My original inspiration to start writing a blog was all the talented and interesting people around me with such depth of knowledge. In that vein, I’m thrilled to introduce my first guest poster, Christina!
I can still remember when I discovered Thai cuisine. Now, I use the word “discover” loosely because it’s not as though I was Columbus, discovering the New World. Instead, I found myself at a strip mall Thai restaurant called Exotic Thai II for a friend’s birthday dinner. She recommended the panang curry– it was love at first bite. Unfortunately for me (at least where my love for curry is concerned) I soon moved to Germany. The Germans do a lot of things well – Semmelknödel, Sauerbraten and Käsespätzle all come to mind. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a Thai restaurant that I loved. So I decided that I would learn to cook Thai, starting with that first dish, panang curry.
It took me several dozen tries, but I think I’ve finally got it figured out.
The first thing you need is a good cookbook. My absolute favorite is Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott, who learned the art of Thai cooking while in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer. These recipes are simple, fast, and delicious.
Next, let’s talk ingredients. You can find most ingredients at your local store…but you shouldn’t. No offense to Thai Kitchen, but that’s just not going to cut it. If you are in the Indianapolis area, I recommend hitting up Saraga International Market, one of the best (and least expensive!) international markets I’ve been to.
Anna and I took a trip to load up on some international ingredients. Here are my favorite brands for:
- Coconut milk
- Curry paste
- Fish sauce
Here is my recipe for Panang Curry with Beef that is adapted from a recipe found in Quick & Easy Thai. Caution: this dish is spicy!
- Large pot or wok
- About 1-1.25 pounds flank steak or sirloin, thin slices, sliced against the grain*
- About 2 cans 14oz coconut milk *Note: use unsweetened coconut milk, also labeled “for cooking”*
- Two tablespoons panang curry paste (or other Thai curry paste)
- Two tablespoons fish sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on preference)
- Two large bell peppers cut into long, thin slices (I like to use red and green for color. Feel free to substitute other vegetables)
- 1/2 cup water (depending on preference)
*If you have problems slicing the meat, pop it in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes to stiffen it up. It makes cutting way easier. You can also substitute chicken or shrimp (no need to slice the shrimp).
First, begin by cooking your beef. I’ve found that cooking the beef separately and then draining works the best because it can get a little too gritty otherwise. I like to cook the beef in a little coconut milk, but I’ve also used broth and just plain water and both have worked out OK. Add about ¾ a cup of coconut milk to your pot and cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring semi-frequently. Add the beef. Stir for a few minutes until beef is mostly cooked (it’s OK if it still pink). Separate the beef from the liquid- set the beef aside and discard the liquid.
Next, add another ¾ cup coconut milk to the pot. Heat the coconut milk over medium-heat, stirring every now and then until it starts to thicken up. At that point, add 2 TB of curry paste. You want to make sure it is completely dissolved into the coconut milk. Next, add 2 TB fish sauce and 1 TB brown sugar. At this point, add the remainder of your coconut milk. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
After a few minutes, add your bell peppers and cook until they are still slightly crisp. Go ahead and add your beef, stirring constantly until it is fully cooked. Depending on how thick your curry is, you may want to add the ½ cup water to reach desired consistency.
Serve the curry immediately with jasmine rice. Yum.
One final note- when making curry, it really is about personal preference. You may want it slightly thinner or thicker, sweet or more savory, spicy or a little more mild. Sugar is one of the things that is very easy to mess up because it tends to hide inside of the beef when cooking. So, if you are just testing the sauce, it might not taste sweet enough. I recommend taking a bite with the beef and peppers so you get a true idea of what your curry is like. Usually if I want mine a little sweeter, I will just add a little more sugar to the individual serving.
I hope you enjoyed this guest entry!