Aromatic Thai Curry (Geng gari) with Chicken and Asparagus

If green asparagus can perfectly face the flavours and heat of an Indian curry,  why not test it with Thai one? Leafing through David Thompson’s Thai Food I chose a curry called “aromatic”, combining both Indian and Thai seasoning ingredients. When I say “I chose a curry”, I mean the paste because this extraordinary book has a different paste recipe for every single curry. Though the original recipe calls for duck, I replaced it with chicken (the author suggests different protein sources anyway). This modification, the presence of asparagus and of button mushrooms didn’t stop this curry from being one of the best I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t post this recipe without writing once more about Thai Food by David Thompson, one of the best cooking books I have ever seen (and I talk about all the cuisines from around the world). If you like and cook – or would like to cook – Thai food, this is the most genuine, complete and simply the best written source of recipes I can imagine. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but as soon as you start putting it into practice, every single dish will make you say “wow”, especially if, like me, all you know is food served in Westernised restaurants. As always, I’ve made some alterations to the original recipe, “slimmed” it down skipping coconut cream and replacing a part of coconut milk with water (to be frank the only part I didn’t change was the curry paste) so make sure you check the original source.

TIPS: Beware, the crucial point here is preparing your own paste, which makes this curry unique and so different from those made with store-bought product. Dried spices can of course be bought in Indian shops (or even normal supermarkets) and the fresh ingredients in Thai shops. I have been recently buying fresh turmeric in my organic shop, so you might check these too. I cannot say if any store-bought Thai curry paste will be equally good with asparagus, but you can give it a go.

This paste will keep in the fridge for about a week. You can also freeze it (though David Thompson is totally against it, I find it still really good when defrosted, though the fresh paste is definitely the best).

Instead of green asparagus you can also use the violet (purple) one, but I don’t advise the white one. I haven’t tested it in any fiery dish and since it’s very different, the result might be disappointing.

I’ve added some mushrooms to this dish simply because I had some fresh leftover mushrooms from another dish, but they aren’t necessary (add more asparagus instead).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two):

Curry paste:

7 medium hot red dried chillies, soaked in warm water until they soften (usually 20-30 minutes)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, chopped

4 small Asian shallots or 2 medium European shallots, chopped

2 tablespoons garlic (chopped)

1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal

1 tablespoon lemongrass stalks (the lower half part only, outer tough “leaves” removed), very finely chopped

2 teaspoons coriander root, chopped

15 white peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3 sheaths mace or 1 teaspoon ground mace

Remaining ingredients:

2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

100 g button mushrooms, sliced

250g green or violet asparagus (the tougher low part removed), cut into bite-sized pieces

200 ml coconut milk

fish sauce

(palm sugar)

Prepare the paste: on a clean frying pan roast the whole seeds and then grind them in a spice grinder, mortar or a coffee grinder. Mix the chopped fresh ingredients in a food processor (a small baby food processor is best here), adding some water if needed. (You can also grind them in a mortar, then no water is needed). Combine the fresh and the dried paste ingredients and mix them well again.

Pour some coconut milk into a pan add about 1/3 of the curry paste (keep the remaining paste in a well closed jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it).

Heat the paste, stirring, until it starts smelling really strong.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken and the mushrooms and simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes. (Add some water or more coconut milk if you find the curry too thick).

Add the thicker asparagus parts and simmer about 5 more minutes.

Finally add the thinnest asparagus parts and simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Season with fish sauce and, if it’s a bit bitter, with sugar.

Serve. (The author advises deep-fried shallots but I thought they wouldn’t suit this light spring version).


Aromatic curry paste:

8 Replies to “Aromatic Thai Curry (Geng gari) with Chicken and Asparagus”

  1. Great looking dish. All I can get locally is the green asparagus and I tend to just roast it and serve it with a hollandaise or steam it and add to couscous as a side. Your Thai curry is a nice change of pace with the assortment of rarely used fresh items like the galangal and turmeric. Right now, I’m sticking with bland chicken soup as I’ve got a miserable cold (day 4 and counting) but it’s something to keep in mind for when I have more energy.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. (The photo is really bad, but I wanted to post it as soon as possible). I actually prefer the green asparagus first of all because of its price (I mean, compared to the white one), and even the green is not cheap of course! And also because it’s easy to prepare (no peeling) and so versatile… (I like the white ones with hollandaise sauce or even more sauce tartare! but I prefer when my mother-in-law prepares it 😉 I’m too lazy for that!). Strangely I don’t see the violet one (purple) this year. Last year it was everywhere (a bit like purple cauliflowers!), but it’s the same kind: easy and versatile.
      If you like asparagus and spices, you must test it one day in a spicy dish!
      I am so sorry to hear you’ve been ill… I hope you will get better soon! Personally I love spicy food when I’m ill… but chicken soup is a great cure, spicy or not.

  2. I can see using that awesome paste in a variety of dishes. Like you, you know how I love making my own. YUM! For the dish, that’s an interesting combination of ingredients – chicken, mushrooms and asparagus. I’ve put that combination inside crepes before, but never would have though to have used them in a curry. So smart! I really need to check out that cookbook. If you love it, I know I will too. Thanks Sissi!

    1. Dear MJ, this book is as intimidating as the wonderful collection of Latin American recipes I’m ashamed to say I haven’t dared cooking from yet and still keep on reading from, eye wide open. (On the bright side, I’ve just discovered a grocery shop selling Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Portuguese products and vegetables, sells also lots of Latin American products!!!! I almost got a headache seeing all the dried corn varieties! they even have some whole dried black corn… anyway, I hope I’ll be able to find there some products and cook from the wonderful Gran Cocina Latina). But once one starts “feeling” it, goes to a Thai grocery shop – and surprisingly – finds all the ingredients, everything becomes feasible and every curry is a real journey (not like buying 3 or 4 packaged curries all the time). I guess even in Thailand most people don’t make curry pate from scratch but it takes maybe 5-10 minutes to mix… and what a pleasure! I hope you can find Thai fresh ingredients at least online…
      I was surprised mushrooms went well with asparagus, but they did! And frankly Thai or Indian curry with asparagus is amazing!

  3. Combining the asparagus with the curry is quite interesting, I can certainly see how this flavourful vegetable would hold its own. I just love the colours, the dish is making me lick my lips and I just had a tasty breakfast! I have made my own curry pastes and I agree, they are far superior to the store bought and entirely customizable! The number of chilies may be a bit much for me, but I’m sure the combination of flavours would compensate for making the dish less hot.

    1. Thanks a lot, Eva. I am glad you are also a homemade curry paste fan! I agree it’s not only the superior taste, but most of all the variety of flavours that one can create for every single curry dish!

    1. Thank you, Katerina. I liked this combination too. Strangely asparagus and mushrooms tasted great together.

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