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~Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes~

IMG_9305If you are a lover of Thai food, you've been enjoying this week on Kitchen Encounters.  I've been sharing what I know about, and my recipes for, three Thai curries.  This means that Joe and I have been eating fare from one of our all-time favorite cuisines, and, if you've never tried Thai food, more specifically Thai curry, hopefully I've inspired you to do so very soon!

It's T.G.I. Thai night here on Kitchen Encounters!!!

IMG_8760Last Friday I posted ~ Demystifying Thai Curries:  Green, Red & Yellow! ~. The starting point for every Thai curry is Thai curry paste, and, in Thai cuisine there are three, which are identified by color:  green, red and yellow.  Each one is a pulverized blend of fresh ingredients and herbs, which balances the classic Thai flavors:  hot, sour, sweet and salty.  This post, which can be found in Categories 8, 15 & 16, or by clicking on the Related Article link below, explains in detail how the three differ.  Once you understand that, you can mix and match proteins, fruit and/or vegetables with a curry paste to suit you and your family's taste like I do!

IMG_8954Curry pastes are traditionally made from scratch in the Thai home kitchen using a mortar and pestle to pulverize the ingredients, which extracts the essential oils and fully develops the flavors.  Let me suffice it to say, a food processor or a blender is not a viable substitute for this ancient tool.  I do have my own recipes for making Thai curry pastes the traditional way, and, I promise to post them in the future!

IMG_9146Nowadays, busy cooks (Thai cooks included) purchase curry paste at their Asian market. That being said, savvy modern cooks and Thai cooks add a few things to store-bought curry to brighten up and personalize the flavor, which is what I'm doing today!

IMG_8913Thai curries are quite easy to make and are a staple in Thailand.  They range in consistency from soupy to slightly stewlike and are ladled over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles.  In many homes they are eaten on a daily basis and made from ingredients growing around the house.  They typically contain less protein than we Westerners (including me) often add, and, they are an economical, healthy part of the Thai diet!

IMG_9114On Sunday I posted my recipe for ~ Thai Yellow Curry w/Shrimp, Scallops & Pineapple ~ (pictured just above).  On Tuesday, I made ~ Thai Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions ~ (pictured here).  Today, I'm making my ~ Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes ~ (pictured just below).

All of the recipes can be found in Categories 3 & 13, or by clicking on the related article links below!

IMG_9299Today's red chicken curry recipe, a bit more stewlike in consistency, is one that I was taught to make back in 1993 by a Home Economist from Thailand who was living in State College with her husband Fu.  In the three years that Kanya lived here in the USA, she and I became foodie friends, and, I had the priviledge of learning how to combine Thai ingredients in order to balance the classic four Thai flavors -- Hot, Sour, Sweet & Salty -- in authentic  Thai-style!

Try some Thai:  Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes!

IMG_91682  tablespoons sesame oil

6  tablespoons Thai red curry paste (1, 4-ounce can)

1  cup very-thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

2  tablespoons minced, fresh garlic

2  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

2  13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk, well shaken (Note:  Shake can to mix the coconut milk.)

6  tablespoons crunchy-style peanut butter

1  tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Squid brand

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1  tablespoon palm sugar (light brown sugar may be substituted)

4  kaffir lime leaves

2  cups 1 1/2" lengths tender, fresh, thin, asparagus spears, no woody stalks

2  cups grape tomatoes

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well drained

8 cups steamed jasmine rice (4 cups uncooked rice) (1 1/4 cups steamed rice per person)

1 1/2  cups whole, unsalted, stir-fried peanuts, coarsely chopped for garnish

2  tablespoons additional sesame oil, for stir-frying peanuts

6  tablespoons chiffonade of fresh Thai basil, for garnish

IMG_9182~ Step 1.  Prep the chicken:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, trimmed of any visible white tendons, very thinly sliced across the grain into 1/2"-3/4" chunks

Note:  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves may be substituted with no compromise in taste, but, they will not produce the same fork-tender extra-soft texture that chicken tenderloins do.  If using boneless breasts, slice them at a 30 degree angle into 1/4" slices.

IMG_9158 IMG_9151~ Step 2.  In a stir-fry-type pan, place 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and peanuts.  Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until the peanuts are golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside until cool enough to handle, then coarsely chop them.

IMG_8778 IMG_8180~ Step 3.  In electric rice steamer, steam rice according to directions. When rice is finished rake through the rice, to separate the grains, and allow to remain in "keep warm" setting until serving time.

IMG_8815 IMG_8808~ Step 4.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, stir sesame oil and curry paste together over low heat.  When the paste begins to bubble and become fragrant, add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the vegetables begin to soften, about 1 minute.

IMG_9191 IMG_8827~ Step 5. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and lime leaves.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to simmer the curry, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes.  It will reduce slightly.

IMG_9213Note:  Technically, it is time to add the chicken, then the vegetables, but, at this point I like to turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the curry steep for 1-2 hours or longer. This really develops the flavor of the curry, and what's not to like about that?  You can prepare this entire meal, just short of the last 15-18 minutes of cooking several hours in advance of serving.  Remove and discard the kaffir lime leaves. Return the curry to a gentle, steady simmer and proceed with the recipe as  directed below:

IMG_9248 IMG_9217                                       ~ Step 6. Add the chicken and stir to thoroughly combine.

IMG_9242Allow to simmer gently, but steadily, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes or longer.  Be sure it's cooked through!

IMG_9259 IMG_9255~ Step 7. Add the asparagus, grape tomatoes and straw mushrooms.  Once the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook until the asparagus is just tender and the tomatoes are just short of bursting open, about 2-3 minutes.  Note:  The cooking of these two vegetables is important. Watch them carefully!

To serve, portion a generous cup of rice into each of 6 warmed serving plates or bowls and generously ladle the chicken curry over the top.  Garnish with basil chiffonade and peanuts:

IMG_9323Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  stir-fry-type pan; large slotted spoon; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; electric rice steamer; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

PICT0004 PICT0042Cook's Note: To learn how to make another one of my curry recipes, which I posted back in 2010 (and a big favorite of many or our Thai-eating friends, go to Categories 3 or 13 to find ~ Thai Red Pork Curry w/Steamed Jasmine Rice ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)  


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