Sunday, November 06, 2005

Flexible Thai curry

One of the great things about Thai curries is that they're extremely flexible - they can be made with whatever meat(s), vegetables, and other flavorings you want or have on hand. Asian markets often carry a wide variety of Thai curry pastes; we usually stock up on a variety of styles so we can choose whatever suits our fancy when we're in the mood for a curry.

Here we provide a generalized Thai curry recipe that we've used on many occasions; at the end we include a specific example of a fish-based curry. Our Chiang mai curry is an example of this type of curry made with chicken (albeit with a few more ingredients). Since we just made a Thai curry last weekend, it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed with a garlic press or finely minced
3/4 pound meat (or firm tofu), cut into bite-sized slices
1/2 or 1 4-ounce can (3 1/2 or 7 tablespoons) curry paste (1/2 can if the curry paste is spicy; 1 can if it is not: check the proportion of chili in the ingredients)
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 cup water or stock
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce (depending on the saltiness of the curry paste and your own personal taste)
3/4 pound vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lemon or lime, optional

0. Start some rice or noodles cooking (we typically use jasmine rice). Get all the above ingredients ready and lined up on the counter in order of use before you start cooking.
1. Heat the oil over high heat until it's very hot, then add the garlic and fry until golden brown (a few seconds).
2. Add the meat (or tofu) and stir-fry until a little browned.
3. Add the curry paste, mix, and cook for a few seconds.
4. Add the coconut milk, water or stock, and fish sauce. Stir, and bring to a boil.
5. Add the vegetables and simmer until the vegetables are tender (~10 minutes). Add dense, slow-cooking vegetables (e.g., potatoes, carrots) first, and quicker-cooking ones (e.g., green beans, peas) later.
6. Add lemon or lime juice to taste, if desired.
7. Serve over rice or noodles.


Most curry paste cans will have suggestions for recipes on the packaging; feel free to either follow or ignore these instructions.

If you like your curries especially hot, add the full can of a spicy curry paste. We imagine you could also add diced hot peppers or cayenne, but we've never tried it.

Vary the proportion of meat(s) and vegetables to suit your own taste, but try to keep the total mass of solid ingredients somewhere in the range of one and a half to two pounds. You can leave the meat out entirely to make a (mostly) vegetarian curry. We frequently use frozen vegetables (e.g., green beans); we defrost these in the microwave before adding. If you're using delicate fish or scallops, add them towards the end of the simmering.

Here are some ideas for meats and vegetables (our default additions are usually chicken and green beans):
  • Meats: Chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, scallops, beef
  • Vegetables (and fruits): Green beans, onions (yes, they can be treated as a vegetable in a recipe), eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, peas, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, tomatoes, pineapple
  • Additional flavorings: Minced fresh ginger (add with the garlic), turmeric (especially for yellow curries; add after the curry paste and fry briefly), pickled garlic (add towards the end of the simmering), basil (especially for green curries; add towards the end of the simmering)
Interestingly, of all of the recipes we've posted, this is probably the most representative of our style of cooking. While we follow basic recipes most of the time, we often vary the ingredients and proportions to suit our current whims.

Fish curry example:

Here are the amounts of the variable ingredients we added to make a Thai fish curry last week:

7 tablespoons (1 4-oz can) Leang curry paste (40% fish, 16% shallot, 10% salt, 10% rhizome, 8% shrimp, 5% water, 5% sugar, 5% pepper, 1% MSG)
3/4 pound fresh tuna
~3/4 pound green beans
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime

Cook as above (with the ingredients specified above).

[Updated Jan 28, 2006 to add a few more possible ingredients and suggestions for making it spicier.]

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

I liked this post.

I'm comfortable enough with some styles of cooking to just throw things in (I hardly ever use recipes for tomato-based sauces, for example) but as I branch out into more exotic foods, I'm wary of deviating from the recipe - who knows what's the magic ingredient, and what can be substituted? So basic explanations like these are super helpful.
November 9, 2005, 7:16:33 PM PST