Thai Jungle Curry From Chiang Mai

Thai jungle curry
  • Total: 75 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 2–3 servings

Thai jungle curry is a famous dish from the mountain city of Chiang Mai. It is made with ingredients found in the jungles of Thailand. While jungle curry is usually made with wild meats (which most Westerners would have trouble obtaining . . . and stomaching), chicken is used in this version, but pork or other red or wild meats would work well too.

You will notice the lack of certain curry spices like turmeric, coriander, and cumin, which are standard in most recipes. That doesn't mean this curry is lacking in flavor, though. It still has a great spice and the coconut milk adds to the thickness and flavor of the sauce.


  • 4–6 chicken thighs (or breasts, drumsticks)
  • Optional: 1–2 cups eggplant (chopped into bite-size pieces
  • Optional: 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful coriander (fresh, for topping)
  • 1 handful basil (fresh, for topping)
  • For the Jungle Curry Sauce:
  • 1/2 onion (diced)
  • 3–4 tablespoons galangal (fresh, or fresh ginger; thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoon​s lemongrass (fresh or frozen, minced)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 makrut lime leaves (cut into slivers with scissors, or 1 teaspoon grated lime zest)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1–2 red chili peppers (fresh, or 3/4–1 teaspoon cayenne pepper; to taste)
  • 1/2 lime (squeezed for juice)
  • 2 1/2–3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2–1 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 additional tablespoon fish sauce)
  • 1 can coconut milk (good-quality)
  • Optional: 1–2 teaspoons brown sugar ( to taste)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon peppercorns (green; jarred with vinegar at most Asian food stores)

Steps to Make It

While this curry is traditionally made in a wok by simmering the meat in the sauce, it's easier in the oven where it won't burn or dry out. Also, you may have to make an adjustment to the shrimp paste because they vary greatly. If your paste is very thick or dry, use only 1/2 teaspoon. If it's moist and falls easily from a spoon, add up to 1 teaspoon.

If you don't have a food processor or chopper, you can still make the curry sauce. Finely mince the ingredients and then stir them together in a bowl with the coconut milk.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

  2. Place all of the curry sauce ingredients in a food processor. Process well to form a sauce. For smaller choppers, use only a little of the coconut milk—just enough to keep the blades moving—and add the remainder later with the chicken.

  3. Place chicken in a casserole dish and pour the curry sauce over it. Mix together. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour. If adding vegetables: Remove curry after 45 minutes and add your vegetables, then return to the oven to bake for the remaining 15 minutes.

  4. Check the curry after 1 hour, ensuring the chicken is well cooked. If needed, return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until chicken is well done.

Serving Jungle Curry

Before serving, stir the sauce well and do a taste test. If it's not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. If it's not spicy enough, add more chili or chili sauce; too spicy, add a little coconut milk or plain yogurt. If it's too sour for your taste, add a little more sugar.

Jungle curry can be served right in the casserole dish. For more formal occasions, scoop the curry into a serving bowl or onto individual plates. Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander and basil. A small "branch" of green peppercorns makes a pretty garnish. Serve with plain rice or easy coconut rice.