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Mutton and cucumber curry (Kaeng bumbai nuea)

Not all Thai curries are about lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves as is the general misconception. Thai curries take flavours from a host of other ingredients and their profile changes across the length of the country.

India and Thailand have historically experienced close trade relations. This trade was started by the spread of Buddhism and trade for spices. Along with the traders went spices and cooking techniques. This is a very distinct curry that is supposed to have been influenced by Indian traders. The name "bumbai" seems to suggest its roots in Mumbai. This use of cumin and coriander seeds and tamarind and technique suggests influences from the Indian subcontinent.

This is a rich curry that is full of subtle flavours. The spices come together beautifully and the meat is slow-cooked to perfection. The surprise is the refreshing pieces fo cucumbers that add a lightness to the curry.

This is a wonderful cookbook that highlights recipes from a city that is renowned for its cuisine. The recipes stay true to their origins and the author gives a wonderful history of the dish and its origins. I am drawn more to cook from this book because of the fabulous flavors.

For more recipes from this wonderful cookbook, click here.


For the curry paste:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2-3 blades mace

15 shallots, peeled and left whole

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon Thai shrimp paste

5-6 Thai red chillies

1 teaspoon white pepper

4-5 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 can of coconut milk

2 lb boneless mutton or beef, cubed it 1-inch pieces

3-4 teaspoons tamarind concentrate

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar or jaggery

Salt, to taste

Water, as needed

2 white onions, cut into small wedges

3 cucumbers, partially peeled and chunked into half-moons

Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mace, and shallots to a dry frying pan and toast till the seeds are aromatic and the shallots soft and charred. Remove and cool.

Mix the seeds with the turmeric, shrimp paste, red chillies, white pepper and water in a small blender and blitz to a smooth paste. The paste should be very smooth.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the paste. Fry on low heat till the paste is very aromatic and the paste has taken on a light colour, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the meat and cook in the paste for 3-4 minutes till the meat is sealed and the paste has covered the meat well. Add the coconut milk, tamarind, fish sauce, sugar, and salt and mix in well. Add water as needed. Bring to a boil and simmer gently with the lid tightly closed for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for salt, spice and sweet. It should be robust with a great balance of flavours.

Simmer for an additional 45 minutes adding some water if needed. Test the meat and make sure it is very soft. The curry should be slightly thickened coating a spoon well, and flavourful.

NOTE: I like the curry to sit for some time for the flavours to come together and develop deeper flavours.

To serve, heat the curry, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cucumbers and cook for 1 minute. Serve hot with sticky rice.

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