Lamb curry is almost always associated with India where it most probably originated. But lamb curry also figures prominently in Southeast Asian cooking, particularly in Indonesia where it is known as Gulai Korma, Malaysia and Thailand. In the Southeast Asian versions of the dish, fish sauce (patis) is used as seasoning.
We had lamb curry for lunch yesterday and I used only the freshest herbs to go with it. By fresh I mean herbs I picked from my garden. I can’t claim that this is Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian or Indian lamb curry but it is most definitely my lamb curry.
You can buy lemongrass cheaply from the market. They are so inexpensive, in fact, that your transportation cost will be a dozen times more than the cost of the lemongrass. That’s why I decided that planting my own lemongrass was wiser. I bought two pots, each with no more than three stalks, a couple of months ago and look how much they have grown. I just pull off a stalk or two every time I need lemongrass for my cooking. Oh, they’re great for tea infusions too.
One common complaint about lamb meat is the strong odor. I solve this problem by first boiling the lamb in plenty of water for about five minutes. Then, I drain the lamb and discard the water. I place the lamb in a clean pot, cover it with fresh water and add a few stalks of lemongrass. Use only the lower portion of the lemongrass stalks. And crush them before adding to the pan. When the meat is tender, discard the lemongrass.
The first time I used curry paste, I made the mistake of pouring ALL the contents of the packet into the cooking pan. The result was a stew so hot that I needed to drink water after every mouthful. I’ve learned my lesson since. I only used two heaping teasponfuls of red curry paste with my lamb. I placed the excess in a clean jar and put it in the fridge for future use.
Ah, the little extras than turn an ordinary dish into something special. First, kaffir lime leaves. Thanks to a tip from fellow food blogger Peterb, I was able to buy a pot of kaffir lime from the Manila Seedling Bank. Well, perhaps, that’s an oversimplification. I had to order it. I gave them my number and they called me up when kaffir lime was available. Apparently, it’s a fast moving item.
The leaves of the kaffir lime come in pairs. A pair is more than enough to flavor a pot of stew and to give it a wonderful and indescribable aroma that is both citrusy and sweet but never overpowering.
Add the kaffir lime leaves to the lamb and curry and let them do their magic.
No joke. It is called holy basil, one of the varieties of basil and which is commonly found in Asia and the Middle East. Among the three kinds of basil that I have in the garden (the other two being Thai basil and lemon basil), the holy basil is the sturdiest and the most prolific in terms of growth.
Adding basil leaves to lamb curry will give you a fresh perspective on this tired old dish. Just pick the basil leaves, discard the tough stalks, and add the leaves to the stew during the last minute of cooking.
Adding eggplants may sound strange because Filipinos are more used to having potatoes and carrots with their lamb curry. But there are many curried dishes in Thai cuisine where you will find eggplants.