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RECIPE: How to Make Thai Green Curry

Thailand’s famous curries are amongst our all-time favourites. Kaeng khiao wan is a sweet green curry, kaeng phet is a hot red curry. It’s generally the chillies that determine the colour of the curry, although the milder yellow curry, kaeng kari, uses turmeric. Other popular curries include Massaman (which has Indian and Malay influences in its spicing), Panang (another Malay influence with peanuts as a key ingredient) and sour curry, kaeng som, (which has a more soupy consistency with lime and turmeric being important flavourings). Another, less well known, dish that uses both coconut milk and coconut cream is tom kah gai – chicken and galangal in a coconut milk soup.

Thai green curry is probably the dish we cook and eat most often at home. It’s easy to make and utterly delicious. Its translation means ‘curry green sweet’ – the green chillies comprise a significant part of the paste, which forms the base of the flavour, but this curry is slightly sweeter than other types of Thai curry. Some recipes call for a small amount of sugar to be added, others rely on the natural sweetness of the coconut milk. The flavour components revolve around green chillies, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime zest and coriander all blended together to form a thick, fragrant paste.

The curries are also remarkably easy to make. One thing that’s worth noting is that it is not at all shameful if you don’t make your curry paste. Even though you can get the ingredients and a blender and produce a paste that suits your particular taste, you will often see huge mounds of curry paste in Thai markets ready made for the locals to buy and use. This was an enormous pile of red paste in a market on the outskirts of Bangkok.

How to make Thai green curry

Many supermarkets stock good quality paste these days (as opposed to weaker versions aimed at western markets).

We’ve been using Mae Ploy for years as you can get it in industrial sized tubs which will give you several portions and it lasts for ages (store it in the fridge once opened). Although, to be fair, it doesn’t usually last very long in our household.

There are approximately three million recipes for Thai curry on the internet. Here’s ours:

How To Make Thai Green Curry


500g chicken thighs, chopped into pieces (thigh meat is definitely recommended over breast meat as it has so much more flavour). Beef and pork also work well with this curry.

Handful of julienned vegetables – e.g. bell peppers, chillies, bamboo shoots, baby aubergine (vegetarians can use these in greater quantities instead of the meat).

A good dollop of green curry paste to suit your preferred level of spicy heat.

1 can of coconut milk.

Splash of fish sauce (probably around a tablespoon).

Bunch of Thai basil (Thai basil is very different to Mediterranean basil), chopped.

A lime.


Put a small amount of oil into a pan and add the curry paste. It’s really up to you how much paste to add – if you like more spice, then add more, if you prefer a milder curry, add less. Fry it off to a couple of minutes then add the coconut milk.

Add the raw chicken and bring to the boil.

How to make Thai green curry

Then turn the heat down and let the chicken simmer for around 15 minutes.

How to make Thai green curry

Add the vegetables and allow them to cook. Add the fish sauce and Thai basil. Allow to simmer for a few more minutes.

We often add a spritz of lime juice at the end (always at the end) to add some zing.

Serve with jasmine rice.

How to make Thai green curry

Scoff. Serves four.

Variations: One of the marvellous things about Thai cuisine is that it has a wonderful combination of sweet, sour, salt and hot flavours. Some Thai green curry recipes incorporate a couple of tablespoons of palm sugar (brown sugar can be substituted if palm sugar isn’t available) to the sauce. If you have a sweet tooth you can add it in as an option, although we don’t as we tend to prefer the sour flavours that the lime offers. This recipe is very flexible in terms of you being able to tailor it to your own palette: the coconut milk gives you sweetness (but you can add sugar if you want more), the curry paste gives heat, the fish sauce provides salt and the lime gives the sour flavours – perfect seasoning.

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World’s Best Breakfasts -Breakfast of Champions!

