upon tasting the first batch of this chicken panang curry, my husband proclaimed it the “most authentic thai dish that *we* have made *at home*” (please note the caveats; i am in no way claiming real authenticity, mostly just that we liked the way this recipe turned out).
what’s funny is that my husband called out the peas for being inauthentic, when in fact they are the only vegetable that i didn’t add of my own volition. (my conspiracy theory is that my husband just doesn’t like peas.) a few of the pretty authentic (i think?) recipes that i looked at did actually contain peas (usually as the only vegetable). the cauliflower and red pepper were just because i like them in general and in other thai dishes that i’ve had.
my predilection to cram vegetables in aside, i was happy to hear that i had come up with something that we both wanted to eat, since it’s super simple to throw together (especially when my husband is around to prep the raw chicken, because, just, eww).
basically you just sauté the chicken with a little bit of curry paste (see the recipe notes for details/sourcing advice) and fat from the can of coconut milk, then sauté the veggies, add the rest of the paste and coconut milk, put the chicken back in, then add a little bit of lime and fish sauce to brighten and balance the flavors. aaaand dinner is ready (lunch tomorrow too, if you’re lucky)! super simple and super yummy.
ps – apropos of nothing other than the fact that i just finished reading it, if you like “foodie fiction” (apparently this is a genre?), i just read the city baker’s guide to country living by louise miller and found it to be a thoroughly entertaining light read. a pastry chef from boston flees to vermont to escape all the things and, of course, ends up finding a few things worth sticking around for. it’s not war and peace, but who wants to read that before bed anyway?
- 7 oz. (1 cup / 198 g.) brown basmati rice
- 13.5 oz. (399 ml) can of full fat coconut milk, see notes
- 2 oz. panang curry paste, see notes
- 1 pound (454 g.) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1” (2.5 cm) cubes
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise into half moon shapes/narrow wedges
- 1 cup (130 g. / 4 ½ oz.) frozen green peas, rinsed in a colander under cold water to break up any icy chunks
- zest of half a lime
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional/to taste
- 1/3 cup (38 g. / 1 3/8 oz.) unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, chopped, optional
- cook the rice according to the package directions.
- heat a large skillet (ideally with a lid) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the fat from the coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of the curry paste. when the coconut is melted and the paste starts to sizzle, add the chicken and toss it around to coat it in the paste. sauté until the chicken is cooked through (opaque white all the way through or 165° F if you really want to be sure). transfer the chicken to a bowl and set the skillet back on the heat.
- add the cauliflower to the pan with 3 tablespoons of water and cover the pan with a lid. steam the cauliflower until it begins to soften, about 5 – 7 minutes. don’t cook it all the way through to the point where the tip of a sharp knife slides in easily yet.
- add the bell pepper and onion to the cauliflower and leave the lid off. sauté for another 5 – 7 minutes, until all of the vegetables are cooked. add the peas and sauté for 1 minute.
- add the remaining curry paste and coconut milk to the pan, along with the cooked chicken. stir until everything is evenly coated in sauce. add the lime zest and juice as well as the fish sauce. stir to combine everything then taste and decide if you want to add any crushed red pepper. bring everything to a simmer, then remove from heat and serve over the rice, topping with the chopped peanuts, if you like.
i used to always use reduced fat or light coconut milk until reading that the coconut flavor is much weaker compared to full fat, so now i consider if i want the finished dish to have a pronounced coconut flavor or not. in this case, i do, hence the full fat.
my (apparently really well-stocked?!) grocery store had little cans of maesri curry pastes in a variety of flavors in the international aisle. this brand was recommended by one of the authentic-seeming recipes that i consulted in cobbling together my version and it’s really good. if your grocery store doesn’t stock it, you can either order it on amazon or use red curry paste instead, which is much more commonly available in grocery stores (i usually see the thai kitchen brand). the cook’s illustrated recipe actually straight up calls for red curry paste, recognizing that panang curry paste is more difficult to find, so that’s certainly a viable option.
adapted from a combination of several recipes: panaeng curry with pork and kabocha squash from she simmers (probably my favorite site for thai recipes), chicken panang curry recipe from rasa malaysia, panang curry with beef recipe from temple of thai, and panang beef curry (paywall warning) from cook’s illustrated.
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