Panang Curry

I love eating Thai food, but when it comes to making it, I'm definitely a novice. That's part of the reason why I love this recipe. You can be a total dork at Thai cooking but somehow it still comes out tasting good in the end. The recipe that has been floating around my husband's family for years and years and originated with an uncle that lived in Thailand for a few years. I heard it second or third hand so I'm not sure how authentic it has stayed, but to my palate it tastes authentic enough to make me proud that I made something so foreign. It's also easy and fast to prepare.

The key ingredient is this:

It's panang curry paste. The bad news is, you probably can't find this at a regular grocery store's ethnic food section. I went to a specialty food store to buy it. Once you have it, though, you have enough for the rest of your life. Plus, it's cheap. The bad news is, you might have to do some searching to find it. Don't do what I did and look in the curry section at an Indian food market for 15 minutes before realizing that it's a Thai curry, not Indian curry. I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine you could try this recipe with a green or red curry that you can buy at a regular grocery store. The taste will be different, of course, but I don't think you can go wrong with coconut milk and curry.

Speaking of coconut milk, there's a couple different options for this recipe. I usually like to make healthy meals, so I often opt for light coconut milk for this recipe. A second option is regular coconut milk, and I think a third, probably most authentic and definitely most fattening option is coconut cream. (Not the sweetened cream of coconut, though.) In all steps, you start with adding a half a cup or so to a large skillet on medium high heat and stirring in your curry paste. The official phrase for when you know it's done is "when the oils rise to the top" of the coconut milk surface. I don't see this as much when doing light coconut milk, so usually I cook it until very fragrant and well dissolved. With regular coconut milk you can cook the curry paste in some of the thick, creamy part of the coconut milk that settles to the bottom of the can.
Once the curry paste is cooked, add sugar, fish sauce, the rest of your coconut milk and your meat. I usually use some kind of steak. Chicken or pork or even shrimp can work too, but beef is my favorite. This is a great recipe for cheaper cuts of beef because they are cut so thinly you can't tell that they are tough. To get super thin slices of meat, I usually freeze mine for about an hour until it is mostly firm but not rock solid, and then I throw that in the food processor with the slicing attachment. If you are using a knife to cut thin slices you can still freeze it to help you cut the meat as thinly as possible.

While the meat is cooking, wash some basil and mince it finely.

Remove your pan from heat and stir in the minced basil and some lime juice and add salt to taste. Serve over warm rice.

Pananag Curry


2 cans (1 if you want the sauce to be thicker) coconut milk or 1 can coconut cream
1 - 2 T panang curry paste. Start with 1 T and add more if it isn't spicy enough
2 T sugar
1 -2 T fish sauce
1 lb meat (chicken, pork, beef) sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T lime juice

Heat 1/2 cup coconut milk in large skillet over medium heat and add curry paste. Heat and stir occasionally until oils rise to the top of the coconut milk. Add remaining coconut milk slowly, stirring with each addition. Add sugar, fish sauce and meat. Simmer until the meat is heated through. Remove from heat and add basil and lime juice. Serve over rice.

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