Curries are important in many of the Pacific Rim nations, but one country’s “curries” are often quite different from another’s. To an American whose idea of curry is the scent of curry powder, curries in some of these lands will not seem like curries at all. However, students of authentic Indian cookery have long known that curries, even in the “land of curry,” differ widely in their spicing, depending on the type of food being flavored.

Gaeng Ped Moo is a pork and vegetable curry from Thailand. It takes its name from the red curry paste that is central to its flavor. Fish sauce, lemongrass, sugar and mint also contribute flavor. The curry paste is sprinkled heavily with paprika for color; seasoned with onion and garlic; and spiked with red pepper, fragrant lemon peel, ground coriander seeds and cilantro (coriander leaves). These are ground to a paste in oil and water. Coriander and possibly red pepper are the only curry powder spices this recipe contains, yet it is “curry” to the Thais.

In Malaysia, a beef curry--Gulai Daing Lembu--calls for coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, red pepper, ginger (all typical curry powder ingredients), plus onion and garlic, lemongrass and coconut milk (found in many Pacific Rim curries).

Chicken curry in Burma is a little less complex. The spicing consists of onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass (or rind), turmeric, red pepper, cardamom seeds and cilantro. This curry has no sauce. The spices, ground with oil and sautéed until thickened, are used to coat the chicken, flavoring it while it cooks. pf

Pilot recipes for these curries from different Pacific Rim countries had originally been adapted exclusively for Prepared Foods by the test kitchen of the American Spice Trade Assoc.  (FR0392)

Gaeng Ped Moo
(Thai Pork and Vegetable Curry)

1 tbsp dried lemongrass
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsps Thai red curry paste (recipe follows)
10oz pork tenderloin, cut to 1/4-in thick slices
1 cup cut green beans
2 tbsps fish sauce (nam pla)
1.5 cups shredded cabbage
1.5 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp mint flakes, crushed

Soak lemongrass in water until soft, about 2 hours; drain; set aside. In a wok or deep skillet, heat oil until hot. Add red curry paste; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add pork, green beans, fish sauce and reserved lemongrass; cook and stir until pork starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, mushrooms and 2 tbsps water; cook and stir until pork is cooked through, about 3 minutes (do not overcook). Stir in sugar; sprinkle with mint. Serve over steamed rice, if desired.

Yield: 4 portions, 6 cups

Krung Kaeng Phed
(Thai Red Curry Paste)

1/4 cup instant minced onion
2 tsps instant minced garlic
1/4 cup paprika
2 tbsps crushed red pepper
2 tbsps fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsps vegetable oil
8 pcs (1-by-½ inch) lemon peel

In a cup, combine onion, garlic and 1/3 cup water; set aside to soften, about 10 minutes. In a food processor fitted with a metal wing blade, place paprika, red pepper, fresh coriander, ground coriander, oil, lemon peel, 1/4 cup water and reserved onion mixture; process to a paste, stopping frequently to scrape sides of bowl. Refrigerate in a tightly covered container.

Yield: 1 cup