Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thai Red Curry Chicken

Thai Red Curry Chicken
When Steven said he didn't like curries, I suggested that he try a Thai curry. Unlike Indian curries that are spice based, Thai curries are made with a paste of aromatics and fresh ingredients and cooked in coconut milk. I made a chicken red curry and at first he was skeptical but after tasting it, he loved it! Hooray! He even told me he liked it more than his mom's curry. Score! +1 point for me. I'm usually not a competitive person, except with cooking, and it made me feel so special when he said that. :D

Thai curry paste contains a bunch of ingredients including: chilies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, coriander root, etc. Red curries are made with red chilies, green curries are made with green chilies, and yellow curry are includes spices like turmeric and cumin. Although it seems counterintuitive, green curries are actually hotter than red curries. For convenience sake, I use a store-bought curry paste (Mae Ploy brand) because it's a lot of trouble making your own curry paste since some of the ingredients are difficult to find. Using a premade paste cuts down the ingredient list by half and makes things a whole lot easier. I like using dark meat so I can slowly simmer the curry without overcooking the chicken. The end result is delicious, flavorful, and reheats beautifully, in fact, it tastes even better the next day.

Thai Red Curry (Chicken)
3 pounds of chicken drumsticks
1 onion, chopped
1 14oz. can of coconut milk (my fav is Chaokoh)
1/4 C Thai red curry paste
Fish sauce (I like Three Crabs)
1 Tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Lime/Rice vinegar
Handful of Thai basil leaves

Optional step: Use a large cleaver and cut the chicken drumsticks in half, first cut through the flesh to the bone, then try your best to hit that spot with a strong whack. Sometimes you won't hit the first cut you made spot on, but it will be enough to break the bone. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, skip this step. Please don't hurt yourself doing this. After cutting the drumsticks in half, rinse the exposed bone area under some running water to loosen any bone shards. Do this over a sieve to catch the bone shards so they don't mess up your disposal. This step is completely optional, I just think it makes the curry more presentable and easier to eat.

Do not shake the can of coconut milk. Open the can and skim off the "cream" on top (roughly the top 1/3 of the can) and add it to a Dutch oven or large pan.

The first step is to "fry" the curry paste in the coconut cream. Add the paste to the coconut cream in the pan, stir and cook this over medium heat until the oils separate from the paste. First, the mixture will look soupy and very messy. Slowly, it will begin to cook down into a thick paste, then finally the aromatic oils will begin to separate from the paste. After you see the oil, add the chopped onion and cook the onion for about 1 minute.

Add the chicken and the remainder of the can of coconut milk. Bring this to a boil then lower to a bare simmer. Season with fish sauce to taste, a tablespoon at a time. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar. Cover the pot and simmer gently for about 40 min to an hour, or until the chicken is tender (the meat will start to retract from the bone). When the chicken has finished cooking, stir in the juice of half a lime to start with, taste, and if it needs more tang, add more lime juice. If you don't have a lime you can use rice vinegar. Add more brown sugar if it needs more sweetness (the sweetness should be subtle and not overwhelming). Stir in a big handful of Thai basil leaves that are torn in half. It's important to balance the salty, sour, sweet, and spicy with Thai food. Don't tear the leaves in advance or they will turn black.

Serve with rice.

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