Of course, you can also work with the various curry pastes from the bag and achieve quite decent results. However, it deprives you of what I consider one of the most beautiful aspects of cooking ever: the moment when the essential oils slowly come to the surface of the spices carefully roasted in the wok. Cardamom mixes with the cumin, the intense aroma of cloves dominates briefly to suddenly give space to the coriander… While the spices go into the mortar for further processing and smell much more intense in the course of crushing, garlic is chopped, ginger peeled, limes squeezed and everything is mixed with a little cinnamon, chili and oil. Do you want to deprive yourself of this flavor explosion to save a few minutes of time?
This is rightly said, the art of preparing a proper kaeng lies first in making the khrueang kaeng (Thai: เครื่องแกง), the paste. Every Thai household has a mortar (Thai: ครก), which should ideally be made of solid stone. In this, the ingredients are pounded, crushed and grinded with the pestle (Thai: สาก) until they Khao Gan (Thai: เข้ากัน – literally: come (in) together), so until an aromatic, homogeneous, thick mass is created.
So the contents of four to six cardmon capsules and a teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and two cloves are briefly toasted in a wok and then crushed in a mortar and mixed with some garlic, lemongrass, cinnamon, shallots, a tablespoon of sunflower oil and the juice and zest of a lime.
As an absolutely indispensable secret ingredient, you should add some Kaffir lime leaves, if you can get hold of them.
A wonderful curry can be made on this basis, in my case today it was accompanied by two small Barbarie duck breasts and cooked down with potatoes, pak choi and broccoli (and of course coconut milk and some chicken stock). For the small duck breasts, first make a diamond-shaped incision in the skin with as sharp a knife as possible to gently massage some pepper into the cut surfaces. Then it goes on the skin side in the initially not too hot wok and finally in the oven preheated to 120 degrees until it is crispy on the outside and tender pink on the inside. Ideally, you can now fry the potatoes directly in the rendered fat in the wok.
The curry is served, of course, with plenty of rice, chopped cilantro and peanuts, draped with slices of duck breast, pet yang: A special kind of Kaeng Phet, which was reserved for the royal court alone until the middle of the 20th century, is the “Kaeng Phet Pet Yang” (Thai: แกงเผ็ด เป็ดย่าง, literally: spicy soup, grilled duck). As a special feature, slices of charcoal-grilled duck were added to the Kaeng Phet. The smoky flavor of the crispy duck skin harmonizes very well with the spicy coconut milk dish. Meanwhile, you can get this dish even in high-end restaurants.