….And Why It’s Often Okay to Go Off-Menu When Travelling

Many years ago we were excitedly choosing all sorts of delicacies at the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Yerevan, Armenia, when another guest glanced at our plates, shrivelled their noses in a very patronising manner and exclaimed, “Ugh! Salad? For breakfast?” It’s widely considered to be most important meal of the day but so many people seem to be set in their ways when it comes to eating a hearty breakfast. So much that hotels all over the world seem to offer pretty much the same fare. Western visitors are often offered fried food such as bacon, sausage and eggs with bread-based accompaniments and Eastern visitors are usually offered rice or noodle dishes. All these dishes are generally familiar to the tourist and often don’t reflect the traditional breakfasts of the country they are visiting. Here are some of the world’s best breakfasts.

Maybe it’s because people don’t feel so adventurous first thing in the morning, and that’s fair enough, but they may be missing out. Thing is, we’re British and can have bacon and eggs any time we like. (Although, to be honest, we haven’t cooked a fry-up for years as it’s quite a lot of effort.) We’d much rather eat a typical breakfast using local ingredients from the country that we are visiting.

It’s quite common for hotels to ask their guests to pre-order breakfast. It makes sense, they know what they need to order in beforehand and this can help minimise food waste. There is usually a form with tick boxes and you can choose from a variety of typical breakfast offerings. But if you do want to eat like a local, we’ve learned that many hotel restaurants are happy to cook you a regional breakfast. We’ve discovered that very often it’s absolutely okay to go off menu.

It all started in Uganda when we breakfasted at a lodge with a local guide. We were eating standard fare but our curiosity was piqued when something entirely different was brought out for him. On asking, we learned that it was a rolex – a chapati with a layer of omelette on top, then rolled into a spiral cylinder, perfect for munching on. So the next day we asked the lodge staff if it would be possible for us to have a rolex for brekkie and they were happy to oblige. It’s great – tasty and filling – a good start to the day.

World's Best Breakfasts

In Nepal we were given a standard pre-order form to complete (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast…) to pre-order breakfast for the following morning. We politely asked whether it was possible to have a local breakfast instead. We didn’t specify any dish – just asked for local food. They were delighted. The following morning we were served a marsala omelette accompanied by a joyous curry and roti with home-made yoghurt. It was delicious.

World's Best Breakfasts

One of the world’s best breakfasts is gallo pinto from Costa Rica. It’s so popular it is often eaten for lunch and dinner as well. Which is just as well because it tastes great and is also really healthy. It comprises rice and beans and is usually accompanied by a fried egg at breakfast. Other accompaniments to start the morning include sausage, fried potatoes and some salad.

A dosa for breakfast in South India is an absolute joy. This is a pancake traditionally made from rice and dal (lentils) which are ground to form a batter and then fermented. The batter is cooked on a hot plate to form a large pancake and served with chutney – coriander, coconut and tomato are particularly popular.

World's Best Breakfasts

In Vietnam breakfast usually took a buffet form but often there were chefs on-hand to cook some food to order. We were always offered Pho – a tangle of noodles, freshly cooked and served in a yummy broth, topped with meat and vegetables. You pick up a side plate and add herbs, chilli, limes and other delicious items so that you can create your own personalised taste sensation. The liquid of the broth also ensured that we were thoroughly hydrated for the day ahead.

World's Best Breakfasts

Japan also offers some of the world’s best breakfasts. A Japanese brekkie often comprises grilled fish, vegetables and pickles, maybe with tofu, dumpling and an omelette.

World's Best Breakfasts

These are accompanied with a bowl of rice, into which you could crack a raw egg mixed with shoyu (soy sauce) – the egg sort of cooks in the heat of the rice – or that famous smelly fermented soybean concoction, natto, maybe with some sliced negi (similar to spring onion). Just grab a slice of nori (dried seaweed), place it over the rice, then using a pincer movement with your chopsticks grab a portion of rice with the nori. Scrumptious. (It’s worth noting that if you are at a breakfast buffet in Japan the eggs on offer may well be raw – be careful when cracking them.)

World’s Best Breakfasts – Back At Home

And, of course, whenever we are staying away from home in the UK, we’ll always have an honest-to-goodness fry-up. Sausage, bacon, egg (usually fried, poached or scrambled), black pudding, mushroom, tomato, beans and sometime a hash brown are the usual components.

