut milk, shaken before opening (we used up all of it , as it turned out to be too hot)
a few dashes fish sauce
salt to taste
1/2 packet Thai basil, the leaves - washed
a few tbsp coriander leaves (cilantro), washed , pat dried and chopped
1 tbsp oil for frying

** It is the hottest of all the Thai curries!! Very Very HOT!

  • thaw the shrimps at room temperature (you can also add them directly from the freezer into the curry)

  • wash, clean and chop vegetables and spices and set aside
  • heat 1 tbsp oil ((or 2-3 tbsp coconut milk) in a sauté pan (or wok) and add onion, garlic, ginger, tumicuni and lemon grass and fry
  • add the vegetables one by one, frying each for a minute before adding the next on medium heat
  • if required add a few tbsp coconut milk in between
  • add the green Thai curry paste and stir
  • add coconut milk and cook for a while, stirring in between
  • add the shrimps - depending on if they are thawed or not, add them either shortly before the curry is done or cook for longer till done
  • add fish sauce and salt to taste and the basil leaves about 1 or 2 minutes before the curry is done
  • serve warm, garnished with cilantro, to steamed rice
This was a rich and flavourful curry. Beautifully aromatic because of the Thai basil, coconut milk, cilantro (fresh coriander leaves) and, of course, all the spices like Kra chai, ginger, and the Thai spice curry paste. Needless to say, it was a wonderfully tasty curry. But, there was a one big problem. : it was HOT! Despite my having used just 1 teaspoon, it was horribly hot. I had to add lots of coconut milk to reduce the hotness, not only for sunny boy, but also for me and hubby.
And then when I told my Thai friend about the hotness, she told me it is the hottest of all the Thai curries. Well, I know it for sure, never to forget it again! She suggested that I use the yellow curry paste as a mild alternative, which I will do next time. So, if you think fiery hot food is just the right thing for you, then go ahead and try this Thai green curry.
But, after adding more coconut milk from the can, the curry became mild enough for us, but not for sunny boy. For him I took out the vegetables and the shrimps and mixed with plain coconut milk which was alright for him then and he enjoyed eating it too.


Asha said...

If only you didn't use Shrimps, this dish would have been a wonderful entry to AWED-Thailand(Veg only). Looks delicious! Enjoy the weekend! :))

Gloria Chadwick said...

Your Shrimps in Thai Curry look delicious. I liked learning about tumicuni. Really interesting post!
And thanks for the link to my Chili Cook-Off. :)

Soma said...

PG that was a nice thing to learn. I love shrimp & I love this thai curry u made.. only I cannot have fish sauce.. I'll just have to omit that part. Looks so pretty & colorful.

Curry Leaf said...

I agree with Asha.I know the commercial pastes are hot,but try homemade pastes recipes,they are mild.Atleast one I tried was mild.
The curry looks very perfect

Ivy said...

PG it's the first time I've heard of tumicuni and thanks for the explanation. The curry sounds delicious.

PG said...

Asha, how I would have loved to participate. let me see if i can come up with something new. I'm so slow in posting that I really can't promise. I already have a long list of things i want to write about.

Gloria, Thanks a lot1 And you are most welcome! Honestly, I would have done it in any case, so I can rememeber to participate in your wonderful event. :)

Soma, thanks! Good that you all like the infomation. That is the best part of sharing recipes with yu all, one gets to lern new things every day. :)

Curry leaf, I have made my own. Will write about it soon.

Ivy, I really would love to invite you to come over and do all this cooking with you. :D

Navita said...

lovely blog n very informative.
shrimps are our i know more about them.

thanks for visiting me dear.

Priya said...

Wow am drooling over this..shrimps r my fav..lovely PG..yet to try thai dishes..

Soma said...

PG.. I could not Post a comment in the new post.. its says comment has been disabled by administrator...

BTW The shrimps looks awesome. I am a huge fan of shrimp in any form.

mycookinghut said...

I have not seen this before! Great info!