Rich, thick, and creamy…just as a good curry should be! And to make something good even better, this recipe is loaded with chicken and lots of vegetables to make for a complete meal in one bowl! So grab a spoon and dig in!!
I love a good curry! But not just any curry; I like my curry thick, creamy, and full of meat and vegetables. So I made a lot of adjustments to this recipe until it was just the way I liked it. And I think you will too!
Let’s talk about the ingredients…
Panang curry paste: You certainly can make this from scratch. *Confession* – I have not even attempted to. I love the Panang curry paste that I use so much that I have not even thought about trying something else…Maybe someday I’ll try to make it from scratch, but for now, I use canned Panang curry paste.
Panang curry is usually less spicy than traditional red curry because it uses fewer red chilies, but there’s still a distinct kick of spiciness to it. Panang curry pastes vary somewhat from brand to brand. Still, they typically include dried chili peppers, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, kaffir lime leaves, coriander root, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.
Coconut milk: I’ve tried many different coconut milk brands; I’ve used organic and lite or low-fat coconut milk. I have sat on the grocery store floor and compared ingredients labels until my head hurt (seriously, I have). I have learned that there is a big difference between the various cans of coconut milk. So it’s worth choosing carefully. My first goal in choosing canned coconut milk is to avoid all the unnecessary added ingredients. The only canned coconut milk I will buy has three ingredients; coconut, purified water, and guar gum. Guar gum is a thickener and a food binder and is a common food additive. Some brands add color retainers, stabilizers, additional thickeners, and preservatives. To avoid all the other added ingredients, you may have to buy organic.
When buying canned coconut milk, the other choice you have to make is deciding between regular and lite (sometimes called low fat). I have tried using lite or low-fat coconut milk in my curries, and I have never liked the results. The curry is less flavorful and watery, not at all thick and creamy. I have also discovered that the lite coconut milk always has more additives to make up for the less fat, essentially creating a “false” creaminess using artificial ingredients…yuk! So if you want a full-flavored, creamy curry, you must buy regular coconut milk! You won’t regret it!
Fish sauce: For those not familiar with fish sauce, it is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that has been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years. It is used as a staple seasoning in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine. It has a strong, pungent smell that can be off-putting, but fish sauce is essential in creating authentic Asian flavored dishes. When used correctly, it enhances and complements the dish’s flavors and does not overpower or stand out. Sugar is often used, as it is in this recipe, to balance the strong salty taste of the fish sauce.
Bamboo: I discovered edible bamboo only a few years ago and thought it would go great in curry. Bamboo shoots have a texture similar to water chestnuts with a mild flavor. And not only are they delicious, but they are also good for you as well as a healthy source of fiber.
Thai Basil: Thai basil has purple stems, and its leaves are narrower and perkier than its Italian cousin. Bury your nose in a bunch of Thai basil, and you’ll smell anise, not pesto. Flavor-wise, it’s spicier and bolder, too. If you can’t get your hands on Thai basil, you can use Italian, but it will give you a slightly different taste. We usually have a bush of Thai basil growing in our garden, so it’s easy to go to our garden and pick a handful.
You certainly are not limited to the ingredients listed here. You can get creative with this curry and make it your own. There are so many things you could add to this curry. I have used long beans, green beans (only fresh, not canned), potatoes, carrots, and zucchini. You could even change the meat and use pork, beef, or fish.
- 5 tablespoons Panang curry paste
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 cans coconut milk, full fat
- 2 pounds chicken, cut into 2-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 or 2 large red peppers, cut into strips
- 1 or 2 large green peppers, cut into strips
- 1 small can of bamboo, (optional)
- 10-15 Thai basil leaves, torn
For Thickening (see notes):
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons cold water
- In a wok or deep skillet, fry the curry paste in the oil over medium-high heat until sizzling and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir the coconut milk into the curry paste and bring to a boil.
- Add the chicken and cook in the coconut milk for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in the sugar, fish sauce, onions, peppers, and bamboo. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- **If you want your curry thicker, at this point, you can combine the cornstarch and water and mix well until the cornstarch is completely incorporated into the water. Then stir it into the curry quickly and continue stirring as it thickens (see notes).
- Add the Thai basil leaves and serve over rice.