I have a cookbook called The Best International Recipe by Cooks Illustrated. In it are recipes for international recipes, all tried and tested to perfection in America's Test Kitchen. The recipes are made with ingredients that North American cooks can buy at the grocery store, but the lists are long. I've been swooning over a recipe for Thai green curry for months, but I haven't mustered up the courage to buy 18 different things and spend an hour and a half sweating over a simmering pot, no matter how delicious the results may be.
JB's brother Pierre is a chef, and a darn good chef at that. Sometime last month, he made a Thai curry at our house, proving that you can make an awesome curry with a little coconut milk, curry paste, and the protein of your choice. He also showed me a little trick: reduce the coconut milk until the oil separates out and starts to brown in the pan. The rest is easy.
I remembered exactly what Pierre had shown me and wanted to compare his method to others. I found another quick recipe for Thai curry in Matthew Amster-Burton's Hungry Monkey cookbook. What d'you know? Matthew also reduces his coconut milk and uses store-bought curry paste. (Matthew also has an excellent, simple recipe for Pad Thai, you can read about it here.)
Different brands of curry paste vary in quality and flavour. I've found, just as Matthew suggests, that Thai Kitchen pastes are less spicy and less flavourful that Mae Ploy pastes. Their flavour is also less complex. But if Thai Kitchen is all you can find just add a bit more or a little less! It's all to taste anyway.
Green Thai Curry
From Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
Serves 4 with rice
Make a big pot of your favourite rice (I've been really digging sushi rice) and follow the directions on the package.
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 TBS green curry paste
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fish sauce
1 pound shrimp, fish, chicken, tofu, you choose.
1 TBS fresh lime juice
Chopped green onion and cilantro for garnish.
1. Heat a skillet on medium high.
2. Shake your can of coconut milk before opening it. Open the can and pour half the milk into the skillet.
3. Bring the milk to a boil. Reduce the milk until a thin shimmer of oil appears on the surface and little bubbles start to form (about 5 minutes). You'll need to stir! The milk will hiss when you drag a spoon through it. It will look like this:
4. You want to wait until it looks like this (keep stirring!):
5. Now add your curry paste. Stir!
6. Add the rest of your coconut milk, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Stir!
7. Add your protein of choice. (Shrimp take about 1.5 minutes. Chicken takes about 5 minutes. Tofu takes about 5 minutes as well, you want it nice and tender.)
8. Bring the sauce to a boil.
9. Off the heat, stir in lime juice and cover the whole dish in chopped cilantro (or mint or basil) and green onion.
10. Serve! (With rice, don't forget.)