To make the paste: pound all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar (starting with hardest ingredients first, as listed, working down to the softest), until you have a uniform, close-textured paste. If it’s not completely smooth, don’t worry. If you prefer to use a food processor or a blender, again work from the hardest to the softest ingredients, and add about one tablespoon water or more to bring the paste together.
To make the curry: heat the oil in a wok or saucepan and fry the paste until it smells fragrant, about one minute. Add half of the coconut milk, bring to the boil slowly, stirring to dissolve the paste. Once the paste has dissolved, let the coconut milk simmer a little until you see oil appearing on the surface. Then add 200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup of water and bring to the boil.
Add the chicken and bring back to the boil, then add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 6 minutes. Add the nam pla and the sugar, if using. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If it seems a little thick, add a little more water – you want a soupiness, not a thick gravy.
Add the aubergines, the bamboo shoots and one of the long red chillies. Simmer for another three minutes or so. Taste – you want this to taste vibrant, hot, salty and herbaceous. Add the basil, the remaining red chilli and the whole orange chilli if you have one, and serve with some jasmine rice and Nam Pla Prik (Fish Sauce with Chillies).
Recipes and stories from my Thai homeby Kay Plunkett-Hogge, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Louise Hagger.