World's Best Breakfasts

We recently discovered that the best possible place for a full English breakfast that we’ve ever eaten is actually in our home town. While many top breakfast establishments boast locally sourced food (which is, of course, delicious), The Gourmet Food Kitchen in Fargo Village, Coventry go one step further and actually cure their own bacon and make their own sausages and black pudding. And that’s just the start: The hash brown (never the most fabulous component of breakfasts) is a home-made bubble and squeak, a glorious blend of fried potato and cabbage. The beans have never seen a tin – they are home-made baked beans in a rich tomato sauce. Chef Tony even makes his own rich, tangy and utterly delicious brown sauce to accompany the feast.

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Film Review: Jadoo (Kings of Curry 2013)

Films for foodies
Jadoo (Kings of Curry) is a delightfully enjoyable foodie rom-com

Director /screenplay :          Amit Gupta

Foodie Expert Madhur Jaffrey

Country: UK

Film Rating: 6/10

Foodie Rating: 8/10

Without the risk of trying to curry favour this is a delightfully enjoyable foodie rom-com. Set in the UK city of Leicester cross-cultural expectations collide with family conflicts and culinary rivalries at the height of the festival of Holi, so colourful confrontations ensue in more ways than one.

Mark (Tom Mison) and Shalini (Amara Karan) want to get married but Shalini is worried about getting approval from her father, especially as they come from different cultural backgrounds. Shalini heads back home to Leicester to inform her dad Raja (Harish Patel) of the proposed nuptials. No need to worry. Her father is delighted. The only problem is that she would like to invite her uncle to the wedding. And her father hasn’t spoken to his brother for a long, long time. Raja and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir) are rival brothers with rival restaurants, their sibling squabbles centring on an argument that resulted in the splitting of their late mother’s perfect recipe book twenty years ago. And there seems to be no possibility of reconciliation.

Just after the colourful festival of Holi, a high-profile curry cooking competition is due to take place. It is hosted and judged by Indian culinary expert and actress Madhur Jaffrey. To be crowned King of Curry in this contest the winning team must provide the best starter and main-course combination. One of the brothers is a regal starter genius whilst the other is a main course diva. Will family feuding despatch to join forces not only for premium King of Curry success? And will Shalini mange to persuade her uncle to resolve their differences and prepare the perfect wedding banquet for her and her spice savouring spouse to be?

Leicester, as well as being famous as the city where the remains of King Richard III were found in a car park, is one of the best places to eat Indian cuisine in the country. Of course, there is plenty of food on offer in this film with much of its preparation on show too. And while the competition is the catalyst for reconciliation, the family love lies with the preparation of the meals, demonstrating the importance of food in family life. Rather like in Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman when the father cooks food for his daughter and she appraises it like a critic.

Jadoo also highlights some of the cultural elements of the local community particularly a sequence featuring Holi, the fabulous Hindu festival of colour. Overall it’s a sweet family drama featuring some mouth-watering curried concoctions.

You can buy the film here.

If you click the link and decide to make a purchase we will earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps towards running this site.


Kumarakom Houseboats on the Kerala Backwaters

Kerala, the state in South-west India, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and it’s easy to understand why. Blessed with gorgeous landscapes, beaches and hill stations, it also has a rich cultural heritage and an amazing food scene, and it is easy to understand why the local people have named it ‘God’s Own Country’. One of the most pleasurable ways to explore the area is on Kumarakom houseboats, known locally as a kettuvallam. These enormous boats, some of which can be multi-storey, were originally used to transport rice and spices to the port of Cochin, the regional capital.

The backwaters of Kerala are a network of channels, rivers and lagoons that are located just inland from and running parallel to the Arabian Sea. Some of the lakes are connected naturally by rivers or by canals that have been constructed for that purpose. The water is brackish – freshwater meets the salty brine of the sea – and this gives the backwaters a very particular ecosystem.

Kumarakom Houseboats

The boats have wooden hulls and a thatched roof. ‘Kettu’ means ‘tied’ and ‘vallam’ is a boat. These boats are constructed from long planks of wood tied with knots of coir and then coated in a resin derived from cashew nut kernels. No nails are used at any stage. Although they were originally designed to be cargo ships they have been adapted for tourism and converted to proper houseboats complete with a living area, kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. The boats are available for hire for tourists to reside on, or they can be hired for a few hours at a time. It’s worth noting that boat hire isn’t cheap, especially compared with other prices in the region, but if you can afford it, it is definitely an experience worth undertaking.

