or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › Thai curry: how to make sure it becomes oily?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Thai curry: how to make sure it becomes oily?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi all,
Being crazy about thai food (and especially curry's) I like to know the principle which hides behind the separation of coconutmilk/coconutcream and it's fat. I just started the cook thai food and although I started to read about it, I still don't know a few things. As a result I am not getting consistent results when it comes to the oily separation, like needed for most curry's. I think this might also be the reason why my red curry for example doesn't always color the dish red? (I do add more then enough dried red peppers).

 

Anyone can help me with this?
Usually (traditionally) the curry paste is stirred into some reduced and split coconutmilk. It is important that it is split I understand. I also understand that coconutmilk from cans doesn't want to split because of emulsifiers that are added? So better to use coconutmilk from a carton?

 

And what about stirring the curry past into some vegetable oil in a pan (frying)? And THEN adding coconutmilk slowly? This is referred to as "cheating". Why does this work? What happens that makes the curry separate/split with an oily layer if you use this "cheating trick"?

 

Any help would be very appreciated. I am really trying to understand the physics of it.


Thanks a lot!

 

(btw. This is my first post. I am really hoping to find some answers and contribute or bring some topics to this forum. I am very glad to have found a forum that looks like it's active!)

post #2 of 19

I'm not sure why you'd want to willingly split the coconut milk? I've personally never noticed that really in the Thai curries I've had in Thai restaurants (never been to Thailand), and if anything I try to prevent the coconut milk to split. For the southern Thai curry I make most often, when I cook the paste (I make my own curry paste), thenadd the coconut milk and chicken stock, lemon juice and fish sauce, the coconut milk (from a can) tends to split, or maybe it's just the coconut milk that won't emulsify with the chicken stock, I'm not sure. I just have to stir to emulsify everything together, but the emulsion doesn't hold: a few mn after I've stirred, the sauce is separated again - which is not a problem for me, but it's not what I'm looking for either. 

 

Usually I just give it a good stir before serving so it's not too separated. 

 

It sounds like we have opposite goals though. Do you have any references/links regarding that oily separation you mention? I would be curious to read up on that. 

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi frech fries,

I heard a Thai Cook telling about it in a youtube clip at first. Later on I heard David Thomson talking about it in his massaman curry youtube clip. I noticed how some cooks use the fat from the coconutmilk to 'dissolve' the curry paste in. Others use vegetable oil and after they mix coconut milk in. I might add that the first method is the more traditional one which I prefer.

One of my favourite curries is massaman curry. This one needs to be rather oily, but I can not always get it the way I want. I kind of think it looks attractive and full of flavour with a bright oil layer on top. Massaman curry whithout the seperation looks unattractively brown to me.

About a green curry I heard David Thomson say he didn't want more seperation. Meaning he didn't want much at all in the green curry he was cooking...

If I come across the youtube clips I am talking about I will post it for you...
post #4 of 19

I've used the separated cream from coconut milk for cooking the curry paste. It's a traditional step I like. As the water cooks out of the cream, the paste sautes briskly and becomes aromatic releasing it's flavors.  Fats are lighter than water so the fat separates out and floats on top of the milk. Which is precisely the same for  dairy milk as it is for coconut. 

 

Modern milk processing homogenizes the milk to keep the fat in suspension. They pass the milk through small openings at high pressure onto steel plates. The fats are physically broken and separated into sizes that will stay in suspension. Coconut milk is not so treated. 

 

You might also want to try adding some palm kernel oil. It's traditional to the cuisine also. Use it lightly, especially at first as it's not an oil that agrees with everyone's digestion. But it does have distinct flavor and color which is also not to everyone's tastes. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
post #5 of 19

All of the canned Thai coconut milk brands I have bought at the SE Asian markets in my neighborhood have a thick layer of coconut cream on top and thinner liquid on the bottom. I usually scoop out a tablespoon or two of the cream and fry the curry paste in that for a couple of minutes when starting a curry.

post #6 of 19

I didn't realize you meant to use the separated cream from the coconut milk. In that case, note that you can buy coconut cream instead of coconut milk:

 

post #7 of 19

Yes you can buy coconut cream. It's important you buy unsweetened as shown in your picture because a lot of it has added sugar. I don't go through it fast enough to justify a separate can of it. I only do it for those curries using coconut milk of course. Otherwise, it's just oil, usually grapeseed. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post
 

Yes you can buy coconut cream. It's important you buy unsweetened as shown in your picture because a lot of it has added sugar. I don't go through it fast enough to justify a separate can of it. I only do it for those curries using coconut milk of course. Otherwise, it's just oil, usually grapeseed. 

You can use it for different applications... it can be a base for a marinade for Thai grilled chicken for example. Add palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, shallots or scallions, cilantro, toasted sesame oil... blitz, marinade overnight, grill fast, eat with white rice, Nuoc Cham, pickled carrots/daikon, fresh mints of all kinds....

 

It makes great custards as well... my favorite one is to cut a peach in two halves, remove the pit and fill the hole with coconut custard, bake.... delicious!!!

 

You can also use it for a super simple vegetable curry....

post #9 of 19

My oddball coconut indulgence is coconut jelly, a gelatin set sweetened coconut milk. I first ate it at a dim sum meal. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

My oddball coconut indulgence is coconut jelly, a gelatin set sweetened coconut milk. I first ate it at a dim sum meal. 
I've used gelatin set coconut water quite often in desserts, I'll have to try it with coconut milk now.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Cook View Post
 

[...]

 

And what about stirring the curry past into some vegetable oil in a pan (frying)? And THEN adding coconutmilk slowly? This is referred to as "cheating". Why does this work? What happens that makes the curry separate/split with an oily layer if you use this "cheating trick"?

