Thursday, 18 March 2010

FABPOW! Thai Red Curry with Thornbridge Kipling and Jaipur

If there’s one question I’ve been asking myself for the last god-knows-how-long, it’s what works better with a Thai red curry, Thornbridge’s Kipling or Jaipur...?

Thai red curry: Chicken thigh; onion; garlic, ginger and fresh red chilli; pinch of sugar, some paprika, and turmeric; Waitrose’s red curry paste; coconut milk; fish sauce, a big handful or coriander and some lime juice, in that order, allowing each to have five minutes before putting the next bit in. You can put vegetables in if you want - I just added more chicken (by the way, I’ve stopped writing recipes out in the typical way... this allows for masculine intervention and stubbornness, kind of like putting together a cupboard with the instructions – base, sides, top, door, handles).

I got the beers from myBrewerytap who are selling a mixed box of Kipling and Jaipur. I had a box from them last year and since then they’ve continued to grow impressively, increasingly featuring more interesting breweries. It’s great to see Thornbridge available now (with the hope of more beers coming soon) as well as Crown.

As I was cooking I put a message on twitter asking whether people thought the Kipling or Jaipur would work better. The answer was unanimous (out of four or five...) that it would be Jaipur. The curry was hot, creamy and sweet, salty, fragrant and juiced with lime to lift and lighten all the flavours. Kipling, at 5.2%, is lighter in body than Jaipur and hopped with Nelson Sauvins, which make themselves known immediately with a nose of creamy passion fruit, lime and kiwi. It’s smooth and fruity with a great bite of dry bitterness at the end and a beer I’d happily drink every day. With the curry, the hops hit the chilli first, perking them up just enough, then the lime and coriander come in and play with the fruitiness, then it sweeps to the end with a palate-cleansing bitterness. The joy in this is the passion fruit, citrus and kiwi quality from the hops, which really bring it to life and perfectly balance the spectrum of flavour in the curry, particularly the lime and coriander. Jaipur, at 5.9%, is bigger, slightly sweeter and hopped with American varieties giving a great tangerine and floral aroma. There’s more body and sweetness in the Jaipur and the finish is smooth and quenching rather than dry. With the curry it becomes earthier, there’s a herbal quality to it and then at the end there’s a hidden punch of bitterness from the hops which spikes the chilli heat. It doesn’t quite have the lightness to lift the creamy curry and the oranges and coconut don’t balance as well as the tropical fruit in the Kipling.

Kipling won the fight - the dry finish, the light and lively body, and the unique bridging flavours of the fruit made for a joy of a match. The Kipling also seems to fare slightly better in the bottle than Jaipur which was lacking some of its usual punch. I’m already craving this dinner again; it was one of the most successful FABPOWs I’ve had this year, plus, of course, who can resist beer and curry?


  1. If I'd seen your poll I'd have said Kipling!

    I used to drink crisp pale ales or cold lager with my Thai green curries, but recently I've been trying darker beers, creamy but not heavy porters. A couple of English bitters have been nice too, those with with a floral/citrus character rather than anything dominated by caramel or toffee flavours.

  2. Good stuff.

    "If there’s one question I’ve been asking myself for the last god-knows-how-long, it’s what works better with a Thai red curry, Thornbridge’s Kipling or Jaipur...?"

    Only a fellow beer geek could read that sentence and think "Hmm ... I wonder". :P Other people question pointless, irrelevant things like what they're doing with their lives, how they can pay the bills etc etc. :P

    A lot of Nicholson pubs now regularly offer Kipling. I really like it because it's so different to a lot of other heavily hopped beers. There's something about that Nelson Sauvin. Kiwi, like you said, but I also get a lot of Gooseberry and a sort of black currenty finish. Be interesting to try it from a bottle and compare with the cask.

  3. I'd have said Kipling too. It really is a great beer to drink and I'd imagine it just right for Thai food.

  4. That looks quite nice actually. I might knock a bit of that up myself and get in the birds good books.

  5. Pairing IPA with a curry is a bit effing uninspired. And nothing like the best match, in my opinion. Guinness FES is what you need to go with a curry.

  6. Mark, Tandleman, I was expecting the Kipling to work better too, actually, but wasn't entirely sure how it'd turn out. And English bitters with Thai is a really good match. Like you say Mark, the floral bitterness works very well.

    Chunk, I sit here all day asking myself relatively silly questions like the one which opens the blog... it keeps me entertained! NS is a good hop but I find that it can turn a bit funky if the beer gets old. Super-fresh and it's fantastic. Kipling is a great use of the hop.

    Lager, it was one of the best curries I've cooked, I was rather pleased with it.

    Ron, I originally started this blog with a tirade of how annoyed I get when people say that curries and IPAs are great pairings. The range of curries available and the range of IPAs available make it a vague and silly thing to say. However, certain IPAs work with certain curries, which is what this post attempts to achieve. Besides, Kipling is a South Pacific Pale Ale, not an IPA. You need to do some more research, mate.

  7. Westy 8 followed by Cantillon for me. New blog up. Next up. Who knows??? My cellar is TIDY.