Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Cooking class with the lan in Bo.lan - Part 1: Panang curry

Thai Panang Curry
I joined the Amateur Gourmet group on Meetup less than a year ago - they're a great bunch of foodies in Hong Kong who meet to go out and try new restaurants, do potlucks, food-oriented holidays and basically anything food-related and fun. The organiser, V, is super on-the-ball with what's on in the food scene, and had the great vision of bringing over Dylan Jones from the highly acclaimed Bangkok restaurant Bo.lan to guest chef for us foodies in Hong Kong. (He's the "lan" in Bo.lan" - Bo is his partner (in life and the restaurant) Duangporn Songvisava, aka "Bo").

A not-very-good photo of the ingredients
There were 5 dinners organised in total, plus two cooking classes (lunch included), held at the very cute and well-equipped Corner Kitchen in Sheung Wan. I went to two of the dinners, pictures of which can be found here (not sure at this stage whether I'll have time to write about it) and the final cooking class, where we learned to make panang curry (kaeng phanaeng neua), chicken relish (bon gai nung), and egg net rolls (po piat tot).

Dylan pounding the ingredients for the curry paste
I wasn't a good enough student to have written everything down - I made some notes, then after lunch, asked Dylan to repeat the list of ingredients for the Penang curry. I hope I've got it right...

Penang Curry


Coarse/sea salt

Dry spices:
White pepper
Coriander seeds
Cumin seeds

Fresh ingredients:
Coriander root
Kaffir lime zest
2 types of chillies - small green ones & red birds' eye
Dry red chillies - soak them for at least 10 mins in advance
Peanuts - roasted or boiled for easier grinding
Shrimp paste

To cook:
Stock or water
Coconut cream
Pure palm sugar
Kaffir lime leaves
Large chillies
Pea aubergines (pea eggplants)
Beef shin - braised in coconut milk for 2 hours

Curry paste before cooking etc. - just the pounded ingredients

With a mortar and pestle, pound the dry spices together with salt (for abrasion), then add the fresh ingredients, save for the shrimp paste, and pound it all together, really mashing it up. Lastly, add a knob of shrimp paste. Taste as you go to test for balance and intensity etc. You can keep this for use later*.

The "oil" used for cooking the ingredients - coconut cream
Reduce fresh coconut cream (not the canned, emulsified stuff) slowly until it reaches a thick, paste-like consistency. This is the "oil" component for frying your curry paste.

Cooking it all in
Keeping the coconut cream on the stove, on low/medium-low heat, tip the contents of your mortar into the coconut cream, stirring constantly. You'll start to smell the ingredients in the curry paste, starting with the fresh ingredients, and finally the dry spices.

100% pure palm sugar
When you smell the dry spices, you can finish it off with palm sugar**, then add water or stock, and perhaps some of the braising liquid you used for the beef shin.

Adding beef shin and lime leaves
Finally, sdd the beef shin, lime leaves, chopped fresh chillies, pea eggplants.
Letting it all cook
Stir it all in, and let it simmer down.

The finished product - "Penang" curry
*The curry paste will keep for 2-3 weeks if you wrap it up well (keeping air out, as much as possible) and in the fridge, but not the freezer.

**100% palm sugar - which is very hard to buy in Hong Kong - the hard bricks we get here have all sorts of things mixed in.
I didn't make very good notes of the two other recipes, but took lots of pictures so you can probably guess what's going on. I've put them in Part 2.

This is the first time Amateur Gourmet has brought a guest chef to Hong Kong, but who knows, there might be more in the future. If you want to join Amateur Gourmet, do note that there are strict rules for no-shows, deposits and so on, it's not just "something on the Internet" that you can join and be flaky about!


  1. Looks like a lot of work but worth it! Really mouth-watering! Do they have any branch / restaurant here?
    I am still curious about egg nets ....waiting patiently ...your next post?
    Merci! ;)

  2. Such a good idea and looks like an awesome lesson. I would have LOVED to have done this. You have inspired me to see if there is a similar group in Seoul. I highly doubt so though... or at least in English :(