…Thai, Thai again.

I wasn’t pleased with the results from my first attempt at Thai food.  The sauce was too spicy, too thin, and the ingredients were not finely enough dispersed.  The flavors were all there, but there was a lot of room for improvement.  So, I have been working at it.  I have finally arrived at a panang curry recipe/method of which I can be proud. 

I used this recipe (sort of).  Here’s what I did/do:

  • 2 cups homemade (or 1 can) coconut milk (I buy the canned stuff now; too much work otherwise.)
  • 1 tablespoon shredded lime leaves (1 TBSP lime zest works fine if you can’t find the leaves.)
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (I used regular ol’ white sugar; added at the end)
  • 1 tabelspoon fish sauce (added to taste at the end).
  • 2 cups pork or chicken sliced into ~0.5″ strips (thin-sliced beef works fine too.  I prefer pork; Cati, chicken.)
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 1-2″ squares (angle-cut carrots could work too)

The Curry Paste:

  • 1/3 cup big dried chilies, soaked until soft with seeds removed.  (I used just 5-7 drops of Dave’s Total Insanity, added at the end.).
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons galangal, cut into matchsticks (don’t worry too much about fine-chopping, it’s going in the blender.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander root (I don’t bother with this, since I upped the amount of toasted coriander seeds below).
  • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 2 tablespoons shallots
  • 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts (I used all natural peanut butter, and a few peanuts for texture).   
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste

Prep notes:  In an early attempt at this dish, I used a mortar and pestle to grind all of the curry ingredients into a paste (as the recipe recommends), but that’s too much work.  I still pulverize the toasted cumin and coriander seeds using the mortar and pestle, then I add them, along with everything else listed under the “Curry Paste” heading above, to the blender.  I thin the mixture in the blender with a little coconut milk to get a smooth puree.  I fry the paste over high-heat and keep adding coconut milk ~1/4 cup at a time to prevent burning.  After adding all the coconut milk and thickening the sauce, I then add the pork and the peppers and allow them to cook and soften respectively.  The peppers add some color and a little bit of crispiness.  The recipe I keep referencing has some great preparation tips; give it a read if you plan to make this. 

See some action photos below of various iterations of this dish:

The fixins

Another set o’ fixin’s

Toasting the cumin

Toasting the coriander seed

Toasting & Grinding.  A stone mortar and pestle would be better.

All together now.

Don’t do this…

…do this.  Use the blender.  Technology good; fire bad.

Cooking the sauce on high-heat.  Make sure it sizzles.

Now, to make this dish spicy, I don’t use dried or fresh chilis anymore.  I find it too hard to control how spicy the dish comes out.  And since I am likely cooking this for at least one other person, I’d like her to actually be able to eat it.  Instead, I use Dave’s Gourmet Total Insanity Hot Sauce.  This stuff is useful in the kitchen as it is pretty much capsaicin with tomato paste added for consistency.  Slap a spray cap on this stuff and you have mace.  It has very little flavor (other than “tastes like burning“), but when added drop-wise, it can be useful to spice up a recipe.  Using milder sauces might impart too much of a vinegar flavor, and could change the taste of your dish; no risk of that with Dave’s Gourmet Total Insanity Hot Sauce; it just adds peppery hotness. 

Go easy with this stuff.  Wear a welder’s mask when adding.

If you can’t find lime leaves, use lime zest.

This is the chicken try.  Came out good.

Also, I tried a recipe that I stole-with-pride form Celinabean’s blog.  When I saw this dish on her website, I knew I’d be making it.  It was incredible.  I brought it (along with the panang curry) to an Asian food potluck along with some shrimp (sauteed with the heads on).  The party was hosted by my Asian-cooking guru Esti, so I knew I had to make a strong showing.  She actually buys and reads books and magazines on how to improve her cooking (weird, right?).  She always gives me excellent cooking advice too.  Esti hooked up some wonderful Korean dishes and our friends Ken and Lori (the salad-master) brought some flavorful Chinese dumplings.  I know Esti really liked the pesto; she had a one word reaction immediately after she tried it: “SHUT-UP!” (that’s a compliment).  Thanks Celinabean, I gave your blog all the credit.  Once all the food (and wine) really started coming out, I forgot I had a camera, but I snapped a few shots early in the evening:

The Asain pesto.

Shrimp for the pesto.

Esti’s creations:

Little plates of Korean food (4)

Little plates of Korean food (3)

Little plates of Korean food (2)

Little plates of Korean food (1)

The soup Esti served.

Much fun was had by all. 

Next, I plan to learn martial arts from this guy

3 Responses to “…Thai, Thai again.”

  1. celinabean says:

    I am so glad you liked the pesto. The crazy thing is that I haven’t made it yet. Soon… Wow, an Asian food party? I am jealous!


  2. alex|dimitri says:

    Well, at least you know you can always fall back on being a recipe scout.

    The pesto was very good. :)

  3. CC says:

    Hi Alex and Cati,
    Saw your blog mentioned in the paper and wanted to check out your food adventures… so glad that I did… great stuff! The hubby (also a plastics fella) and I also enjoy making new dishes and trying out places in the Albany area. Over the years it’s been fun introducing him to Trini food (I’m originally from Trinidad with a Jamaican Dad) and I love seeing him rave about curries and local dishes as though you would swear that he was trini in a past life. Likewise, he’s had a huge influence on my cooking. We like to think of our kitchen as a true meltingpot of influences.:-)
    Thanks for recommending Saso’s to the hubby, it is the best sushi in town. Would love to cook something Caribbean for you guys!