 

[...]

 

Why not? That's not cheating.

 

From what I know, frying the paste first is common and needed for this kind of dish.

It's more about building the flavor (frying the paste).

 

If you cook long enough with enough heat, the coconut milk will split and oily. I haven't cooked massaman curry, but I cooked similar dish like "beef rendang" which is quite similar :) 

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh71 View Post
 

 

Why not? That's not cheating.

 

From what I know, frying the paste first is common and needed for this kind of dish.

It's more about building the flavor (frying the paste).

 

 

 

Just judging from recipes and youtube I see both methods being employed (frying in vegetable oil and frying in coconutcream.)

 

Some of the best cooks that, to me, really know what they are doing do not really fry their curry paste in any oil. They kind of dissolve the paste in an amount of coconutcream that seems too be to big of an amount to really fry anything in. At least that is what it seems like to me. Sometimes measurements get distorted by close-ups ect. Hard to judge.

 

Ahhh wait..., Phatch, I think you explain what I just described above! Thanks. Good thing I went through your reply again. You said: "As the water cooks out of the cream, the paste sautes briskly and becomes aromatic releasing it's flavors." THIS is what I am seeing al the time. Cooks put their curry paste into the coconutcream when it still contains some water. They then let the water evaporate and begin effectively sauteing the paste!

 

So as I understand it right it is not important to especially let the coconutcream split before you add the curry paste? That is a kind of a surprise to me. Glad I solved this little curry mystery though :):).

 

I hope my next massaman curry profits from this and gets an oily layer on top


Edited by Dr Cook - 10/9/15 at 4:38am
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

For the ones that are interested in the details about oily seperation in curries; I will quote some text from the book that I just got (from David Thomson). I just had to order the book! He explains in a technical way why and how to fry curries in coconut oil/cream:

 

"For coconut based curries the paste is fried in coconutcream which first needs to be simmered slowly until it separates and is quite oily. This is important as the paste needs to be fried, not boiled - it makes a marked difference to the final taste. The proces is quite similar to clarifying butter, with the oil separating from the solids: the oil fries the paste, and the creamy solids give the curry substance.

 

Coconutcream can be separated in two ways. The first is to simmer the cream over a low heat, stirring reglarly, untill it is thick and beginning to separate or "crack". For the second method, several cups of combined cream and milk are brought to the boil and as the cream rises it is skimmed off and simmered in a smaller, separate pan until it has cracked

 

Either way the paste is added to the oily, seperated cream, worked in and then cooked. Sometimes, if large pieces of meat need to be poached, they are simmered in a coconut cream and milk mixture; the cream that rises is skimmed and used to cook the curry paste andthe remaining liquid is used to moisten the curry, if required after seasoning.

 

The problem with canned coconut cream is that it has been homogenised, and starch has been added to homogenise, and starch has been added to stabilise i, during its manufacture -making it almost imposible to separate. If using canned , add a little oil when frying the past: this will replicate separated coconut cream..........

 

...... Another sign that the paste is sufficiently cooked is its appearance. When the paste is worked into the hot oil or fat, it absorbs it, As the water in the paste begins to evaporate, the oil begins to separate from the paste once again, The paste then fries and, as more water evaportates, it becomes oilier. Each  style of curry has a required amount of separation, Only a little oil is used cooking a jungle curry and none of it should be apparent in the finished product, whereas red and green curries use more and heave a sheen.  The dry red curry styles, like put prik king and panaeng, contain quite a lot of oil, about 5 per cent of the total liquid. A masssaman curry has the most separation, as much as 10 percent. The oil helps to line the mouth and stomach and this prevents the chillies from burning - at least to some degree. It also ensures that the accompanying rice is not too "dry". When the finished curry is kept for some time , the oil rises to the top and froms an anaerobic barier that helps it last linger - a necessary thing in tropical heat in the days befor refridgeration".

 

I sure hope someone will appreciate this quote, as it took me about 15 minutes to type all this! :):):). Any questions? He does say more in about it in the book which I have laying around here. So feel free to ask. I might be able to look it up for you.

 

I do have another question about cooking curries btw. But it is a different subject so I will open a new thread for that...


Edited by Dr Cook - 10/24/15 at 12:36pm
post #14 of 19

Thanks for adding that information to your thread! Very interesting. I've been doing it wrong the whole time: I would fry the paste in oil and later add the coconut milk. I'll have to try that technique you just shared!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Cook View Post
 

I sure hope someone will appreciate this quote, as it took me about 15 minutes to type all this! :):):). 

I really, really do appreciate it. Thanks for your effort!!!

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

:):):)

post #16 of 19

I also went on to watch a few of David Thomson's videos, which help understand how he makes curry pastes and cooks curries: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1ZlulquuoTtzqVRcwf79Ow

post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post
 

I also went on to watch a few of David Thomson's videos, which help understand how he makes curry pastes and cooks curries: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1ZlulquuoTtzqVRcwf79Ow

Nice short videos to watch isn't it? Clear whitout too much talking. Just straight up explanation of what he is doing with some helpful tips. I find those really helpful. Have watched them all :)! thanks for letting me know :)

post #18 of 19

Just a link to a couple more video's:

These are done by Sitca, a cooking school on Koh Samui.

One day, when I get rich, I want to do their 7 or 14 day course......

 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA5F7A69D11C28B24

Life is too short to drink bad wine
---Anonymus---

Reply

Life is too short to drink bad wine
---Anonymus---

Reply
post #19 of 19

Thank you for adding that link @butzy !! :)

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Food & Cooking
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › Thai curry: how to make sure it becomes oily?