Jungle Curry

Thais who are surprised that I enjoy their spicy foods such as som tam and lahb are positively shocked when I list jungle curry (gaeng ba) among my favourites. This is one dish even some Thais find too spicy. Consider yourself warned!

This is one of the few Thai dishes that's most often made with beef rather than pork. That, and the fiery spiciness points to southern origins. While beef is the most common meat, it can be made with pork or chicken.

Jungle Curry

Jungle Curry made with beef

Due to its 'extreme' nature, jungle curry is not as common as many other dishes on the Thai menu, but it's still relatively easy to find. Recipes for jungle curry also vary widely. Some variations use coconut milk and can be quite thick, but most cooks use water or stock to make the soup. Traditional recipes use Thai aubergines and pea aubergines for the vegetable, but I think the corn and long beans 'sweeten' the dish slightly, making it more palpable to western tastes.

This particular recipe, translated from a Thai source, also calls for pumpkin. As I've noted in the article on pumpkin, Thais don't follow any 'rules' that say a food is strictly for dessert, etc. You'll find pumpkin used in all sorts of main courses. In this dish, it gives a nice cooling counterpoint to the spiciness of the curry.

You might also see in the photograph that I used regular green beans instead of long beans. This was mainly because I had some in the ' fridge and they work just as well. The taste is almost the same.

(4 Servings)

Ingredients

Beef tenderloin500 g / 1 lbSliced thin
Pumpkin220 ml / 1 cCubed
Baby corn220 ml / 1 cSliced
Long beans220 ml / 1 cCut in 1 in. lengths
Holy basil leaves15 g
Red spur chilies2 TblThinly sliced
Vegetable oil3 Tbl
Fish sauce3 Tbl
Granulated sugar1 tsp

Curry Paste

Small dired chilies 30
Lemongrass3 TblChopped
Shallots2 TblSliced
Garlic5 TblChopped
Kaffir lime zest1 TblShredded
Galangal4 Slices
Black peppercorns1 tsp
Salt1 Tbl
Prawn paste1 tsp

Preparation Method

  • Grind together the curry paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle to form a smooth paste.
  • Clean and peel the pumpkin, then cut into small cubes.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a wok, add the prepared curry paste and stir fry until fragrant.
  • Toss in the sliced beef and stir fry until cooked through.
  • Add water to cover the beef, then add the pumpkin. When the water comes to a boil, season to taste with fish sauce and sugar.
  • Add the baby corn and long beans. When the liquid returns to the boil, add the holy basil leaves and shredded spur chili. Remove from heat.
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