Friday, October 29, 2010

Spicy-Sinful Thai Red Curry

Ever since working at Lemongrass Thai Bistro in Macon, GA, I've been a huge, huge fan of Thai food.  However, I'm also addicted to trying to figure out amazing recipes and making my kitchen smell awesome.  One of my favorite recipes at that restaurant, and one I always find myself ordering, despite the summer shrimp basil rolls, the duck with mandarin oranges, and the clay pot, is the red curry.

That dish is simply unbelievable, and I'm going into so much withdrawal that I refused to just buy red curry paste.  I had to make it for myself.  Especially since I've got a Thai basil and a Thai chili pepper plant doing very well on my balcony; check out the picture!  I'm pretty proud of that hot piece of flora!

Needless to say, this will be a much simpler task if you just go buy red, green, or yellow curry paste at your local Asian market or online.  Amazon had 480 results when I typed in "Thai red curry paste," of which I'm assuming at least thirty are actual jars of potential food.

Thai Red Curry Paste
Makes about 1 cup

1/3-1/2 cup Thai chili peppers
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 cloves garlic
1 1-inch piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce, preferably Nama Shoyu
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional; add a pinch of sea salt to substitute)
1/4 cup canned coconut milk (or about 2 Tbsp almond milk for detoxers)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients except the coconut milk (or almond milk) into a blender or food processor and process very well to create a smooth paste, unlike the picture.  I do not have a Vitamix for optimal demonstration, sadly.

Add the coconut/almond milk a little at a time if your machinery needs a little help processing into a paste.  DO NOT taste this without a glass of something soothing and cool nearby.  (I was out of ice cubes so I ate about half a tablespoon of pumpkin butter.  Surprisingly, it worked!  The chilies did not shatter my skull with their immense powers to torture.)  It will be hard to gauge, anyway, because the flavor's supposed to be so strong and spicy--if it's off, you can tell best when you're actually using it in curry.  Fix it then.  Use whatever you need immediately and put the rest into an airtight container; store in the refrigerator.  After 10 days or so, transfer it to the freezer for optimal storage.

Thai Red Curry
Serves 1-2

1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
12-oz can coconut milk , minus the 1/4 cup used for the paste (or 1 1/4 cup almond milk for detoxers; in which case, use much less or no vegetable broth)
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli
1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped
8-10 shiitake mushrooms, chopped into thirds
1-2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2-1 cup vegetable broth, as desired
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil or coconut oil (preferred)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
5-6 Thai basil leaves (optional)
2 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Salt and pepper

In a large sauté pan or a wok, heat the coconut oil over medium high.  When sizzling, toss in the chopped eggplant, onions, red bell peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli.  Toss until coated in the coconut oil, then add the curry paste.  Toss to coat the vegetables in the curry paste and let sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring as needed.

Add in the coconut/almond milk, cinnamon stick (if using), and green onions.  Stir and cook for about 1 minute. The sauce should be fairly thick now.  My favorite version of this curry has a great souplike sauce that welcomes a good deal of hearty brown rice, so I'd add in a decent amount of vegetable stock, but simply add a little at a time, stirring, until you get the consistency that's right for you.  Add in the cilantro, Thai basil (if using), and Kaffir lime leaves (if using).

I actually did not use the Kaffir lime leaves, because I was on a budget, and it still turned out great--however, they're fantastic as well as authentic.

Taste-test the curry:  if too spicy, add more coconut/almond milk.  If too salty, add a little bit of lime juice (this also works well with too-salty guacamole); if not salty enough, add soy sauce, fish sauce, or salt.  If not spicy enough, add anything spicy in your cupboard, although Thai chili garlic sauce works best.  If too sour, add something sweet: stevia, agave nectar, or honey.

Before serving, remove the cinnamon stick (if used).  Serve in individual bowls, either by itself or with a mound of rice per person.  Sprinkle some cilantro over the top and enjoy!