Many houseboats are booked months in advance during the busy season and will follow a tour through the backwaters. If you aren’t visiting in the high season you might get lucky and find a boat that’s available to hire. We had been travelling down from Thekkady, arriving at Kumarakom at around 1pm. We managed to find a houseboat that was willing to take us on a four hour boat trip on the local lake and this price included lunch. The prices are for the hire of the boat and crew (normally a couple of people) so if you have a larger party the cost per person naturally reduces. You may find that if the boat is still available and hasn’t already found customers, it may be possible to negotiate a price.

The thing that is most striking about the houseboats is how spacious they are.

Kerala Houseboat

The living/dining area at the front has room for a dining table and plenty of seating space

The Kumarakom Houseboat is steered from the front.

Kerala Houseboat

Then there is a long corridor from which there are large double bedrooms. Each bedroom has its own en-suite bathroom.

Kerala Houseboat

As with all areas in South India where food is served, there is a hand-washing area in the corridor.

Finally, the kitchen is located at the rear of the boat. Again, it is very spacious and has plenty of cooking facilities and storage space. Gas is provided by portable cannisters.

Kerala Houseboat

Lunch was already in the process of being prepared…

The journey on the Kerala houseboat took us from the boat’s mooring along the river and onto the wide Vembanad lake. The boats are motor driven but move at a slow pace which makes for a leisurely experience. It very much reflects the way of life in Kerala.

Kerala Houseboat
Kumarakom Houseboats

All along the shoreline it is possible to see fishing contraptions. They are formally known as shore operated lift nets, which doesn’t sound nearly as romantic as they look. These are used at night to catch prawns and other small fish. They are designed on a cantilever which ensures that the net descends into the sea when someone walks along the main beam. The catch is then raised by the use of ropes. Some have lights which are used to attract the fish.

Lunch on the Kumarakom houseboat comprised typical dishes from the region – a spicy fish curry with fish fry accompanied by vegetable side dishes and rice. We were asked how spicy we liked our food and we asked for it to be spiced as local people liked it. Like many dishes in Kerala we found that the spices were used for flavour rather than heat.  And, of course, it was utterly delicious.

Munnar tea and a banana fritter were served for dessert.

We were visiting at the end of the Monsoon season so some rain was probably inevitable. But even a downpour couldn’t dampen spirits.

Kerala Houseboat

A lazy afternoon cruising the beautiful backwaters on a Kerala houseboat, with the addition of a delicious lunch, was a most refined way of spending an afternoon.

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Film Review: Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006)

Nina's Heavenly Delights review

Writer/Director:  Pratibha Parmar

Country: UK

Cuisine: Indian set in Scotland

Film Rating 8/10

Foodie Rating 8/10

“Taste is in your heart. Always follow your heart.”

Culinary pleasure mixes with romantic pleasure in Nina’s Heavenly Delights, the title of which prefectly reflects its tone and theme.

Nina Shah (Shelley Conn) is coming home to Glasgow after three years having departed in circumstances that left her estranged from her family. But her beloved, enthusiastic and talented father has recently passed away and she has returned to attend his funeral. He was the head chef and owner of the family’s highly regarded restaurant The New Raj. It was highly regarded due to her father’s culinary prowess but unfortunately he wasn’t financially successful so the family find themselves having to deal with a severe case of austerity and crippling debt. Rival restaurant Jewel In The Crown have the finances to match their bourgeois appearance and clientele and, what’s more, they wish to buy out The New Raj. Nina is more than perturbed by that prospect, instead pledging to honour her father’s legacy by maintaining the premises, keeping the restaurant running and, more importantly, winning a substantial cash prize in a well-respected curry cooking competition. She is convinced that his superior recipes for amazing Indian cuisine will win the competition and solve the family’s debt problem. But, of course, there are a number of rival curry chefs, including the decadent and narcissistic chef of The Jewel In The Crown, Sanjay, who was meant to be Nina’s spouse, much to her chagrin. Instead she finds assistance – and romantic entanglement – with the delightful and talented Lisa MacKinlay (Laura Fraser), an old friend who now owns half of the restaurant. Together they master the details of this complex culinary artform and develop their understanding of taste. But there’s more than just the competition to be concerned about because how will family and the wider society accept romance in her life when they come from separate cultures?

