Authentic Thai curry at Aroy Thai in Ravenswood

January 18, 2013 9:45:37 AM PST
On Wednesday, the Hungry Hound discovered what goes into a proper Indian curry, and now, it's off to Thailand, where a completely different set of ingredients are involved.

There are several types of curries found in Thailand, some with coconut milk, others without. They're typically on the spicy side, but like all great Thai dishes, they should maintain that harmonious balance between salt, spice, sour and sweet. There is a place in Ravenswood where all of the curries are made from scratch.

A few years ago, the owners of Aroy Thai in Ravenswood decided they would focus on the authentic, home-style recipes from Thailand. A big part of that decision meant making curry from scratch.

"They have so many kinds of curry. The red is a bit more spicy. They make it with red chili pepper," said Sutee Kowcharoen, owner of Aroy Thai.

But for our purposes, they decided to show us how they make their green curry. It begins, naturally, with tiny, lethal Thai red and green chilies. Then galangal, or young ginger, plus fingerroot or Chinese ginger; shallots, lemongrass, fragrant kaffir limes and fresh garlic, cumin and coriander seed, and finally, funky shrimp paste.

All of these ingredients are peeled, sliced and chopped into small pieces, then pounded into submission in a sturdy mortar and pestle.

This kind of cooking is almost like a fitness regimen, building strength in your forearms. The ingredients are crushed and combined, releasing their fragrant aromas.

In a pot that already has rich coconut milk heating up, the curry is spooned in, followed by skinless, boneless chicken and salty fish sauce. Sweet palm sugar balances the heat and salt. Fresh bamboo and green beans go into the pot for texture, while firm, round Thai eggplants are sliced and added near the end. To bump up the aroma - as if the kitchen didn't already smell amazing - handfuls of fresh Thai basil and finely-chopped kaffir lime leaf are added at the last-minute, just before serving.

"Thai people they normally eat with chicken or pork," said Kowcharoen.

The curry has a lot of texture, as well as heat, but the prevailing idea is one of balance; both in the curry itself, as well as the dish as a whole.

"The flavor, the green curry the main thing, sweet, spicy and salty. That's the concept of it," he said.

Aroy typically offers about four different types of curry. If you find it's a bit too hot for you, you can always temper the heat with rice, raw vegetables or beer (the restaurant is BYOB).

Aroy Thai
4654 N. Damen Ave.