Thai Panang Curry
I love cooking Thai food, but it can be a lot of work. I do enjoy taking the time to track down the exotic ingredients as much as I like spending hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast. Nothing beats home cooking, but who has the time? Apparently I am genetically predisposed against preparing simple meals, so I am always reminding myself to KEEP IT SIMPLE! Six courses for every meal is just not necessary (or normal). Sometimes one good dish and a pot of rice are all you need. Panang Curry is just that kind of dish. I usually have everything I need on hand, it is easy to prepare, it freezes quite well (should there be any leftovers), and it is one of Paul’s favorite meals! How can I go wrong?
I usually make Panang Curry with chicken, but it is also good with beef, pork, tofu, vegetables, or any combination of any or all of the above. You could even pour the sauce over meatballs for a great appetizer or use it as a dipping sauce. It is so good you might want to put it in a glass and drink it (well, maybe hold off on that). I have seen Panang Curry prepared in many different ways. Some cooks make the sauce first then add the raw meat and vegetable to cook in the sauce. This method is acceptable but can result in a more stew-like consistency. I prefer to stir fry the vegetables and the meat separately. I like the flavor that comes from searing and browning the meat and vegetables, and the consistency of the end product looks a lot better.
Usually, my pantry is stocked with everything I need to make this dish. The only things I need to pick up are some Thai basil and fresh vegetables (if I am including them). I love the flavor of the Thai basil in this dish, and I always add a generous amount! Sometimes I can’t find it, and I have to make do. Fresh Italian basil is a pretty good substitute. I tried using dried basil once and it was a bomb (don’t do it!). You could probably use cilantro for that bright herbaceous overtone, but you could also just skip it altogether (it won’t taste quite the same, but it will still be pretty darn good). You can find Panang curry paste at many Asian markets. If not, red Thai curry paste is an excellent substitute. Thai Kitchen brand is good, and you can find it in almost any supermarket these days (and it’s vegan). It is also milder than the curry pastes you find at the Asian markets if you aren’t crazy about the heat. Keep in mind that some curry pastes can be quite hot and that the heat level varies by brand. Add a little at a time then taste; you can always add more. Sliced mushrooms, red bell pepper, and onions are my ‘go to’ vegetables for this recipe, but almost any vegetable (or none at all) is good too. One final note: some cooks add kaffir lime leaves to Panang Curry. I don’t, but if you like them and you have them, go for it.
- 1 lb. chicken, thinly sliced (1/8 inch)
- 1 yellow onion, sliced (1/4 inch)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced (1/4 inch)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-tablespoon red curry paste
- 2-tablespoons fish sauce 1-tablespoon sugar
- 2-heaping tablespoons chunky peanut butter
- ¼ cup Thai Basil leaves, chopped
- Add 1-tablespoon oil to wok and stir fry the vegetables over high heat. Do not over-cook. Remove and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the same wok and cook the chicken (or pork, beef) and cook until done, and slightly browned. Remove and set aside. In the same wok, add the curry paste and fry over medium heat to soften (about two minutes). Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and peanut butter. Stir until everything has dissolved and you have a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust if necessary to balance the flavors. Next add the chicken and the vegetables. Heat thoroughly, before finally adding the fresh basil. It is ready to serve.