“Growing up in Thailand as a kid, [the street] is where a lot of the dining takes place and you can’t really beat that atmosphere,” says chef Kingsley Heron. He’s currently recreating some of those childhood memories in a very different atmosphere, serving up “very aromatic” traditional southern Thai yellow curry in the dimly lit basement bar at The George on Collins. “It really takes me back to eating street food with my dad on the Soi’s of Sukhumvit.”
Having worked at fine-dining institutions around the world like Attica, California’s famed French Laundry as well as restaurants in London and Bangkok, Heron was looking for a change of scenery when he moved over to The George. “Classic French cookery is quite rigid, they don’t like to deviate from what they’re doing,” says Heron. The menu at the George is heavily influenced by Southeast Asia, although Heron is slowly weaving those flavors together with French technique. “The idea of being able to do something specifically French and Southeast Asian fusion is a new angle,” Heron says.
This yellow curry is from the more traditional side of the menu. “What sets this apart from other curry pastes like a green curry or a red curry is it’s a really mellow heat, but also you have to roast the paste itself first,” he says.
Another crucial step in the recipe is to “split” the coconut cream. “It’s a secret technique to Thai people … you could do this without splitting it and you’d be like ‘Why doesn’t mine taste as good as the one on the street?'” says Heron. Essentially, you’re adding the coconut cream to a hot pan and stirring it over the heat until you get a cottage cheese-like texture. “When you can start piling it up and scraping away, that’s when it’s time to add everything else,” Heron says.
Kingsley Heron’s tempeh yellow curry
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
1 medium red onion
100g peeled garlic
100g coriander root
90g large dried chili
25g of fennel
20g fresh turmeric
20g of ginger
5 red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks
Half block palm sugar
1 liter of coconut cream
2 liters of coconut milk
Salt to taste
Roast sweet potatoes:
1 large sweet potato
Neutral oil to coat
Pinch of salt and pepper
Pinch of Chinese five spices
1 block tempeh
Rice flour for coating
Neutral oil for frying
Sweet potato chips:
Neutral oil for frying
1 small sweet potato, peeled into ribbons
1 cup of tinned chickpeas, drained and dried
Neutral oil for coating
Picked Vietnamese mint
Saving the Coconut cream, blitz all other paste ingredients in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle.
Spread the paste thinly on a large oven tray, roast at 190°C for 15-20 minutes until the paste caramelises and gets some colour. Adjust the oven as necessary as the paste will dry out if left in the oven too long.
Cut the large sweet potato into large, evenly sized chunks and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of Chinese five spice. Roast at 180°C for around 40 minutes depending on the size of the chunks.
Separately, in a large thick-bottomed searing pan, add the coconut cream. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot until the cream splits and resembles cottage cheese. Add the paste to the split cream and cook on medium heat until the oils are extracted from the paste.
Push the paste mix to one side of the pot and add palm sugar. Alternatively, add palm sugar in a separate pot, cook until the sugar starts to caramelise, then mix with the rest of the paste. Add dry herbs, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add coconut milk and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the flavors meld. Salt to taste.
Cut tempeh into evenly sized blocks, dust with rice flour and shallow fry until golden brown.
Peel the smaller sweet potato, and continue to peel the potato flesh into ribbons.
Fry ribbons and chickpeas in oil until golden brown and crispy. Salt as soon as they are pulled from the oil.
Assemble in a serving bowl and pour over yellow curry. Garnish with the fried sweet potato and crispy chickpeas. Finish with Vietnamese mint, julienne chili and drizzle with coconut cream.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The George.