Kaeng Phet, or red curry as it is most commonly know had been on my cooking radar for quite sometime. No recipe from a book ever excited me enough to attempt it, till one day when I was watching authentic Thai cooking on a TV channel. This show took the viewers into the heart of Thailand to witness the creation of many Thai cuisine staples. One thing that I gathered from the show, as it panned across the villages of Thailand, other than the red curry was that Thai cuisine attempts to tantalize the basic five taste senses; sweet, sour, hot, bitter and salty.
The red curry is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s flavor is in its chillis, hence lowering the spice content would not do justice to the dish. The rest of the flavor in most Thai dishes, including the red curry, comes from lemongrass, galangal, Thai basil, garlic among many others. Maybe it was the visual aid, but after watching a local Thai woman make the red curry from scratch, I was sold. I just had to try it. The sheer colors of the red curry paste, made from hot red chillis, garlic and shrimp paste, was enough to motivate me to step into the kitchen. The best part about this recipe is that no extra oil is added. The meat cooks in the oil let out by the paste and in its own juices. You can use any meat of your choice, beef, chicken, shrimps or even fish. For this recipe, I used chicken.
- 1/2 kg chicken, diced into small pieces
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp red curry paste
- 1/2 stalk chopped lemongrass
- 1/3 cup tamarind juice
- 2 tsp sugar
- Thai basil
- A few sliced baby corn
- Mushrooms (optional)
- Bird’s eye chillis, thinly chopped
- In a deep wok, add the coconut cream and boil.
- As the cream starts to bubble mix in the red curry paste and stir till the oil starts to seep out onto the wok
- Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, till slightly brown. The chicken should be able to cook in the oil of the paste as well as its own juices. Stir the chicken around the wok to prevent it from sticking.
- Add the lemongrass and chillis and let the flavors infuse for about 2-3 minutes
- Pour in the coconut milk and add the basil and vegetables.
- Add the tamarind juice and sugar. Let the curry simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
- Sprinkle with a few basil leaves before serving
- Note: If you feel the curry is too spicy, you can add some honey to take the edge off.