Sunday, November 07, 2004

Chiang Mai Curry (Thai red chicken curry)

My SO and I made a favorite Thai curry last weekend, so I thought I'd post it up today as my end-of-the-week recipe blogging post. The curry has a coconut milk base and is packed full of flavorful ingredients (curry paste, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, turmeric, etc.) I brought some leftovers to work for lunch, and three separate people walking past my door asked what the delicious smells were. This recipe is modified from Bhumichitr, 1988.

5 tablespoons oil
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed (using a garlic press) or finely minced
3 1/2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into thin strips (we use thighs)
3 inch ginger piece, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
5 tablespoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 cloves pickled garlic, pressed or minced (or 8 cloves fresh garlic pressed or minced and mixed with a bit of rice vinegar)

0) Start some rice cooking. Get all the above ingredients ready and lined up on the counter before you start cooking.
1) Heat the oil until it's very hot, then add the garlic and fry until golden brown (a few seconds).
2) Add the curry paste, mix in, and cook for a few seconds.
3) When the electric stove burner you're using starts to shoot out sparks, shriek and transfer the pot to a different burner (yes, this actually happened when we were making the recipe last weekend).
4) Add the coconut milk, stir, and cook until it starts to reduce (bubbling for a bit).
5) If you're not using real pickled garlic, press 8 cloves of the fresh garlic, mix with a bit of rice vinegar, and add this mixture while the coconut milk is reducing. If using real pickled garlic, add it later.
6) Add the chicken, stir well, and cook until it's nearly done (a few minutes).
7) Add, stirring after each addition: ginger, stock, fish sauce, sugar, turmeric, and lemon juice.
8) Cook for a minute or two longer to make sure everything's cooked.
9) If you are using real pickled garlic, add it now.
10) Serve.

We've also added various vegetables to the dish; last weekend we added a half-pound of frozen green beans a few minutes after adding the chicken, and they added a nice contrast, though if we add them again we plan to defrost them first, since they halted the curry's simmering.

This dish is extremely flavorful, and depending on the curry paste you use will likely be quite spicy as well; be sure to have lots of rice on hand.

We made this recipe with red curry paste that we bought in a 4 oz can at an Asian market. We used "Maesri" brand; its contents were 40% chili, 20% garlic, 20% onion, 6% lemon grass, 6% salt, 5% spice, 3% galangal, and it was made in Thailand. I've found it available online at, though I have no idea if this is a good curry paste or not (it's just the only brand we've used). We've also used that manufacturer's yellow curry paste, and it's been just as good (and a bit less spicy).

Bhumichitr, Vatcharin, 1988. The Taste of Thailand. MacMillan, NY. Pp. 143-144.

[Update Jan 2006: Want to make a Thai curry but don't have the exact ingredients specified above? Take a look at our flexible Thai curry recipe for more ideas.]

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