It all started with one cable show many years ago which showed how to make a Thai chicken curry dish from scratch. In Iloilo, chicken curry is a simple cooking affair–guisa the sliced chicken, add coconut milk, the curry powder from the ice-candy wrapper, and the sliced potatoes. Boil to soften and thicken and it’s done!
But from that travel feature, I learned that most of the fresh ingredients for curry congregated in the stone mortar to undergo purification by continuous pounding and come out as the mixture sanctified by the oil of coconut.
Why this religious analogy, I don’t know why. One thing is certain, making curries from scratch has led me on this journey of foregrounding our Southeast Asian roots.
There are many ways of making curries all over Asia, thus there is no one correct version. For this one below, I just worked with available ingredients in Cuisina’s pantry and garden. Galangal or langkawas in Ilonggo was out. (My plant died last year; I need to plant a new one). My potted curry leaves was doing fine, so was my ever-reliable lemongrass or tanglad. My turmeric or Calawag was still small but I had powdered calawag and paprika too. Most important of all, there was a mature coconut waiting to be grated in the kudkuran. A final must have–the meat ingredient. The fish, a cansilayan, was resting in the freezer. So there you have it.
Hope you try out this recipe and give me feedback.
One bulb garlic, crushed and peeled
One ginger, peeled and sliced into small pieces
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 stalks curry leaves
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp turmeric powder
1-2 tbsp paprika powder
2 finger chilies
2 potatoes/sweet potatoes
Coarse sea salt
Patis or fish sauce
How to cook:
1. In a mortar, pound the garlic followed by the ginger until fine. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in pan. Flash fry the curry leaves.
3. Pour in 1/2 cup coconut milk and add the garlic-ginger mix.
4. Add the turmeric and paprika. Stir. Put fire on low heat.
5. When mixture starts to produce oil, put in the fish.
6. Add the rest of the coconut milk, the lemon grass, the sliced onions and the cubed potatoes or sweet potatoes.
7. Bathe the fish with the coco milk as it starts to boil. Cover for a few minutes.
8. Carefully flip the fish over to cook evenly.
9. Add sea salt and fish sauce to taste.
10. Add the whole finger chilies. You can opt to slice them for a hot punch.
10. Fish curry is ready when potatoes are soft and sauce has thickened,