Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day- love it or hate it?  Whether you will spend it blissfully gazing into your significant others face and savoring your good luck, bitterly perusing NetFlix and indulging in some light Facebook stalking, OR refusing to buy into such a garish and crudely executed sell-out and focusing your eyes down and straight ahead, one thing holds true… You got to eat!

This Thai Curry recipe can be applied to red or green curry. Whatever protein or vegetables you like can be substituted as well.

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Thai Curry
2 cans of organic coconut milk (not light! refrigerated for 20-30 minutes, I’ll explain later)
2 small cans of green or red curry paste, or 2-5 heaping Tablespoons from a large tub
2 cans worth of vegetable or chicken stock (about 28 oz)
1 cup of tofu, cubed, or chicken or beef (freeze for 20-30 min prior to slicing, see below)
2 or more cups of vegetables (bamboo shoot, bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms), sliced in bite-sized pieces
small handful of Thai basil leaves
2 or 3 Keffir lime leaves
good quality Thai fish sauce (Red Boat brand recommended), or soy sauce
Palm or Organic sugar, to taste (traditionally green is served sweeter than red)
Fresh bird’s eye chili, chopped (green), or roasted red chili flakes (red), optional
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Note:  Sometimes I find Keffir leaves and Thai basil for sale at Whole Foods or Central Market, but the best place to find them is at one of Austin’s Asian markets.  If you can’t find one or another, don’t try to substitute, just omit them.

I learned this curry technique while working under local chef Jam Sanitchat.  Once you’ve done it a few times you know the basic art of curry making, so try different proteins and veggies!

Directions:
Select a small stockpot or large saucepan and begin heating it over a medium low flame.

Open your chilled cans of coconut milk.  The cold causes the cream to solidify at the top of the cans.  Scoop the cream into the hot pot.  Beware of hot splatters.  Reserve the coconut milk at the bottom of the can to add later.

Stir the cream until it evenly coats the bottom of the pot, and reduce the heat until the cream is slowly bubbling.  Allow to bubble, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the cream appears thicker with gently rolling hills, about 5-10 minutes, depending on how high the heat is.

Meanwhile, cube your tofu or slice your protein.  The chicken or beef you stashed in the freezer with now be easier to slice thinly.

Once the cream is thick and hilly, add your curry paste, stirring until well incorporated.  If you’re measuring paste from a large tub, remember that the more paste you add, the oilier and spicier your curry will be.  Continue to simmer the mixture for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The longer you simmer, the spicier you’ll curry will be.
In the meantime, wash and prepare your vegetables.  Keep them separate for now as mushrooms and bamboo need to cook longer than peppers and zucchini.

Now add your protein and stir gently.  Throw in the Keffir leaves.  Add a pinch of sea salt.  Simmer until cooked, or about 2-5 minutes.

Pour in the reserved coconut milk, then add 2 cans worth of broth or stock.  Stir and raise heat to bring pot back to a simmer.

Once pot is bubbling again, add your veggies.  Bamboo shoots can go in whenever, they don’t get mushy.  Mushrooms will go in first.  Make sure you stir them often to encourage them to sink.  Peppers and zucchini will go in once mushrooms are almost completely tender.  Simmer until just cooked, as they will continue to cook in the hot curry until you eat them.

Now it’s time to taste.  First should be spicy, then salty, then sweet.  Add fish sauce or soy sauce and sugar as desired, a small amount at a time.  Sweetness mellows spice, saltiness counteracts sweetness.  Knowing this, you can craft the perfect curry.  If you will serve the curry with rice make it a shade saltier than you normally would.

If you’d like an extra kick, add extra chili now, traditionally fresh for green or roasted for red.
Simmer for a few more minutes to set the flavors.  At the end, add a dash of black pepper.

Turn off the flame.  Add the handful of Thai basil leaves and stir until wilted.  Serve immediately with Thai jasmine rice, or cool quickly to be reheated and served later.  Cooling can be accomplished by pouring into several shallow containers, or with an ice paddle if you have one.

 

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