“No sale ’til after the competition,” reflects Nina’s personal desire to make this grand plan work – before she discovers that it will become inextricably linked with her romantic one. This is a very much a masala movie with a blend of tasty spices to whet your appetite – it combines comedy and confrontation, romance and remorse, song and dance, cooking and eating as well some social commentary about the family retaining Indian cultural traditions within the context of living in Scotland.

Bollywood cinema is known for its exuberance and, in many ways, the themes in this film are straight from Bollywood – the initially hidden, often unexpected romances, as well as disagreements between the protagonists about how to resolve their issues within the context of social demands and family issues. Conflicts and love are narrative essentials, as are costume changes, songs and dance. Nina’s Heavenly Delights has all of these, and there’s even a reference to Bollywood in a video shop that has a poster of the classic Mother India just to emphasise the point. But, for all its charming twist on Bollywood conventions, Nina’s Heavenly Delights embraces East meets West in ways beyond the love of its two leads in its Glasgow setting. More Indian foody films are available including Jadoo Kings of Curry and Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach (1993), The Mistress of Spices (2005) and What’s Cooking? (2000) as well as many others.

As writer/director Pratibha Parmar said,”I wanted to write a love story where a young woman falls in love with another woman in a surprising way, when they least expect it. I wanted to set it in an Indian restaurant …”. This whole scenario takes the film to many lovely levels: what is better than food and love? Nina’s Heavenly Delights is, as its title suggests, heavenly and delightful. Low in budget but high on taste it’s a foodie romance that appeals to the romantic and, of course foodies everywhere.

You can buy the DVD here.

If you click the link and decide to make a purchase we will earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps towards running this site.

How To Make Coconut Milk From Coconut

Rabbits in Thailand

Coconut is one of the fundamental ingredients in Thai cookery. Coconut milk adds a luscious silkiness to curries and can also be used as a base ingredient in desserts; the flesh can be used in sweets and salads and the juice from a green coconut can be drunk straight from the pod for a really refreshing thirst-quencher. There is a difference between coconut cream and coconut milk.

At the Bai Pai Cookery School in Bangkok we learned how to extract coconut cream and coconut milk from an mature coconut, you know, the sort you get at coconut shies. This isn’t the same as the water you get from a green coconut (which is utterly delicious and wonderful to drink on a hot, humid day) but the liquid is extracted from the freshly grated flesh of an ordinary coconut.

After splitting the coconut in half (with a machete or something equally sharp and brutal) you need to use what’s known as a ‘rabbit’ to obtain the white flesh. The rabbit is a serrated grater often located on the end of a wooden bench (sometimes it’s even a cute rabbit shape!) which is used to shave the inside of the coconut to produce wisps of flesh.

how to make coconut milk from coconut

There’s definitely a technique to using the rabbit. You sit on the bench and use a reciprocal back and forward motion to shave away the coconut flesh. You need to make sure that the brown, hard shell of the coconut protects your hands as you really don’t want your fingers to come into contact with the sharp grater. Also, blood does have a tendency to turn the pure white coconut cream a startling shade of pink and you really don’t want that.

how to make coconut milk from coconut

How To Make Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream

Once you have a lovely pile of freshly grated coconut it gets put in a bowl and water is added. The shavings are mixed with the water, rubbing them together. Then they are sieved through muslin. A squeeze will release the coconut cream – this is the first press and it is rich, silky and smooth.

how to make coconut milk from coconut

Adding a further amount of water with another mix and squeeze releases a more dilute liquid – this is the second press which produces the coconut milk.

Coconuts are quite easy to find in the UK, rabbits less so. Knives are not recommended for grating coconut, you really need an implement that will extract – and shred – the flesh safely from the inside of a hemisphere without shredding your hands. It’s probably safer to buy coconut milk in tins. If you want milk, shake the tin. If you want cream you may well find that – on opening – it has solidified and a rich, luscious blob will simply plop out of the tin.

