Red Curry with Chicken and Thai Eggplant

This is not a good sign. It’s the first week of my blog and I’m posting about dinner instead of lunch. I went to the Asian market today and found some beautiful Thai eggplants. For those of you unfamiliar with this kind of eggplant, they’re white with green striations and about the same size as tomatillos or golf balls. On the inside, they’re seeded like regular eggplant. Discovering these was just the excuse I needed for making Thai curry. I know it’s too spicy for the kids to eat, but there are certain nights when it’s worthwhile to make separate meals, one for me and K, and another for the children. And since I love curry, it was a no-brainer. Nothing beats the smell of simmering curry.

Really, cooking curry is unbelievably simple and quick, as long as you’re not making your own paste. Even then, it’s pretty straightforward. I originally planned to cook green curry, but when I got home I discovered that I didn’t have any green curry paste. All I had was red curry paste, so red curry it was.

There are a couple secrets to making a good Thai curry. First, you want to to simmer the coconut cream until the cream separates and a layer of oil forms on the surface. You get coconut cream from a can of coconut milk, but it’s only available in full-fat coconut milk. Do not shake the can and the coconut cream should rise to the top. Simply scoop the cream off the top. Second, you need the right ingredients: kaffir lime leaves and fresh Thai basil leaves. That’s basically it. Tonight, I made a red curry with chicken, bamboo shoots and Thai eggplant, but this adapted recipe (from the Food of Thailand) can be used for green curry. And you can make it vegetarian or with seafood, like fish and shrimp.

Red Curry with Chicken and Thai Eggplant

Serves 4

1/4 cup coconut cream

2  – 3 TB red curry paste (or green)

12 oz. chicken thigh or breast, sliced

2 1/2 TB fish sauce

1 3/4 cups coconut milk (I swear by Chaokoh coconut milk)

1 TB palm sugar (or brown sugar)

8 0z. can bamboo shoots

12 oz. Thai eggplants

7 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half

a handful of Thai sweet basil leaves, for garnish

1 long red chili, seeded and finely sliced for garnish

Put the coconut cream in a wok or saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the cream separates and a layer of oil forms on the surface. Stir the cream if it starts to brown around the edges. Add the curry paste, stir well to combine and cook until fragrant.

Add the chicken and stir for a few minutes. Add all of the coconut milk, the fish sauce, palm sugar and simmer over medium heat for another 5 minutes.

Add the eggplants, bamboo shoots and lime leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the eggplants are cooked. Taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the basil leaves and chili.

That’s it! Serve with a bowl of steaming rice. Curry is the ultimate in comfort food.

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