Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thai Red Curry, Peasant Style

After My Free Will, Thai Food, And The Powers That Be - Part II entry, a reader (and friend) kindly asked for the recipe for the Thai Red Curry which was featured in the post. To be honest with you, when I make curry, I rarely work form a recipe, so it's sort of impossible for me to post detailed instructions. What I can do, is retrace my steps for you and give you a list of ingredients.

Thai Red Curry, Peasant Style

2 Boneless chicken Breasts, sliced into thin strips
1 large carrot, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup of snow peas
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced very thin
ginger, shredded
chicken or vegetable broth
1 small can of coconut milk (use a large one if you like it creamy)
fish sauce
shrimp paste
red curry paste
sea salt
sesame oil
crushed peanuts for garnish

Basically I start by cooking the chicken a bit before adding the veggies, this it to ensure that they don't get over cooked. First I place a non stick pan over a med-high flame, let the pan heat before adding the oil, then let the oil heat before adding the chicken. The chicken cooks for 2-3 minutes before I add the onions, followed by the carrots a minute or two later.

Once the onions and carrots have begun to sweat a bit I add the snow peas and toss. The zucchini goes in last because it is very sensitive and cooks very fast. Once I add the Zucchini I toss the ingredients once or twice before adding enough broth to cover the veggies.

Once the broth begins to boil, reduce the heat, add lemon grass and ginger, and begin seasoning. If you don't have lemongrass or ginger, don't worry about it, I'm not even sure if they are traditional ingredients. I just add then because I like them.

This is were it gets hard for me to instruct because I do everything by taste and rarely keep track of how much of what I am using. Start by adding 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 of shrimp paste, 3-4 of curry paste, and 2 of honey. From here you can taste it an see for your self. Is it too bland, then add some salt. Still too bland, then add more fish sauce or shrimp paste. Not spicy enough, then add another tablespoon of curry paste.

A note on seasoning: Now I know what your thinking and, trust me, it won't work. I remember once I was in a Thai food restaurant, and I over heard the woman next to me order her curry 'with out fish sauce.' So many people love Thai Food, but they have a big aversion to fish sauce. Well I've got news for you, it simply isn't good Thai food if it does not have fish sauce in it. You may not like the idea (or the smell) but if you like Thai Red Curry, then you like fish sauce. It adds a richness and a depth to you sauce that is imperative, so get over it.

Another note on seasoning: This step is not going to be the final step. Remember that after this, you are going to add coconut milk (simmer 1-2 minutes) , then lime juice and zest and fresh basil leaves, so don't go too crazy when seasoning. If it does not have all the layers of flavor before, it certainly will after these last few ingredients.

One last note on seasoning:
If you live in New York, you can get your fish sauce, shrimp paste, and curry paste at Kam Man at 200 Canal Street. If you don't live in NYC, then try looking at some local food blogs, or try ordering on line. Also, you can make you own curry paste (Prik- Kaeng) if you have a blender or food processor, here is my recipe:

Prik- Kaeng
9 dried chillies sliced (seeds removed)
1/2 cup shallots, sliced
1/4 cup of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup lemongrass sliced
1 lime, thinly slice the rind
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds (all three toasted )
1 tbsp black pepper corns
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)

Blend until it becomes a paste.

If there are any questions Kara, or anyone else, just let me know.


Kara said...

Thank you for the recipe! I'm wanting to be more adventurous with my cooking - you know, move beyond pasta, basically, so when I have all the ingredients, and the important fish sauce, I'm gonna give this a try.

One question, do you think it would be okay without chicken?

Madeline said...

The recipe will be fine without chicken. If you wanted you could add tofu, or even pineapple might be nice.