Coconut milk is a fundamental ingredient in Thailand’s famous curries. Kaeng khiao wan is a sweet green curry (you can find our recipe here), kaeng phet is a hot red curry. Both are easy to make (recipes another time). Another, less well known, dish that uses both coconut milk and coconut cream is tom kah gai – chicken and galangal in a coconut milk soup. Galangal is similar to ginger in that it is a rhizome – but they are quite different, notably in the textures and flavours. Ginger is lively, sweet and warming. Galangal is sharper with citrusy overtones. Whereas you can easily grate ginger and incorporate it into dishes, galangal is more woody. As a result it’s difficult to substitute one for the other. Where we live, ginger is easy to buy, but we have to search for galangal.

Tom kah gai is a subtle dish. Chicken pieces are cooked in a coconut milk soup that is infused with galangal, lemongrass and kafir lime leaves. Then coconut cream is added to provide a richness to the soup. Finally, as with many Thai dishes, sweet, sour, salt and heat flavourings in the form of sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and chilli are added – at the last moment,just before serving. This ensures that the flavourings are at their freshest; lime, particularly, can taste bitter if cooked for too long. The result is a wonderful, warming, creamy soup which has a touch of spice and zing.

how to make coconut milk from coconut

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Hello, Thali – Eating Thali in South India

South Indian Thali are a wonderful way to enjoy a cheap and filling meal which gives you the opportunity to sample loads of different dishes. Most restaurants across India will offer a thali option and often they are available on an endless top-up basis. Although, to be fair, even though the portion sizes of the individual dishes aren’t enormous, the combination of delicious food and rice is guaranteed to fill you up. While we were travelling through South India unlimited thali meals were available for just a couple of dollars. There will always be a choice of veg or non-veg thali. Both are emphatically delicious.

Thali are all about flavours and textures.

The quintessential thali comprises a flat round plate with a heap of rice in the centre surrounded by small bowls containing a variety of sauces, vegetables and curd. There will be a sweet dish in there too. And, of course, a crispy poppadum on top.

South India Thali

If you’re in South India many restaurants won’t have a knife or fork, but there are usually spoons available. If you’re eating with your fingers, make sure you wash your hands first. Every restaurant has a hand-washing area.

South India handwashing

Sometimes the South Indian thali will be served on a banana leaf which is a more traditional approach – in a restaurant the waiters will arrive at each table with a vessel and will spoon the various curries onto the leaf. They will return and return – just nod to request another dollop of something delicious.

South India Thali

How To Eat South Indian Thali

Separate a portion of rice and pour the sauce from the dish or place some of the vegetables onto it. Mix it in. Then scoop up with the fingers of your right hand, pop it into your mouth and savour.

There is an order to eating the dishes of the thali, although no one will criticise you if you don’t follow it.

You should start with meat (if you are eating non-veg) and vegetables – both sauced and dry form.

Sambar, a mild lentil and vegetable sauce, comes next. It’s a staple throughout the region, often found at breakfast too – and eaten with idly (a savoury rice cake) or vada (like a savoury doughnut).

Rasam is a thin sauce, almost like a soup, made with tamarind to give a sour note, but spiced up with chilli or black pepper. It is always the last of the sauces to be eaten and it too can be mixed with the rice.

Yoghurt (also known as curd) rounds off the savoury part of the meal. It cools the palette in preparation for the dessert (if there is one).

There is often a sweet dish in one of the bowls  – maybe something like rice with jaggery or sweet vermicelli in a milk-based sauce. If the dessert is liquid based, it’s okay to drink it directly from the container. Sometimes you may be given a piece of fruit. And the fruit, locally grown of course, is delicious.

We found that whenever we ate in restaurants the locals were very happy to see us. They were also quite keen to see how we coped with eating using our hands (a little bit messy, to be honest) but they were also happy to guide us about the etiquette. There were a number of occasions when we weren’t really sure in which order to eat the – absolutely delicious – dishes, and were on-hand to offer some friendly guidance, particularly when it came to accidentally eating the sweet dish before the savouries had been guzzled with relish!

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