The Thai are well known for their delicious curry recipes. In fact, when we go to a Thai restaurant it's almost always for the curry. While many say the best way to judge the quality of a Thai restaurant is the Pad Thai, I would beg to differ. For me it's the curry. But then again, you should probably judge the restaurant by your own favorite dish, whatever that may be. If you don't have one, or are unfamiliar with Thai food, the coconut curry is a good way to start. That's why we proudly bring you our authentic coconut curry recipe.
Coconut curry is a generic term for a curry based in coconut milk. The Thai then have various names for common curries based on the type of curry paste used, as well as the individual ingredients used. Panang curry, for example, is a curry that is made using the cream of the coconut milk - giving it a thicker and more pasty consistency. The ingredients staple and unique to a good Panang curry include chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, various herbs and spices, Kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil, and your choice of meat, fish, or tofu. The other Thai curries, which include Massaman curry, red, green, yellow, and brown curry, all have their own unique ingredients and methods of preparation.
There are several ways of preparing coconut curry. As we saw, the treatment of the coconut milk, which is stable to any Thai curry, place a pivotal role. Panang curry uses only the cream of the coconut milk, while red curry uses it all. Then, the coconut milk can be either fried or boiled. With Panang curry, the coconut milk is fried, which gives it a more concentrated and pasty consistency - as it is classically spread over a bed of rice. This is in stark contrast to the red curry, whose coconut milk is boiled, and used to make a soup. The rice balls for soup-based coconut curries are served separately. So the two main types of Thai coconut curry are the soup curry, and the curry that forms a paste. Make sure you know which one you're ordering, or you may be surprised at what ends up on your plate. I myself am partial to the soup curry.
The main ingredients to a good coconut curry recipe are more or less the same. You may play around with more or less of each ingredient and see how the changes affect the flavor. That's the beauty of Thai curries - the consistency, thickness, spiciness and flavor can all be adjusted. If you order a curry and it's too mild, for example, don't be afraid to ask them to heat it up - it's very easy. All they do is add a little more chili extract.
Typically, in Thai restaurants, a giant vat of each curry is prepared, and then the spiciness is adjusted for each individual bowl. That's why Thai food is not only very affordable (unless you go to the fancy restaurants that spend all their money on design and decor), but can be finely tuned to each patrons' tastes and preferences.
But enough about that. Here's a listing of typical ingredients in a coconut curry:
That pretty much forms your coconut curry base. From here, it will depend on what your curry paste had in it, as to what you'll add to your curry to complete it.
For the adventurous (or those that live on an island surrounded by coconut trees , you can use your own coconut milk. The trick (as you've probably seen on episodes of "Survivor"), is getting the darn coconut open without having it explode all over your kitchen.
How to get the coconut milk - the key is using a hammer and nail to puncture a hole in the top of the coconut. Once you've done that, add a second hole (so a vacuum isn't created), and the coconut milk should flow freely. Once you've extracted all the coconut milk from your coconut, make sure to bust it open and use the flesh of the coconut as well.
How to crack open a coconut - Find the seam of the coconut (it runs between the eyes). Tap around the equator of the coconut using the blunt edge of a knife. As you rotate the coconut around, it should begin to split open, forming two perfect halves. If you're having trouble with the tap, you can use a saw on the coconut equator to get things started. Once you've got it open, you can use it as a garnish on your coconut curry recipe, or simply eat it as a snack. Fresh coconut is one of our favorite Thai treats!
Coconut curry recipes usually suggest specific ingredients for you to add. Instead, you can add pretty much anything that tasted good to you - keeping the following guidelines in mind.
Typically you'll add a protein and vegetable, the rice serving as your starch. Common curry protein options include meat (chicken, beef), fish (shrimp), and tofu. Vegetables used run the gamut from greens such as green beans, broccoli, and peas, to root vegetables including carrots and potatoes. But pretty much any veggie is fair game. Once again - the coconut curry is like a palette for you to experiment with. If you like a particular vegetable a lot, it will probably taste great in your curry. As you become more familiar with the various curry types, you'll learn which vegetables go better with one curry as opposed to another.
Read our individual curry recipes, many are listed right below this article, or you can browse on over to the cuisine section for a listing of all the recipes.
Enjoy! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment below!