I do not consider myself a picky eater…unless we are talking about curry. Call me Goldilocks because my curry has to taste “juussstttt right.” Tangy, but not spicy. Silky smooth, but not creamy. Flavorful, but not overbearing. I encountered the perfect bowl of curry just before the holidays at my company’s holiday Progressive Potluck. What is a Progressive Potluck, you ask? Each group in my business unit hosted a different segment of the lunch on a different floor of the building. One group hosted appetizers, the other entrees, the last dessert. Employees “progressed” through the building and through the different stages of lunch in the span of an hour and a half. (It was quite glorious). During the entree segment, I encountered a crock pot of the best Panang Curry I have ever tasted–light, fragrant, and with a unique balance of flavors.
Several of us dished about the curry, wondering who on earth made the Crock Pot of Magic. The Mystery Curry Maker revealed herself (enough people heard us asking that they directed her our way) and graciously shared her recipe…which was not quite what I expected. “2-3 tablespoons Panang curry paste, to taste”; “2-3 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste”; “3 tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste.” I had never cooked with Panang curry paste before, so my “to taste” was yet to be discovered. Let the experimentation (and the fun) begin. I like a good kitchen challenge.
After a batch of too spicy curry, I finally got my “to taste” right and found a balance between the curry paste, fish sauce, and sugar that didn’t overpower my taste buds. I made a few other modifications to the original recipe: No full-fat coconut milk for this girl (I’m walking down the aisle in 8 months after all) or frying the chicken in oil. I found a can of light coconut milk at Whole Foods and pan sautéed the chicken in Smart Balance spray. I also filled the curry pot with vegetables–snow peas, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts for additional nutrition and texture. Today was cold and dreary in D.C., a perfect day for a bowl of the final result of my experiment…Warm-You-Up Thai Panang Curry.
I love the smell of Kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves, such a unique combination.
2 lbs lean chicken breasts
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg white
6 ounces snow peas
5 ounces bamboo shoots, drained
5 ounces water chestnuts, drained
4 Kaffir lime leaves
6-10 Thai basil leaves
2 cups light coconut milk
2 tablespoons Maseri Panang curry paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Trim any excess fat off the chicken breasts. Slice into 1″ pieces and set in a medium size bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and cornstarch. Massage the mix into the chicken and let marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Heat a pan sprayed with cooking spray (such as Smart Balance) on medium, and layer the chicken around the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip the chicken over for an additional 3-4 minutes. Continue cooking until cooked through.
4. Heat a wok or large 3″ deep pan over medium-heat. Add the coconut milk and warm until it simmers slightly.
5. Add the Panang curry paste to the coconut milk and stir until blended. Simmer for 3-5 minutes then add the minced garlic, sugar, and fish sauce. Simmer additional 2-3 minutes.
6. Stir in the chicken and vegetables. Cover and simmer on medium for 10 minutes until sauce thickens and snap peas soften. Halfway through, add the lime leaves.
7. Prior to serving (either by itself or over a bed of jasmine rice), toss in the Thai basil leaves.