Khua Kling (Southern Thai Dry Curry)

There’s nothing subtle about khua kling, and the fact that it’s unsuspecting from the outside but a culinary killer inside puts a smile to my face each time just by looking at it. One reason. I spiced up my dad’s life at the age of 7, he was so sure I couldn’t take the excessive heat (I remember he was quite furious that mum was nonchalant about it) but I enjoyed every bit of it and moreover, mum was highly entertained by my culinary behaviour.

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Khua kling represents true Southern Thai style dish, fierce and tongue-numbing spicy. I’d describe it as a bit of a show off as in comparison to other Southern Thai dishes because of the significant amount of spice being used in this recipe. As such, it is usually accompanied with cool, fresh vegetables. My god mum from Bangkok will dine with us every now and then and knows she ain’t getting any preferential treatment from my family when khua kling is served. Not an insult, but Southern Thais in my opinion tolerate intense spice better than Bangkokians. This one here, trust me, you gotta need lots and lots of rice and a good temper to enjoy it. I dare you because khua kling has a class of its own.

Level: Easy

(A) 500 grams of ground pork (substitute with other meats if you’d like)

10 kaffir lime leaves (7 for cooking, 3 for garnishing on top)

1 red chilli, sliced for garnishing

2 stalks of bottom half lemongrass removing outermost layers, sliced thinly

Fish sauce

Salt

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

1 teaspoon of palm sugar or ½ teaspoon of brown sugar

(B) Southern Thai Curry Paste (Gaeng Ped):

18 dried red bird’s eye chilies (soaked in warm water until soft)

Small handful of bird’s eye chilies

2 tablespoons of shrimp paste

2 heads of garlic, peeled

3 inches of fresh turmeric, peeled

3 inches of galangal, peeled

8 small shallots, peeled

2 tablespoons of black peppercorns or coarsely ground

2 tablespoons of coriander roots or stems

6 stalks of lemongrass bottom half removing outermost layers, sliced

½ kaffir lime rind

Blend all the curry paste (B) ingredients. On a pan/wok over a medium heat fry 3 tablespoons of the spice paste and 1 tablespoon of ground meat for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Then add the rest of the meat. As this is a dry curry, no oil is needed but you need to keep stirring until there’s no moisture and also to avoid burning. Stir fry the pork until fine pieces then add the lemongrass. Stir in palm sugar, ground turmeric and fish sauce. Season to taste. Add in the kaffir lime leaves and cook for another 2 minutes. Take off from heat, sprinkle with more kaffir lime leaves and red chili. Serve with fresh vegetables (cucumber, cabbage, long beans, basil leaves etc).

*Note: The Southern Thai curry paste otherwise known as gaeng ped is also used in other dishes like southern Thai chicken/pork curry (gaeng ped gai/moo) and stinky beans with prawns.