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Thai Jungle Curry Recipe (Kaeng Pa)

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Thai jungle curry recipe, kaeng pa, loaded with tender chicken and fresh herbs bathing in a spicy curry paste sauce. This homemade dish is absolutely Thai restaurant-quality, serve with rice for an easy dinner at home.

Authentic Thai jungle curry with chicken and mixed vegetables, served in a spicy broth garnished with holy basil and chilies.

Don’t miss out on these classic Southern Thai cuisine dishes! Kaeng som, a staple sour curry – Thai roti dessertHat Yai fried chicken – and khua kling, a spicy dry mince curry.

What is jungle curry

Jungle curry, or kaeng pa, is a traditional water-based curry from Northern Thailand. It has a thin, clear, and spicy broth made without coconut milk and features key ingredients like curry paste, finger root, holy basil, and a protein like chicken or pork.

Kaeng pa recipe

This healthy, low-fat chicken jungle curry recipe is all about having those authentic Thai flavors at home without the guilt.

Fresh, fiery, and savory, a winning combo in one bowl!

Close-up of kaeng pa, Thai jungle curry, highlighting the clear, spicy broth, vegetables, and chicken.

What sets jungle curry, or forest curry, apart is its clear and spicy broth that brims with flavor.

And for all my chili fans, this one’s for you. With a water-based broth, this dish puts the spotlight on the heat.

We begin with frying a base of red curry paste and tweaking it with a blend of fresh herbs and spices. Feel free to adjust the spices and whip up a homemade kaeng pa paste that’s uniquely yours.

Gaeng pa curry served in a large black bowl, with a spicy broth, yard long beans, chicken, chilies, fresh peppercorns, fingerroot, and more spices.

It’s so cozy, so spicy, and way more authentic than anything you’d find at a Thai takeout!

Why try this recipe for Thai jungle curry

  • Authentic Thai jungle curry recipe: This authentic recipe stays true to its Northern Thai roots, with is filled with forested areas where coconuts aren’t naturally found. But hey, if you’re not fond of the heat, feel free to sneak in some of that creamy coconut milk for a milder curry.
  • Discover new ingredients: Kaeng pa is brimming with unique herbs and spices like fingerroot, green peppercorns, holy basil, and others.
  • Perfect for spice lovers: If you love a good kick of spice, this spicy curry is your match.
  • Healthy: It’s a healthy, low-fat option packed with fresh ingredients and spices, perfect for a fulfilling Thai dinner with rice.

Looking for more spicy Thai recipes? Try my easy-to-make Thai spicy eggplant recipe or this unique Thai spicy catfish recipe.

Ingredients

For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.

Top-view of ingredients for Thai jungle curry: water, fish sauce, red curry paste, salt, palm sugar, herbs, spices, vegetables, and chicken.
  • Chicken – Lean chicken is perfect for this spicy jungle curry recipe. A great alternative is pork, using beef or seafood is not common.
  • Red curry paste – For the best flavor, use my homemade Thai red curry paste. For store-bought, I recommend using either Mae Ploy or Maesri, commonly available at Asian grocery stores.
  • Fresh peppercorns – Fresh peppercorns add a burst of spice and a unique earthy kick to the curry.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – Kaffir lime leaves are a key ingredient in Thai cooking. They add a distinct, citrusy aroma and fresh flavor to anything from stir-fries to soups.
  • Fingerroot – Also known as Chinese keys, or grachai in Thai. Leftover fingerroot can be used in pad kee mao or khao poon recipe.
  • Holy basil – A key ingredient in famous street food dishes like pad kra pao, holy basil adds a unique and peppery note to kaeng pa. Not substitutable for sweet basil, which has a different taste and aroma. Holy basil can be found at Asian supermarkets or Thai specialty stores.
  • Chilies – Opt for fiery Thai bird’s eye chilies or the slightly milder Thai jinda chilies. If you like it milder, opt for a mild type of chili.
  • Yard long beans – Also known as snake beans, these beans add a crunchy texture to every bite. They soak up the spicy broth with ease.
  • Thai eggplants – Thai eggplants are essential for an authentic jungle curry. These are the type of eggplants also used in Thai green curry.
  • Baby corn – Sweet, tender, and perfectly crunchy. Baby corn adds a mild sweetness and texture.
  • Water – In a water-based curry, water melds all the flavors together into a clear, spicy broth.
  • Palm sugar – For balancing the spicy and savory flavors with a caramel-like sweetness. It’s a Thai kitchen staple, and the preferred sweetener in many Southeast Asian dishes.
  • Fish sauce – A key ingredient in Thai cuisine – fish sauce brings a salty, umami depth that infuses the jungle curry with authentic flavor.
  • Salt – A pinch of salt brings out all the other flavors.
  • Oil – Oil is essential for frying up the curry paste and spices, releasing their aromatic oils and flavors. Use a neutral oil like vegetable oil.

