Yellow Thai Chicken Curry
Recipe contributed by Karen Berman; photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour
This curry has all the classic characteristics of Thai food—it’s hot, sweet, salty, and pungent, all at once. It has a long ingredient list, but the technique is easy—make the curry paste, cook it with the coconut milk, and add chicken and vegetables and simmer until done. You can substitute beef or firm-fleshed fish or even tofu for the chicken, and you can add whichever vegetables you like in addition to, or instead of, the red peppers and green beans. Warning: the Thai red bird chilies might be small, but they are fiery.
Red Curry Paste Paste (makes about 1 cup):
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ tablespoon coriander seeds
1 star anise
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 roughly chopped kaffir lime leaves (see Kitchen Tip) or zest of ½ regular lime
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced (see Kitchen Tip) or 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 shallots, peeled and cut in half
½-inch piece fresh ginger or ½-inch piece galangal, peeled and roughly cut in big pieces (we used ginger)
1 to 2 dried Thai red bird chili peppers, or more to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, optional
1½ cups raw jasmine rice
Curry with Chicken and Potatoes:
5 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons Red Curry Paste (see above)
1 tablespoon good-quality curry powder
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, lightly pounded and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 large shallots, each cut into 4 wedges and separated into individual layers
1½ red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks, seeds, pith, and stems removed
3 to 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (¾ to 1 cup)
1 tablespoon palm sugar, brown sugar, or granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Bragg’s amino acids or soy sauce or, if your kosher customs permit, vegetarian or kosher fish sauce or
4 fresh basil leaves or fresh Thai basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
- Make the red curry paste: In a small frying pan set over low heat, toast the cumin, coriander and star anise for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a clean spice grinder and grind until pulverized. Add the white pepper and pulse once or twice to combine.
- Transfer the toasted spices to a mortar or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add the lime leaves or zest, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, ginger and chilies, and grind with a pestle or process until the mixture has the consistency of a paste. If the mixture is too dry, add a little canola oil and mix to make a paste.
- Rinse the rice: Pour the rice into a large, deep pot and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Swirl the water around with your hand, until it is cloudy. Drain carefully, taking care not to lose any rice. Repeat the rinsing process until the water runs clear. Cook the rice according to the package instructions. Keep warm.
- Make the curry: Heat a large wok over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk (see Kitchen Tip) and the red curry paste. Stir and mash the paste until it dissolves into the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add 1 cup of the remaining coconut milk, a little at a time, stirring to incorporate the curry paste into it. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until the coconut milk separates a little and there is a very thin layer of oil on the surface of the liquid. Transfer the contents of the wok to a large stockpot or 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Add the curry powder and stir to incorporate.
- Add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and the potato and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the potato can be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife. Add the shallot, red pepper, green beans, sugar, and fish or soy sauce and simmer for 10 minutes longer, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside.
- To serve, divide the rice between 4 pasta bowls and top with curry, dividing the chicken and vegetables evenly between them. Garnish each with a little basil and serve immediately.
- Kaffir lime leaves grow in two segments that together form the shape of a figure eight. Count each segment as 1 leaf. If you can’t find fresh, by all means use dried or frozen. Thai Kitchen is a good source of dried kaffir lime leaves.
- To slice lemongrass, slice it on a diagonal, beginning from the end of the stalk and working toward the root end. You will see a pinkish interior. When the interior is completely white, slice once or twice more and then crush the rest of the white bulb by pressing on it with the side of a large chef’s knife. Discard anything that seems woody; use only the tender interior! If you can’t find fresh, there are frozen and bottled versions. Thai Kitchen is a good source of bottled lemongrass spears and they are already peeled and prepared.
- Some brands of coconut milk, especially the full-fat varieties, contain a thick, cream-like layer that rises to the top like cream. Scoop this off the top and use it first in this curry. Or if you wish, buy a can of unsweetened coconut cream and use that as the first addition to thicken the sauce.
- To keep things kosher, make sure you know what is in your fish sauce; the primary ingredient is anchovy, but many are made with shrimp. Instead, seek out a vegetarian brand or a tuna-based fish sauce. Or substitute a little soy sauce; it won’t be quite the same, but it will be very close. Add a little soy sauce at a time and taste as you go, because different brands have different levels of salt.
- This curry paste recipe was inspired by The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking by Mai Pham (Prima Publishing). The curry was inspired by the Thai House Cooking School in Thonburi, Thailand.
- Notes from the Test Kitchen: we suggest substituting one can of coconut cream for one can of the coconut milk to make a thicker, richer sauce. You can also increase the amount vegetables: add green beans (to 3 or 4 cups total) and add another potato.