Some of you may know I lived in Thailand for 9 years. Believe it or not, I used to make red curry before ever even visiting Thailand and it was pretty good. After my first visit (several years before moving) to Thailand I learned about the magical kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด). This really makes the taste authentic. I am making this dish with chicken, but you could use lean pork or beef, shrimps, scallops or squid–or even duck. Red curry with roast duck is very common in Thailand, but I don’t like duck cooked this way, but maybe you will? Also, you can use a combination of any of the above proteins. I like pork plus shrimp or scallops. Dad likes chicken curry almost exclusively and since I am in Provo, Utah visiting my parents, chicken curry it is.
- 1-1.5 pounds chicken breast,
- 4 oz. red curry paste, I like “Maesri or Mae Ploy brands”, “Lobo” is OK, but I like the others better
- 14 oz or 19 oz can of coconut milk. (a 19 oz can will make a milder curry)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- half of a sweet onion, sliced in chunks
- half of a red, orange, yellow or green pepper, sliced in strips (I like red best for this, but the green ones were on sale this time)
- 2 “finger chilies” thinly sliced on the bias (you can use serranos they will be MUCH hotter–I don’t mind that, by you might. This ingredient is very optional)
- 1/2 smallish purple eggplant cubed or 4-5 Thai green eggplant, quartered. The Thai eggplant is traditional but I like the purple variety better
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 fresh roma tomatoes, cut into chunks. You can also use cherry or grape tomatoes whole, about a cup or so
- Other vegetables, can use how many others you want, you can even skip the eggplant, tomatoes and/or bell pepper. Any firm veg will work, like: baby corn, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, peas, edamame, or green beans
- 6-12 kaffir lime leaves. BTW, two leaves are usually attached at the base, that counts as TWO leaves, not one! If you have fresh, 6 will be fine. If frozen, go 10-12. If you have dried, throw it away and make another dish (or just make it without lime leaves. But under no circumstances should the dried variety be used for anything other than pounding into powder and using for “tod mun pla”–but that’s another show. 🙂 )
- 1 regular size can chicken stock (12-16 oz, can also use plain water)
- 8-10 oz canned pineapple PLUS juice. I used half of the can pictured but all of the juice. You can use fresh, but I wouldn’t. It’s going to get cooked and I don’t think you should waste fresh pineapple like that, but up to you. Note, if you use fresh pineapple, you’ll have to increase the amount of sugar you add.
- small handful (1/2 cup?) of whole Thai or regular basil leaves (optional).
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar (can use palm sugar, brown sugar or white sugar)
I use a 3-6 quart, heavy-bottomed pan. You could use a wok, but I never do. First step is to put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan on a hot setting. Once it’s good and hot, add the curry paste. If it doesn’t start smoking and choking the hell out of you with capsaicin-filled fumes, your pan wasn’t hot enough. But actually, that’s OK. Some people don’t fry the curry paste that hot. It will still taste good but will take longer to reach the next step. So, fry for a minute or two and then add about 1/4-1/3 can of coconut milk and stir to mix. You’re looking for a thick pancake batter consistency. Now, fry that mixture until oil starts to separate from the mix and bubbles to the top. Stir and fry for a few more minutes after the oil has separated before you add the rest of the of coconut milk. DO NOT SKIP this step!! Many recipes I see on the Internet do not say to do this. Those recipes will not taste authentic. Thai curry pastes are herb based and are raw. If you only boil the paste, the temperature will only get just over 212 degrees. Frying it this way gets that temp well over 300 degrees and change the flavor–for the better!
Add the garlic, the lime leaves, the chicken stock, plus lime and pineapple juices. Stir to incorporate and bring back to a boil. Add the carrot, chicken (or pork or beef. DO NOT ADD shrimp, scallops or squid if using unless you like tire-tread rubbery seafood!), onion, eggplant and any other veg you are using that needs 10-15 minutes to cook (like cauliflower, baby corn, bamboo). If you want whatever vegetable you’re using to be “al dente”, hold off. Boil (yes, boil, not simmer) for about 10 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks, 2 tablespoons of sugar plus 2 teaspoons of fish sauce. Mix in and taste for seasoning. It should be a little sweet and as salty as you like it. Add more sugar and/or fish sauce to your taste.
Next add the veg you want al dente, in this one, that means only the green peppers. Boil for 5 minutes. Now add the tomatoes and finger chilies. If you are using shrimp, scallops or squid, add them as well. Cook for 2 minutes. TWO minutes or you will over cook the seafood and tomatoes. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 of your basil leaves. Put into a serving bowl and top with remaining basil.
Serve with jasmine (or your favorite) rice.