While dating, I jokingly told my then-boyfriend (now husband) not to propose until he could cook an entire meal. Jello and hard-boiled eggs didn’t count. So he learned to prepare a simple Thai meal, passed the hurdle, and got a “yes” when he proposed a year or so later. Despite his ambitious “test meal,” we were far from being foodies while in grad school.
These days he relaxes from the stresses of work by preparing imaginative meals (short-order style on weeknights). What our friends love most is his green curry with chicken. Our friend Jenny, a professionally trained chef, begged Bruce to prepare a Thai dinner as her birthday gift — which sparked the feast you see him preparing here.
One of the great thing about living near Seattle is its proximity to Asian markets, which makes it possible to buy authentic ingredients for Thai curries and other dishes. Bruce made two trips to Seattle’s International District to buy what he needed for last night’s feast.
Every time I taste his green curry with basil and mint, I’m reminded of a memorable dinner we shared while vacationing on Kauai ten years ago. Dining that evening in a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant was my first experience of Thai food as it’s meant to be. What an eye-opening experience!
We were so charmed by the tastes and aromas of the green curry that night that we attempted to deconstruct its ingredients, so we could prepare the dish at home. The Thai chef was gracious enough to correct our guesses, fill in a gap or two, and guide us on the proportions of the key ingredients. Bruce already understood the core principles of creating a harmonious Thai meal (balancing sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy/hot).
Since then we’ve prepared this dish for friends and family, refining and tweaking it each time. For several years the recipe existed only in our heads. It wasn’t until Bruce’s mother visited us that the recipe was written down, thanks to her diligent shadowing of Bruce’s every move as he prepared a Thai meal for her. Now the detailed version of the recipe takes several pages to capture all the nuances.
It’s become a family treasure, one we love with share with family and friends. Here’s a link to an abbreviated version of Bruce’s green curry, adapted from our memories of the dish we so enjoyed at the Thai restaurant on Kauai. (Green-Curry-with-Basil-and-Mint)
When Homemade Meals Trump Restaurants
The downside to Bruce’s mastery of this version of green curry is that few restaurants prepare it as well as Bruce does. The obvious exception is ultra high-end restaurants outside Thailand, and of course, the chefs and talented cooks who live in Thailand itself.
Even so, I often order green curry when trying out new Thai restaurants: it has become an effective benchmark that reveals how much care goes into the restaurant’s preparation of this classic Thai dish. Sadly, all too many restaurateurs take shortcuts, which show up in the cheap assembly of ingredients and harsh curries which lack the subtlety that’s the hallmark of authentic Thai cuisine.
Who would have guessed that a college student with almost nonexistent cooking skills would grow into such a talented chef! Clearly, I placed the bet on the right guy. His friends and I are lucky to share in the mouth-watering meals he’s capable of preparing for us.