Thai Odyssey Part 3 – Jungle Curry of Duck

Posted By Stephen

Jungle Curry. About twelve or thirteen years ago I tasted jungle curry for the first time. At the time I thought it mind-bendingly hot and ate it at about one spoonful per minute, sweating furiously all the time and drinking gallons of water between mouthfuls. However, a week later I found myself craving it again. This masochism mystified me somewhat, but there was just something about jungle curry that I couldn’t quite place, but that something made it irresistible. Something apart from just a chilli rush; something wild; something unmistakeably “jungle”.

Having grown up and read cook books since then, I have realised what that “something” is: krachai. David Thompson’s “Thai Food” book that I have been cooking from over the past few weeks describes it as “wild ginger”. At first I thought this was just a name for want of a name, but having tried raw krachai, it is a little reminiscent of ginger; a very earthy, nutty, wild version of ginger.


Jungle curry is a very hot curry and, unlike many other Thai curries, contains no coconut milk. It also contains several kinds of vegetables and is often cooked by people who live outside of major towns in Thailand because the ingredients are easily available.

So, finally cooking jungle curry myself rather excited me. Armed with far more krachai than I actually needed, more bird’s eye chillies than one should be allowed to possess without a license and sundry other ingredients, I set to work. Apart from the main curry paste which included many ingredients, the recipe also included another simpler paste containing only garlic, chilli and krachai.

Starting with the curry paste of course, which included everything in the picture below:


Namely green bird’s eye chillies, a long green chilli, galangal, lemongrass, krachai, shallots, garlic and salt. When this had been bashed into a suitable paste, we did the simpler paste, which was a lot quicker:


Just the garlic, chilli and krachai as mentioned above. (The strange bunch of mutant carrots on the left is the krachai for those that are interested.) This paste smelled really nutty from the garlic and krachai when it had been made; most intriguing.

We started off by frying the garlic, chilli and krachai paste for a while until golden. Then added the curry paste and fried it until it made us sneeze. I found it curious that there were two separate pastes when one paste contained only a subset of the ingredients of the other one. Perhaps for a precise flavour we need some of the garlic, chilli and krachai to be cooked more than the rest? Not sure; especially as the “Jungle Curry of Fish with Breadfruit” on the next page only contains the normal curry paste.

Anyway, having done that, we seasoned the paste with two tablespoons of fish sauce before adding 500ml chicken stock. The recipe says to make stock from duck bones, but we were sadly lacking in both duck bones and in time.

Once the duckchicken stock was boiling, we added two sliced duck breasts, some quartered baby aubergines and also half a cup of pea aubergines. After a few minutes, we added the rest of the ingredients, which were: green beans, baby corn, julienned krachai, chopped long green chillies, lime leaves, holy basil leaves and green peppercorns. A few minutes of simmering and it was done.

I tasted a spoonful of the curry and it was really good, just what I had been hoping for. However, when we started eating it, it didn’t taste as good. Kerri pointed out that we should leave it to cool a bit, so we did that and then the flavours developed a lot better. That will teach us not to be so greedy and to wait a bit before eating.

This worked out well in the end, although it could have done with a little more salt. Next time we would make it with fewer pea aubergines and peppercorns too, as these seemed to get in the way of other ingredients and prevent the tastes from working together so well.

We served it with rice of course, and also some pickled vegetables:


If anyone is a fan of jungle curry, I would definitely recommend getting hold of some krachai (aka grachai) and trying to make it yourself.

Mar 10th, 2008

3 Comments to 'Thai Odyssey Part 3 – Jungle Curry of Duck'

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  1. Beautifully done! I haven’t had jungle curry in years, but I’m now tempted to cook my own, thanks to this…

  2. Ian said,

    Just had my first jungle curry. Excellent. Why had I waited so long?

  3. Stephen said,

    Glad you enjoyed it so much Ian, it’s certainly a memorable dish!

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