It's been slim pickins in the L3 household for the last week. You may not have noticed because that's the beauty of blogging (thankfully). But make no mistake, it's been rough times foodwise in our nonline (non-online, get it?) world. We have resorted to breakfast-for-dinner on many days. Lunch has also been a truly dismal affair where yours truly has settled for ramen in a cup. You know things have reached a whole new low when your lunch comes out of a styrofoam cup. Oh, and I tend to get distracted while my ramen is in the microwave so more than once, the entire concoction has overflown in the microwave. So now, on top of everything else, I'm on the cleaning lady's hit list at work.
By the time Sunday rolled around, we were both dying for a real meal. A few years ago, we would have shamelessly invited ourself over to the parents' house and sat around looking pathetic until they fed us but the move to a city with no family has led to the demise of our mooching ways. We are now forced to feed ourselves. This whole independence thing is definitely overrated! So, Sunday. I knew I wanted rice. Rice is my comfort food. During law school, I built many a meal around rice with soy sauce. I know, it sounds weird but there's something oddly comforting about slightly sticky rice, gently coated with a light layer of soy. The full sodium version. Don't wimp out and go for the low sodium stuff. It's not nearly as comforting. Trust me, I know. So, the rice was certain. The rest of the meal was a blank canvas. I started thinking curry but all of the South Asian curries I know how to make (all two of them) contain no vegetables. This is certainly not a problem on most days but today, I felt like I needed some vegetables in my system to sop up the gallons of sodium from my ramen cups during the week.
A plan for Panang curry was hatched. The hubster and I went to Thailand a little while ago and fell in love with Thai curries. Don't be fooled. The best thai curries are sold by roadside vendors, not in swanky air-conditioned restaurants. Most vendors have a couple of kinds of curry amongst many other items. The food goes quickly and is replenished often so you don't have to worry about how long it's been sitting there. If you're lucky, you can even watch a vendor making a giant vat of curry. You can bet he's not measuring ingredients like three tablespoons of fish sauce or one cup of coconut milk. He has made it so many times before, he cooks by feel alone.
Curry paste. Many foodies will swear you need to make your own but even in authentic Thai markets, the vendors will make you a packet of paste once you tell them what kind of curry you're making. Granted, each vendor has a different blend of spices but then again, so do different curry paste brands. Ideally, I'd love to make my own curry paste just like I'd like to milk my own cow, butcher my own meat, and grow all of my own vegetables but that's not feasible. Even the basil plant I was growing on my windowsill died a slow and painful death due to my neglect. So, I use a store bought curry paste. One that's made in Thailand. So there. You can feel free to make your own but note the ingredients listed require kaffir lime peel. I've sometimes seen kaffir lime leaves but never an actual kaffir lime so good luck with the making of your paste.
Vegetables. I don't know if authentic panang curry even has vegetables but given that I'm using a curry paste sold in a jazzy, purple, plastic container, I recognize this curry is authentic'ish at best. All of the recipes I've looked at seem to contain meat only. I saw one that used frozen peas and another that used potatoes but I figure you can use whichever vegetables suit your fancy when making your authentic'ish panang curry. For the record, I used mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and carrots.
I served the pot of goodness alongside a steaming pile of Mahatma's jasmine rice. Yup, Mahatma. The company with the turbanned caricature holding a wand on each bag of rice. I don't know if I should be offended or impressed. Either way, he packages a mean jasmine rice so I'm in. The website tells me it's imported from Thailand. I wonder if "authentic" Thai rice brings the authentic'ish curry up a few notches on the authentcity Richter scale?
The upside was that the curry was truly delicious. Warm, fragrant, and comforting. The downside? The hubster and I finished the pot which only means one thing. It's a good thing we like pancakes because there will be more nights of breakfast-for-dinner in the upcoming week.
3/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2-3 tbs. panang curry paste (I use Mae Ploy but you can use whichever brand suits your fancy)
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
1 tb. fish sauce
1 tb. brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 chicken breasts, cut in strips
2-3 cups mixed vegetables, cut in chunks
Lightly brown onions and garlic in oil. Move to blender, add a bit of water or chicken stock and puree the heck out of the mixture (this helps ensure a smooth curry). Add a bit of coconut cream (the top part of the mixture in the can of coconut milk) and sautee the curry paste. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, and onion/garlic puree. Cook until mixture is fragrant and oil begins separating. Add the remaining coconut milk and stock and cook until the curry reduces by about a quarter (you just want to burn off some of the liquid and concentrate the flavors). While the curry is cooking, feel free to add your veggies at any time (for example, the carrots would go in first because they take longer to cook. The peas and mushrooms closer to the end).
Salt and pepper your chicken. In a separate pan, heat a spot of oil and cook the chicken until almost cooked. Add to the curry and cook the a few more minutes until chicken is cooked thoroughly (I cook my chicken separately because I like the slight browning. You can definitely just add the chicken in with the veggies and cook it with the curry as well). Top with a chiffonade of basil or kaffir lime leaves (I didn't have either so I skipped this step and the curry was still darn tootin' awesome).