Cooking instructions

Step-by-step preparation of Thai jungle curry showing frying the curry paste, browning chicken, simmering with aromatics and vegetables, resulting in a rich, spicy curry.

1. Fry curry paste: Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Swirl to coat, then add red curry paste, frying until fragrant.

2. Cook chicken: Add sliced chicken, tossing it in the curry paste until the pieces are well coated and cooked.

3. Add sauces and seasonings: Pour in water, palm sugar, fish sauce, and salt. Bring to a simmer and make sure the palm sugar is completely dissolved before continuing.

4. Add vegetables and herbs: Throw in sliced Thai eggplants, baby corn, yard long beans, fresh peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves, fingerroot, and chilies. Simmer until the vegetables are tender but still have a bite to them.

5. Finish with holy basil leaves: Lastly, turn off the heat and stir in holy basil leaves. Serve immediately with rice.

Kitchen tools

  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Ladle for serving
  • Large pot or wok

Tips for the best curry

  • Use fresh ingredients: There are lots of herbs and spices used in this recipe. Fresh kaffir lime leaves, holy basil, and fingerroot make all the difference compared to dried or powdered. If you can, get them at Asian markets.
  • Switch the vegetables: Feel free to add or sub veggies and add your favorites: bamboo shoots, bell peppers, or even zucchini can be added.
  • Balance the heat: Thai jungle curry is known for its spicy flavors. If you’re not a fan of all things spicy, start with fewer chilies. Alternatively, you can add coconut milk to the finished curry if a curry without coconut milk isn’t your taste.
  • Taste as you go: Thai food is all about tasting as you cook and adjusting seasonings as needed. Don’t serve without taste-testing. A little bit of this or that can sometimes perfectly balance the flavors to suit your taste.

How to serve

Serve Thai jungle curry with steamed rice, it helps balance the intense flavors and spiciness. For a healthy option, try brown rice or quinoa.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, slices of red chili, or add a squeeze of lime.

How to store and reheat

Allow your leftovers to cool to room temperature. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last for 2-3 days.

Reheating instructions: Warm the leftover curry over medium heat on the stove, stirring occasionally.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make Thai jungle curry vegetarian?

Yes! Swap chicken for tofu or add extra veggies, and swap fish sauce for a vegetarian fish sauce.

Is Thai jungle curry gluten-free?

Generally, Thai jungle curry is gluten-free, but always check the labels on store-bought ingredients like fish sauce and curry paste to be sure they’re gluten-free.

How can I make the curry less spicy?

Reduce the number of chilies and peppercorns, or remove the seeds from the chilies to tone down the heat. Adding a bit of extra sugar can also help. As a last resort, you can add coconut milk.

Is Thai jungle curry healthy?

Yes, Thai jungle curry is a healthy, low-kcal option with many fresh ingredients and vegetables. It’s also great for those on a low fat diet, as it doesn’t need coconut milk.

What is the flavor of jungle curry?

Jungle curry is a spicy, aromatic Thai curry known for its intense heat, and savory, bold herbal flavors.

More Thai curry recipes you’ll love

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Prep Time 30 min Cook Time 10 min Total Time 40 mins
Servings: 2 Calories: 459

Description

This Thai jungle curry recipe, kaeng pa, is spicy and aromatic, full of authentic flavors. Serve with rice to temper the heat.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Swirl to coat, then add red curry paste, frying until fragrant.

  2. Add sliced chicken, tossing it in the curry paste until the pieces are well coated and cooked.

  3. Pour in water, palm sugar, fish sauce, and salt. Bring to a simmer and make sure the palm sugar is completely dissolved before continuing.

  4. Throw in sliced Thai eggplants, baby corn, yard long beans, fresh peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves, fingerroot, and chilies. Simmer until the vegetables are tender but still have a bite to them.

  5. Lastly, turn off the heat and stir in holy basil leaves. Serve immediately with rice.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 2


Amount Per Serving
Calories 459kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 23g36%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Total Carbohydrate 18.1g7%
Dietary Fiber 2.9g12%
Sugars 6g
Protein 22.67g46%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Note

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • If the curry is too spicy for your taste, try adding a bit more sugar. As a last resort, add coconut milk to balance the flavors.
  • Add chilies to taste.
Keywords: Thai jungle curry recipe, kaeng pa, jungle curry
About Author

Praew

I owned my own Thai restaurant and have years of experience in various other Thai restaurants. I've been whipping up classic Thai dishes by my mother's and grandma's side since I was just a little girl. Now I'm sharing my deep-rooted passion with my authentic Thai recipes on this food blog.

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