Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

My second favorite cuisine in the whole world would be Thai. Thai cuisine works on the principle that food has to appeal to all the senses...Texture, taste, aroma and presentation are incorporated into every dish. And I have to yet find a Thai dish that I didn't like! And when I talk of dishes I like, it has to be authentic Thai, not the ones churned out by the myriad Thai Bistros all over Seattle. Its surprising how very few good restaurants are there which serve real authentic Thai food.
And coming back to my topic, I was always curious about trying to make Thai Red curry at home. It all started when we went out to Atlanta for our anniversary dinner. My hubby surprised me by taking me to a Thai Restaurant there, and I fell in love with it.Coming home, I wanted to make those dinners at home, which couldnt be that expensive. But getting the ingredients? That was another story altogether. I started by getting a good Thai brand of curry paste which came as good or close to the dish we sampled. And then going through the ingredient list, comparing it with an authentic Thai recipe and trying to get the ingredients....which is the tricky part. Most authentic ingredients are not available readily. It took me some time to get some real Galangal (Thai ginger) but it was dried, not fresh. I soak it over night to solve this problem, but getting hold of Kaffir Lime Leaves were another wild goose chase. So I found the next best thing: Lemon Zest. Meyer lemon Zest is the closest match.And when you find lemon grass, get hold of it by the handful because it  is one key ingredient which can be frozen, for up to a year.
And last but not the least is Fish Sauce. The best Fish sauce is made from Squids and is pretty clear. Most are made in Thailand. The darker or less clearer it gets, the smellier and less flavorful. And good quality sauce does make a good curry.
Using a ready-made curry paste is the easiest way still, but if you cant get hold of it, here's my version.

1 lb of cleaned de-veined shrimp
1.5 inch stem of lemon grass (split)
Thai green chillies ( 3 or 4; split into halves, but remove seeds if you prefer to have mild curry)
Zest from 1 whole lemon
1 can of thick coconut milk
1 tbsp of cane sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 or 4 basil leaves, to garnish
salt as needed
Curry paste ingredients:
An one inch piece of lemon grass
An 1 inch piece of galangal (if you use dry galangal like me, soak it overnight)
Roast dry red chillies (10-12; seeded and soaked)

Grind all the curry paste ingredients as fine as you can. Add a little water, stir and keep it aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of canola or any other flavor free oil and gently saute the ground curry paste for a minute. Add the lemon grass and thai green chillies to it. Cook for a minute.
Now add 1/2 of the coconut milk and stir well, making sure you have the ground paste mixed well without any lumps.
When the curry begins to simmer, add the shrimp and a little salt and gently cook until they turn pink and curl up. Check seasonings. Add salt if needed.
Add the fish sauce, and stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Now stir in the remaining coconut milk and remove from fire.
Sprinkle with sugar,  lemon zest and basil leaves and cover tightly with lid. Let stand for 10 minutes. Enjoy on top of steamed Jasmine Rice.

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