Oft referred to as the queen of Thai c-c-c…(must I say it? Nope!!) stews, kaeng khiew wan is lushly herbal and fragrant, and most provocatively pale-green from its infusion of krung kaeng khiew wan…
In honor of Jihva for Ingredients: June of 2007: Jackfruit, hosted by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi, I have constructed a special kaeng khiew wan: I have paired green jackfruit with breast of chicken and added pieces of red capsicum, as well as shelled green peas and sliced mushrooms, to complement the colour scheme. It is finished with a handful each of torn kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.
I must be honest with you: this is the first time I have cooked with young, green jackfruit. I have tasted the ripe fruit, but it is a very different thing in vegetable form. Everything I had seen in the mature fruit is here miniaturized, with a unique texture, and a delicate flavour perhaps somewhere between green bean-pods and lychee nuts, or thereabouts! I have seen the swooning of other food-bloggers, but now I understand why; I was forced to purchase another can as I had nibbled my way through an entire one that was reserved for this dish! Thanks to all you swooners out there for introducing me to a new, and very likeable, vegetable.
Somehow, the pallid-green pieces of jackfruit turned to an interesting shade of lavender while cooking, but it’s all in the fun…and while making the krung (masala paste) for this stew might be a bit arduous, the actual preparation of a Thai stew is as easy as breathing- honestly! I put the whole thing together while chatting with my mother and her long-time friend and never missed a beat! They even had fun sniffing and tasting some of the ingredients before they were tossed in. The end result, simmering away in my wok, reminds me a bit of a quiet lake with fallen leaves floating on the surface- nothing could be calmer or more relaxing.
Kaeng Khiew Wan Gai
(with green jackfruit, red capsicums, green peas and mushrooms)
(I don’t know the Thai for all of that! :-) )
2/3 C krung kaeng khiew wan (green curry paste)
1/2 C coconut cream, 3 C thin coconut milk, 1 C thick coconut milk (or use 2 tins of coconut milk, let it sit for awhile before opening and divide accordingly)*
4 chicken breasts, skin and bones removed, sliced in 1/4″-1/2″ strips (the bones can also be left in for more flavour, and although I often do this, I was in a filleted-kind-of-mood)
3 C green jackfruit, diced into wedges of about 1/2″ (I used two tins as this is all that is available here)
1 lg. red capsicum, diced into 1/4″ x 1″ pieces or sliced into 1/4″ strips
about 7 button or other mushrooms, sliced 1/8″-1/4″ wide
1/2 C shelled green peas
about 12 or so hot, red Thai chiles, stems intact, split along the length
4 T or so nam pla (fish water/sauce)
1 t sugar, or to taste
a handful of kaffir lime leaves, carefully torn on each half
a handful of Thai basil leaves
1)Heat the coconut cream over low heat in a wok or similar utensil and, stiring frquently, allow the oil to separate from the solids. It will just begin to smell roasted.
2)Add the krung and stir and fry until the raw smell disappears.
3)Add the chicken pieces and continue stirring, raise the heat a bit, until the chicken begins to change colour and is well-mixed with the paste.
4)Add the thin coconut milk and allow to come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to very low and allow to simmer slowly.
5)When the chicken is just tender, add the mushrooms and continue simmering for about 5 minutes or so. If using fresh jackfruit, this should probably be added now as well.
6)Add the remaining vegetables and simmer, stirring now and then until they are almost cooked, but not soft.
7)Add the nam pla and sugar to taste.
8)Add the torn kaffir lime leaves and stir gently. Simmer for 2-3 more minutes.
9)Remove from heat, ladle into a serving dish, and, with a flourish of elegance, pour the thick coconut milk over the surface; use a spoon to swirl it if desired. Scatter over it the basil leaves as well, and serve with hot, steamed Thai jasmine rice, and accompaniments such as Thai cucumber salad and chiles-in-fish-sauce (these you’ll have to search for recipes yourself to try, for now, as I was too hungry and enraptured by the scent of this dish to bother…)
This would serve at least 6 I think, 8 -10 with other dishes. Enjoy!
*When using tinned/canned coconut milk, the cream floats at the very top, the thick milk is just underneath, and the watery, thin milk sinks to the bottom.