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Curries are an integral part of Thai cuisine and refer to both the dish as well as the curry paste used as the main ingredient of the dish.
There are a handful of different types of Thai curry, but the popular ones are red, yellow, and green which are categorized by the color of the curry paste.
Each type of Thai curry gets its distinct color from the chilies, and other ingredients use in their preparation. There are also a few other types of Thai curries that are not very popular but delicious as well.
Traditionally, all Thai curries use similar ingredients except for the chilies. But with time, more ingredients have been added to the recipes to enhance their flavor, giving them a more distinct taste from one another.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of Thai curry:
Types Of Thai Curry
1. Green Curry (Gaeng Kiew Whan)
Green curry is the most well-known of all the Thai curries; it doesn’t carry much heat and is exceptionally creamy; this is due to the green chili paste and the coconut milk used in the dish.
Green curry is originally from central Thailand and is traditionally made from the combination of shallots, lemongrass, white pepper, coriander root, garlic, kaffir lime, shrimp paste, and sea salt, alongside green chili paste and coconut milk, all of which gives this dish its unique taste.
Thai green curry is usually made with green vegetables like green eggplant and fresh herbs such as sweet basil leaves, but it can be made with meat or seafood as well; it is most often served with chicken or fish balls in Thailand.
2. Penaeng Curry (Gaeng Penaeng)
Penang curry is a lesser-known curry and is quite often mistaken for another red curry (another type of Thai curry).
Penang is a milder curry and has a consistency similar to green curry, it uses less coconut milk than green curry, however, and this keeps the texture a bit less liquidy.
Penang curry is less spicy and is made with spices like cumin and nutmeg, along with long red chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, coriander root, white pepper, sea salt, and shrimp paste. It is usually served on the side of a bowl of rice and topped off with coconut cream.
In Thailand, Panang curry is usually made with beef or pork, and depending on where in Thailand it is made; it can also be made with peanuts. This curry can be made with a sparse array of vegetables.
3. Red Curry (Gaeng Phed)
It is easy to make a mistake when dealing with Thai curries, as they are closely similar to each other, so you can end up confusing one of them with another. This confusion usually arises from over-simplification or trying to categorize the curries by color.
It may seem like the only difference there is between red and green curry is its color and possibly other ingredients like choice of fresh herbs or vegetables, but the differences, although subtle, are significant.
Both curries have very similar features; they use similar Thai paste and coconut milk base, which turns the dish into a soup-like curry sauce; they even use similar cooking methods.
But while the Penaeng dish is on the sweeter side, the red curry is savorier and hotter. Because red curry is a lot less sweet and more savory, it is best served with something rich like fatty pork or duck meat.
4. Sour Orange Curry (Gaeng Som)
This type of Thai curry is actually more of a soup and uses no coconut milk. The base paste contains only five ingredients, but it is one of the spiciest curries because it is water-based.
The sour orange curry paste is made from dried red chilies, finger root ginger shallots, sea salt, and shrimp paste. This dish uses tamarind and some kind of tropical fruit like pineapple, which gives it a sour taste.
Sour orange curry is usually made with fish or shrimp and any desired and available vegetable.
5. Massaman Curry (Gaeng Massaman)
Massaman curry is much less popular in restaurants as it is one of the types of Thai curry that has to be cooked on low heat for a long time. But it is well worth the wait; you can tell a clear difference between slow and faster-cooked Thai curries.
Massaman is originally from Malaysia; it is quite mild and contains coconut milk along with a few other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Massaman curry is usually made with chunks of potato and peanuts, which makes it thicker and more stew-like, with a mild, slightly sweet taste. This dish is commonly prepared with chicken, although beef is also a common option.
6. Jungle Curry (Gaeng Pa)
Jungle curry originates from central Thailand and gets its name from the diversity of herbs, vegetables, and ingredients used in its preparation; this dish is packed with flavors but can be very spicy!
It is a water-based dish, and the curry paste used in jungle curry is made from a variety of herbs and chilies, which gives the dish a unique flavor.
This Thai curry is commonly made with chicken or pork, but some variations of wild meat such as boar or even frog can be used to add an even more exotic taste and flavor to the dish.
7. Yellow Curry (Gaeng Luang)
Yellow curry is another water-based curry and is a somewhat spicier version of sour orange curry. This curry is normally made with a liquid fish base, curry paste, and turmeric, which gives the dish its yellowish color.
Yellow curry is mostly prepared with fish, like seabass, mackerel, or whatever you desire. This dish uses a handful of exotic ingredients such as bamboo shoots, green papaya, or lotus stems.
Curry is rich and diverse food, and every family has their own unique twist, but with a pretty consistent basis.
This isn’t a full complete breakdown of Thai curries, as there are many types of Thai curry, and variations on those types are as numerous as there are palm trees in Thailand. But this is a great place to start if you want to learn more!