Monday, September 8, 2008

The Trials and Tribulations of Thai Red Curry

If there's one dish that I never seem to get sick of, it's got to be Thai red curry. I love the complex, spicy flavour and how well it pairs with almost any type of meat or vegetable. I love the way it makes even the most boring batch of white rice seem mouthwatering. And I love that I never seem to get sick of it. Is that too redundant?

It took my boyfriend and I awhile to find the perfect ingredients. We bought Thai Kitchen's red curry paste, but found that we tasted more heat than flavour. After our scorched taste buds recovered, we tracked down Maesri brand red curry paste from the local Thai grocer for a quarter of the price and a lot more flavour. $1 a can vs. $4 for a tiny jar, to be precise.

We also learned to check the ingredient list when buying coconut milk. There is a wide variety of brands out there, and a ton of them are composed of nothing but water and coconut extract! The best canned coconut milk contains nothing but coconut milk, but it may cost you up to $4 a can if you're buying it from a non-Asian grocer. It's worth the trip to an Asian grocer to save the money -- we typically spend $1 a can or less for pure coconut milk.

A bag of kaffir lime leaves rounds out the ingredient list. We bought a huge bag of dried leaves for about $3. Our local grocer does sell fresh leaves, but it's not always practical to make the trip for fresh lime leaves, and the dried leaves work just fine for us.

We've tried out a variety of recipes, too. We used Michael Smith's recipe for awhile, which called for chicken stock to be boiled down. It made a ton of sauce, but it didn't quite have the potency of restaurant-quality curry.

But we hit jackpot with Gordon Ramsay's red curry. It follows similar techniques to other recipes, but Ramsay found the right combination. We make our curry by combining Ramsay's technique with Michael Smith's easygoing, "some of this, some of that" style. The photos are from a previous batch, one with broccoli and mushrooms. Find the recipe for how we made it last night after the jump.

Red Thai Curry With Chicken and Bell Pepper
Serves 4 (or 2 with some left for a great lunch!)

2 tbsp. canola oil
3 tbsp. red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
4 chicken thighs, skins removed
1 bell pepper (any colour), chopped into bite size chunks
1 to 3 tbsp. fish sauce
Approx 1. tbsp grated ginger
Lime juice
A handful of kaffir lime leaves
Rice for 4, about 4 cups cooked (we always cheat and use Minute Rice to speed up the process--bad foodies, bad!)

Heat canola oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Fry chicken thighs until browned. Remove to a cutting board to cool.

Fry curry paste in leftover oil until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add ginger to paste and cook about 1 minute more.

Remove cooled thigh meat from bones and and add to curry mixture. Add coconut milk, pepper, fish sauce to taste, and lime leaves and stir well to combine. Cook 3-5 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Keep in mind that the longer the sauce cooks, the spicier it will become as the flavour will become more concentrated. Add a splash of lime juice to taste and serve the sauce over cooked rice.

Please note that this sauce is quite spicy -- I would rate it about a 7 on a scale of 1-10. If you don't like spicy food, you probably won't enjoy it. But if you do -- you'll love it.


matty September 8, 2008 at 10:21:00 AM EDT  

That curry tastes amazing!

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