Monday, August 09, 2004


I found this recipe at the Food Network website, after trying several other strangely flavorless green curry recipes from elsewhere. I’ve made and enjoyed it half a dozen times in the past, but last night’s attempt was marked by tragic disappointment. This is because I trusted in Trader Joe’s and believed the label on their cans of “low-fat coconut milk” (the only coconut milk they carry), which swore up and down that low-fat was just as good as regular coconut milk. Usually, I don’t fall for such claims, but this was Trader Joe’s, land of friendly tastiness, and it was charging me only 99 cents per can. Hmm—just as good as regular coconut milk, healthier, and more affordable? I was all over that! And so I succumbed. The coconut milk looked OK when I poured it out of the can, but instead of thickening as I cooked it, it became thinner and thinner, and the fat and water in it seemed to separate, giving it a mottled look—not creamy at all, nor very flavorful. I had to scoop the chunky parts out with a slotted spoon and discard most of the thin sauce, or it would have drowned my rice. I still ate the curry, but it was blah and sad, improved only by the beer I drank with it to mitigate the spiciness.

Be forewarned that this is a Thai curry, so it will be soupier than an Indian curry. I habitually leave out the chicken stock to avoid making it runny, and I think if you wanted to cut down on the fat, the best way would be to use less coconut milk (2 cans is, after all, a lot). I used only one can last night, but since it was the Stupid Coconut Milk, I couldn’t tell if this was a workable solution or not. Experiment with it if you want. I always liked it well enough using 2 cans in the past, but A thought it was too soupy. Just remember, if you cut down on the coconut milk you’ll probably want to use less curry paste as well.

About that curry paste: Food Network included a recipe for this, but it’s highly labor-intensive, involving toasting and grinding your own spices, as well as substances I’ve never worked with, such as galangal and shrimp paste. It’s here if you want to try it, but I just buy Thai Kitchen green curry paste and that tastes good to me. I don’t know about other kinds, but 3 tablespoons of this will make your curry extremely spicy—too hot for me personally. I like things a little zingy, but I don’t have a high threshold for extreme spice; I usually pick “medium” on the “mild-medium-hot” continuum. So I go with 2 tablespoons, and I consider the results pretty near my maximum hotness tolerance. If you don’t like hot foods, use less.

Postscript, December 2009: I've given up making this. I just couldn't get it as good as the Thai restaurant a block away from our apartment does.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
1 bell pepper (recipe calls for green; I use yellow), cut in wedges
1 stalk lemongrass, white bulb only (it’s OK to omit this if you can’t find lemongrass; don’t let that stop you from making this recipe)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1-3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves (Admittedly, I don’t know what these are or where to find them. I substitute a little grated lime zest—you’ll need the lime anyway—and that seems to work just fine.)
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk; 2 13.5-ounce cans (Again, you may want to use less. No matter what, use the best coconut milk you can find—preferably, water should not be listed as one of the ingredients. Thai Kitchen brand is good, thick and creamy.)
3/4 cup chicken broth (I usually omit for a thicker sauce)
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
juice of one lime
fresh basil leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
cooked rice

1. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet and place it on the stove over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onion and pepper to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes to soften them.

2. While they cook, cut up the lemongrass. I’m never quite sure I’m doing this correctly, but here are the recipe’s instructions: “Split the piece of lemongrass down the middle, whack it with the flat side of a knife to open the flavor, and discard the tough outer layers.” I kind of minced what was left into little pieces. Add the lemongrass, along with the ginger, curry paste, and lime leaves (or zest), to the skillet and stir it for 2 minutes.

3. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken broth. Lay the chicken pieces in the skillet to poach (there should be enough liquid to cover or almost cover them), and add a pinch of salt. Stir everything together and simmer it for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken has cooked. The sauce should thicken.

4. When the chicken is done, add the lime juice, basil, and cilantro to the pan. Serve curry over cooked rice.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

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