THIS dish (in which, to satisfy worriers out there, it's the
curry that's green, not the chicken) is a speciality
of Thailand and of a pub called The Wrestlers, on Newmarket Road,
Cambridge, England. Very many people at Acorn Computers have
discovered how good this stuff is - so many, in fact, that an informal
rota has sprung up as there are too many curry-fanciers for The
Wrestlers to seat all at the same lunchtime.
On leaving Acorn, most Acorn developers felt unable to give up their
weekly capsaicin fix, and so, were anyone to go into The Wrestlers and
heave a brick, which it is no part of this narrative to suggest might
frequently be the case, they would probably hit several aspiring young
computer companies. The last time the boss of Iota Software wanted to
hire a programmer, he just hung around in The Wrestlers a lot until he
found someone. Or at least, that was his excuse.
It's probably fair to say that green chicken curry is a significant
motivating factor in the Cambridge computer phenomenon.
Green Chicken Curry
This isn't actually The Wrestlers' own curry recipe, but with care you
can get it quite close. This quantity serves two. Some of the
authentic Thai ingredients are a bit out of the ordinary, and these
are explained below.
My dad's doctor has told him to lay off saturated fats, and coconuts
are on the no-no list he was given, so apparently this recipe is very
bad for you.
|8oz||chicken or beef (thinly
sliced) or smoked haddock or mixed
curry paste 
|1 small||aubergine (eggplant), or
a leek, or whatever veg, in small
|1||green pepper (bell pepper,
|some||mushrooms (basically whatever veg you think will work)
sugar or jaggery 
|1 or 2||kaffir lime leaves 
|a few||thai basil leaves 
(green "bullet" ones or dried bird-eye ones; if using Scotch Bonnet
chillies, do not use more than one!) thinly sliced or (if dried)
|2tbsp||fish sauce (nam-pla) 
|handful||chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), or 1tbsp of the sort in toothpaste tubes
|6tbsp||sunflower oil or other
It's traditionally served with steamed fragrant rice, but is also nice over
a jacket potato, or with half-cooked and drained pasta thrown into it a few
minutes before the end (you'll need a big pan and more stock).
||PUT the oil in a non-stick pan, and add the meat, the curry paste, and
a tablespoon of the coconut milk. Fry for a few minutes (if using beef or
pork) or until just coloured (otherwise), mashing the curry paste into the oil
if it's showing no signs of dissolving by itself. (You need plenty of oil to
make the sauce thick, it's not just there as a frying medium.)
||Add the rest of the coconut milk, the fish sauce, the palm sugar,
and the chillies. Fish
sauce is a saturated salt solution, so you're unlikely to need to add extra
||Add the lime leaves; these work like bay leaves and don't end up edible,
so you should either tear them into largish pieces and take them out at the
end, or very finely chop them with scissors like the Wrestlers do.
||Add the aubergine or leek at this stage too. Bring back to the boil and
simmer for a few minutes. Then add mushrooms or peppers (or other veg that
don't take as long to cook), plus the basil leaves. Add stock if it looks like
there's not enough liquid in the pan. Simmer five more minutes, until
everything seems cooked. Add the coriander right at the end.
You can vary the heat by
adjusting the amount of chillies (obviously), and
of the curry paste (which itself consists mostly of chillies). If made with
four chillies, the above recipe is about as hot as a hottish one from the
Wrestlers. If made with a Scotch Bonnet chilli and twice the amount of curry
paste, you may need to go and have a lie down afterwards. If cooking for a
complete wuss, take the seeds out of the chillies – don't reduce the
amount of curry paste as it's the emulsifier for the sauce.
Notes on ingredients:
All Rites Reversed -- Copy What You
- 1. Coconut milk
- Most supermarkets nowadays seem to stock tins of coconut milk. If
yours doesn't, you could make some using creamed coconut. If your
supermarket doesn't have this either, think about getting up a
petition. Amoy brand is better than Bart's; it's much thicker, which probably
means a greater fat content.
- 2. Thai green curry paste
- A previous version of this page suggested making green curry paste
yourself, using lemon-grass powder, galingale, garlic,
chillies, and heaven knows what else – but, quite frankly, life's too short. Do bear in mind that
some brands of curry paste are hotter than others; you'll need to experiment a bit with your particular brand.
- 3. Tell me the truth about aubergines
- In Thailand this dish would be made with things called pea
aubergines, which are related to aubergines but are green and about
the size of large peas. I've only rarely seen these for sale in England even
in Oriental food shops. One easy option is to use peas! - this will
taste wrong (but still very good) and look right. Another easy option
is to use a large purple aubergine, which will taste about right but
look completely wrong - if you do this, chop it into bite-size chunks
or it won't cook enough. A good compromise is to use "baby aubergines"
from an Oriental food shop: these are golfball-sized and white (and
may explain the otherwise mysterious name "eggplant" given to
aubergines in some parts of the world) and need only be octanted
before cooking. Stop press: apparently the Spar on Mill Road in
Cambridge, just beyond the railway bridge, sometimes sells pea aubergines.
And, according to a mate's excellent vegetables book, baby aubergines can
be grown in greenhouses in Britain's climate. Another correspondant tells
me that pea aubergines are sometimes sold under the name "Turkey berry".
- 4. Palm sugar
- This is available from Oriental food shops (e.g. Cho Mee on Mill Road
in Cambridge), or, at five times the price,
from some ordinary supermarkets. If you still can't find it, use a pale
brown sugar, or try honey.
- 5. Kaffir lime leaves
- Again, these come from Oriental food shops. The Oxford Companion To
Food makes a convincing case for calling these makhrut lime leaves instead
("kaffir" means "foreign", but it's used in South Africa as a disparaging
word for a black person). However, nobody does.
- 6. Thai basil leaves
- Not the same thing at all as normal French basil, but you could use that
in a pinch.
- 7. Nam-pla
- This is a sort of fish sauce which is widely used as a condiment
in Thailand. Oriental food shops will stock it. No purist would say it
was optional, but actually you can still make a very fine curry