An Idiot’s Guide to understanding Thai curry

When the local people in Thailand ask if you can handle the heat, chances are they aren’t referring to the weather!

Thai people refer to dishes that are known as “Thai curries” in the Western world as “kaeng”. Curries are almost always eaten in combination with rice: the long-grained jasmine rice in central and southern Thailand, and sticky rice in northern Thailand. Certain curries can also be eaten with roti, an Indian flat bread.

It’s sometimes hard for westerners to get used to Thai curries, and we each end up looking like something of an idiot – so let’s take a look through some of the more popular variants of curry you will find in the Kingdom so your next trip to the restaurant won’t be such an embarrassing affair:

Kaeng Phet
Kaeng Phet

Kaeng Phet (Red Curry), while still spicy and a bit sweet, plays to your savoury taste buds more than green curry. The colour comes from the bigger red chilies used to create the base. The chilies are crushed with garlic, lemongrass, shallots, ginger and fish paste and added to coconut milk. Red curry is spicier and less rich than yellow curry.

Kaeng Khiao Wan
Kaeng Khiao Wan

Kaeng Khiao Wan (Green Curry) is considered to be the spiciest curry in Thailand, but it is also sweet thanks to the high amount of coconut milk that is added to the dish. The base is made with fresh, young green chilis which makes green curry hotter than other curries and in our opinion one of the best tasting!

Kaeng Kari
Kaeng Kari

Kaeng Kari (Yellow Curry) has a base that is made of plenty of turmeric, nutmeg, and kaffir lime leaves. While you will find different variations across Thailand, most yellow curry contains coconut cream in addition to the coconut milk, and has a rich taste with sweeter and milder flavours than that of both the red and green curries.

Kaeng Pa
Kaeng Pa

Kaeng Pa (Jungle Curry) is a variety of Thai curry from the forested areas of northern Thailand. Like most curries from northern Thailand, it does not usually contain coconut milk, as coconuts are not naturally found in the jungles of the Thai highlands. Kaeng pa is a highly spicy and watery curry that has a distinctive full taste, and was originally prepared with wild boar (or whatever meat could be caught in the jungle), but is now more commonly prepared with pork or chicken. It has since spread to other regions of Thailand, where Kaeng Pa is now a popular street food.

Kaeng Matsaman
Kaeng Matsaman

Kaeng Matsaman (Massaman Curry) doesn’t pack as much heat as the other curries, so it’s a good place to start if you want to try something less spicy. It is heavily influenced by Indian curries and is by far the sweetest of all curries found in Thailand. The base is made of cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and generally comes with chunks of potato and topped with peanuts.

Khua Kling
Khua Kling

Khua Kling (Dry Curry) is a variation of the Thai curry that is simply dry meat coated with the chilli powder and not served in liquid form. This is very popular as a form of fast food all over the country, as it usually becomes easier to eat on the move than the other curries listed above. Chicken and pork are the most common variants of dry meats for khua kling – and it is often sprinkled on grilled fish to give it some extra spice!

Ever been to Thailand? Which was your favourite type of curry – and are there any that you liked that are not listed here?

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3 thoughts on “An Idiot’s Guide to understanding Thai curry

  1. Funny how you keep mentioning sweet in this article. Most that dishes in Thailand are sweet and contains a lot of unnatural perservatives…its like the dishes from Kelantan, the east side of Malaysia which is close to Thailand they love adding sugar to everything which is unhealthy. In actual truth these dishes doesn’t require adding sugar to the ingredient

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