Thai red curries are fantastic and aromatic and one of the meals that everyone in my house appreciates. The good thing is that you can adjust the hotness to suit yourself and there are endless ways to vary it through changing the vegetables and the meat.
If you have been put off at having a go at making this dish for yourself because of the sometimes exhaustive list of ingredients in recipes that require you to be a private detective to track down, you will find this recipe quite simple.
The reality is that you can make a Thai curry that tastes like you are eating in a restaurant by adding a couple of the essential ingredients. I have put together a basic ingrediet list and extended ingredient list so you can choose the way you would like to make it.
I also sequence the cooking steps in the recipe a bit different to most recipes to retain the crispness of the vegetables.
Preparation takes longer than the cooking. About 20 minutes for the prep and about 15 minutess for cooking. Using a rice cooker helps keep the process simple.
The foundation of the recipe is the curry paste and there are two ways you can go about it. Make your own from scratch, or buy a ready-made paste imported from Thailand. I sometimes make the paste myself and the hastle with than is more the buying the ingredients rather than the actual making.
Here we are opting for the ready-made solution. Virtually any Thai restaurant in New Zealand and Australia does the same thing.
The simple version:
For a garnish I add:
For the more advanced version you can add:
The first step with a meal like this is getting yourself organised. As the food goes into the wok at different times it ends up being really helpful to separate the components as you prepare them. The first step is to prepare the curry base. Melt the curry paste in about half a cup of boiling water and set aside. I use the Natural Abundance coconut milk powder, so I make that in another cup. Generally I would use 3 or 4 tablespoons which does not give you a thick creamy curry paste but it does give you a nice balance to the red curry. If you are using a full tin of coconut milk you are pretty much drowning the curry and it does impact on the freshness of the end product. I turn the coconut milk powder into a paste along with the coconut sugar, in as little water as possible. Generally I think you should be adding less than a cup of liquid to the curry in total.
Start the rice cooking. I find the rice cooker the simplest way to cook rice. Depending on what type of rice you are using you should definitely be looking at rinsing the rice to minimise the glugginess. Particularly if you are using Thai Jasmine rice. Basmati rice tends not to be so bad but does not go as well with Thai food. I would generally was two or three times. If you are using one cup of rice I would put about one and a third to one and a half cups of water. Two cups of rice and beyond should use equal measures of rice and water. Sir it and fluff it up once the rice cooker turns to warm and leave it to dry out a bit.
The next step is to chop everything up. I generally end up with four plates: 1. The chopped meat 2. The chopped onion. 3. The chopped vegetables. And in this recipe I have an extra plate for 4. The chopped pumpkin
I love to do a fresh garnish on some of my Thai dishes. Thais do it on a range of dishes although I noticed on my trip there last year that the tradition and attention to detail is on the wane. One of the best examples was Pat Thai (Thai Noodles) that always came with two very slim fresh spring onions draped across the dish. Fresh beansprouts. A wedge of lime to squeeze and roughly crushed peanuts. The combination made an equisite dish even finer. My recommendation is to finely chop some coriander. Chop the upper stalks of the spring onions into narrow little rings. Use a vegetable peeler to finely peel strands of red capsicum. And if you like crush some roasted peanuts. If you don't have a pestle and mortar you can put them in a plastic bag and bash them with a hammer. You will be surprised the zest this little addition gives the meal.
The cooking stage happens pretty quickly. With this and most Thai curries or any stir-fry that requires a lot of heat quickly and a lot of stirring, I think an essential is the over-size wok. Mine measures 40 cm in diameter and nothing else fits on the stove when it is in use, but it makes cooking so much easier. With the heat pretty much on full add the virgin coconut oil. Once it is ready to cook: 1. Add the onions and saute until they are soft and transparent. 2. Add the chicken, but also at this stage add the pumpkin to give it some extra time to cook. 3. Splash in some Num Pla (Fish Sauce) as you go. You can do this a couple of times (if the fermented fish odour does not fly up into your nostrils you are not cooking on enough heat). 4. Add the remaining vegetables and keep stir frying until the pumpkin is still hard, but tender enough to bit through. This should be a signal that most of the vegetables are just about done. 5. Add the curry and coconut milk mixtures and simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes which should have the vegetables cooked but still nice and firm.
Put the rice on a suitable plate. I use plastic moulds which makes it easier to get consistent quantities but also makes for a much more asthaetically pleasing dish.
Ladle the cooked chicken curry mixture over the rice. I use a slotted spoon to get lots of the yummy chicken and vegetables without drowning the rice in the curry sauce. Then finish off by adding just the right amount of sauce.
Last but not least add the garnish. I generally add the capsicum slivers, followed by the coriander and the crushed peanuts over the top. And the bean sprouts if you are adding them. Finish with a squeeze of lime and even another shot of Nam Pla. The mixture of the Thai curry flavours and the fresh herbs on top is pretty divine. Plus it looks fantastic. What you will also find is that it tastes like an authentic Thai curry. The coconut sugar, which quite often people substitute for brown sugar, or leave out is one of the transforming ingredients. Thais would look at you as if you were mad if you asked them to make a Thai curry without coconut sugar. Enjoy! And get ready for the compliments
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