It’s a Very Thai Birthday
Well I had this other post all planned out and even written about my new mortar and pestal I bought over the weekend. However something better came up that I I wanted to share.
This weekend is a dear friend of mine’s birthday and unfortunately I will not be around to celebrate with her. So I asked her what her favorite meal was and promised I would make it for her no matter what it was, even if I never heard of it before in my life! We live in a very small town with not a whole lot of ethnic food options and she asked for a favorite thai dish of Panang Curry. I love Thai and make green curries all the time but I must confess this was the first time I ventured to make panang. For her I decided to go all out and make my curry paste from scratch and after some research I came up with a version I believe to be pretty authentic. To make this meal extra special I made a side green papaya salad and for dessert coconut lime frozen yogurt inspired by the Goddess of all things Asian.
First up the Green Papaya Salad!
1 green papaya, jullianed in long thin strips.
2-4 thai bird chilies (depending on how much heat you like you can add more or less)
1 whole clove of garlic
4-5 green beans (if you can find long beans use 1 of those) cut into 1.5″ pieces
1 Tomato cut in medium size chunks
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. dried shrimp
garnish with roasted peanuts if you like
Start by shredding your papaya, through my research the traditional way of shredding the papaya was a little dangerous for my first time, it involved randomly and rapidly hacking away at the papaya so instead I used a jullian peeler and it worked out great. Next in a mortar and pestal (if your using a stone one be careful, traditionally a ceramic version is used because it is gentler on the ingredients) combine garlic and chilies and mash a few times. Then add your beans and mash a few more times. Add a small amount of the papaya and pound again but don’t go crazy you don’t want a paste. Next add in the sugar and fish sauce and pound a few more times. Now add your tomatoes and pound lightly. Lastly add your lime juice, dried shrimp and the rest of the papaya. Pound a few more times to gentaly bruise the fruit. I like to break up the shrimp a little more, I have found most people don’t care for a big chunk of dried shrimp. T o serve garnish with the roasted peanuts if you like.Now on to the star of the meal, Panag Curry!
For the Curry Paste
10 (or so) dried red chilies, if you like it hot use the smaller a Thai bird chili (I did)
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. galangal
2 Tbsp. lemongrace sliced
1 Tbsp. cilantro stems and leaves (more stems than leave but I like the brightness the leaves bring)
1 tsp. coriander seeds (toasted)
1 tsp. cumin seeds (toasted)
2-3 cloves garlic
1- 2 shallots (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. peanuts (roasted)
1 tsp. shrimp paste or anchovy paste (or 102 anchovy filets)
Soak your chilies until soft for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. When soft remove seeds. Toast your cumin seeds and coriander sees until fragrant and add to your mortar and pestal (heavey duty stone one works the best for this) with the roasted peanuts. Grind to a smooth powder. Remove from mortar and set aside. Next add the chilies and salt and grind to a smooth paste; this may take some time to break up the skins but it is worth it. Next add the lemongrass, pound to combine, then the galangal, cilantro, garlic and shallots. Grinding after the addition of each one. Now add the peanut, cumin, coriander mixure and the shrimp/anchovy paste and mix well into a thick paste.
For the Panang:
Up to 2 cups coconut milk (use the full fat kind, you want the thick creamy part for this dish)
Curry paste from above (if you are not making your own-you totally should-you can use about 3 Tbsp. of red curry mixed with the ground peanuts)
1 Tbsp. lime leaves, shredded (if you can’t find them in your area fresh you can usually find a jar already shredded. In my small town I had to go that route and it works just fine if not you can use the zest of a lime and thai basil but it will not be the same)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 cups “meat” sliced thin. Taditionally beef is used but you can use beef, pork, chicken or tofu. If using Tofu press and fry first then add to your curry. I used a combination of sliced assorted mushrooms, beef, and tofu. I have never been good at making up my mind!
Start by preheating your wok or large saute pan on med high heat. Once hot add about 1/2 cup of your coc0nut milk. You want it to sizzle as it hits the pan. Add all of the curry paste you made and stir to combine. As the pan dries up you want to add more coconut milk, a little at a time to keep it most but not soupy. Make sure you keep stirring as not to burn your curry. Keep cooking until very fragrant about 5 minutes. Add your meat at this point (don’t stop stirring!) Cook for another 2 minutes then add the remaining ingredients of lime leaves, fish sauce, and sugar. If your curry looks too dry you can add some more coconut milk. The texture should be creamy/thick sauce but not soupy at all.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice and garnish with more lime leaves and/or thai basil.