Jungle Curry with Chicken

kaeng paa kai

This is an authentic Thai recipe from Muoi Khuntilanont's Kitchen. The recipe was written up by Muoi's husband, Ian Philpott.


Before you rush out to try this, you need a heavy and very sharp knife and a degree of skill if you are not to have a messy accident - spilling the contents of the coconuts all over the kitchen may well be the least of your problems. You can open the coconuts some other way, and serve the dish in more conventional tableware!

Kachai is a relative of ginger, known as Lesser Ginger in some parts of the world (though I am reminded that in other places this appelation is used for galangal). For those of a botanical bent its Latin name is Kaempferia panduratum.

The prik chee fa are a mild chili, about 6 centimetres long and 1 cm thick. They are known as Thai jalapenas, and if unavailable the Mexican variety could be substituted. If dried red jalapenas are not available, deseed, and devein fresh jalapenas, and use them instead.

Makheua pro are a Thai variety of eggplant, about the size and shape of a green golfball. If unavailable you can use normal aubergine, but will need to adjust the cooking time.

Bai maenglak is a sweet Thai basil. If unavailable normal European basil may be used.


- for the curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons takrai (lemon grass), bruised, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons kratiem (garlic), chopped
  • ¼ cup kachai (lesser ginger), peeled and chopped
  • 8 prik chee fa daegn haeng (dried red jalapenos), crushed
  • 1 teaspoon green peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kapi (fermented shrimp paste)
  • a dash of fish sauce
- for the curry
  • 4 cups chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • quarter cup of nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 3 cups of chicken stock (or water)
  • half a cup makhua pro (Thai Eggplant), quartered
  • half a cup prik che fa (green Thai jalapenos), julienned
  • half a cup of bai maenglak
  • 10 bai makrut (kaffir lime leaves), shredded
  • 4 coconuts


First prepare the curry paste by grinding the ingredients to a fine paste in a mortar and pestle or food processor.

Pierce the coconuts and drain the juice into a picher. Then using a machete chop off the top of each coconut, just above the mid-point, to leave four serving bowls.

Using a spoon scoop out the coconut 'meat' in leaf shaped pieces with a spoon (or use a melon baller). Add about half a cup of coconut to the juice for every two cups of juice, and refrigerate.

Reserve half a cup of coconut meat, and reserve the rest to make coconut milk for other recipes.

Heat a wok or large sautee pan over medium high heat, and then add a little oil and stir fry the curry paste until aromatic.

Add the chicken, and stir fry briefly and then add the remaining ingredients, except the lime leaves and the chicken stock, and stir fry until the chicken begins to change colour. Add the stock, and cover, simmering until the chicken and the eggplant is cooked through.

Now serve the curry in the four large coconut shell bowls, garnished with the lime leaves, and accompanied by rice in the tops of the coconut shells, bring the chilled coconut nectar to the table as a refreshing cool drink, and don't forget the usual condiments (nam pla prik (chilis in fish sauce), dried ground chilis, and sugar).