Red or Green Thai Curry

It was mentioned in Paleo Talk 14 that I would finally get around to documenting and posting one of my food items. The first one I decided on is curry. Much of the information and ingredients are similar to Sarah’s green curry. We differ in a few of the prep steps and brands used so this will add another angle on how to make a super easy meal. I call this Red or Green because the steps are pretty much the same no matter which paste you have. The Red is spicier and has more chili and shrimp aroma. The Green is crisper and refreshing with strong Kaffir lime flavor.

Thai Red Curry

I like to have my workspace set and items prepped before anything goes in the pan. Having your workspace set and things generally tidy before you begin is a good habit to get in to. This also cuts the risk of cross-contamination – remember folks, safety never takes a holiday!

Thai Curry (Red or Green)

Wok or large cooking device. Hot stove. Sharp knives

~1lb (500g) of meat. Pork, chicken or shrimp. I use pork country style ribmeat. No need to get fancy here.

~1lb (500g) of vegetables. Choose sturdy varieties such as broccoli, peppers, and squashes. When not using fresh I like to grab a bag of “store-brand” frozen stir fry veggies with asparagus. Most stores have this mix. Bamboo shoots optional.

1 can of Mae Ploy Coconut Milk (560mL) or Chaokoh (400mL) Both are great milks with loads of thick creamy good stuff. Mae Ploy has the bigger can. More is better.

.5oz (~14g) Mae Ploy Curry Paste. You can find the 14oz (400g) size for under $4 online or in stores. I get mine from Cash & Carry, a restaurant supply store. I find that Mae Ploy has the best authentic close to homemade flavor. Dried red chile, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, salt, galanga, shrimp paste, kaffir lime peel.

Fish sauce. This junk is FOUL. It smells like a bucket of fish that has been left out to rot in the sun. Oh wait, that’s exactly what it is. If you ever need to ruin someone’s day, spill some of this stuff in their car. In summer. (Squid and Tiparos brands are fine)

Start by preheating your cooking device. I use a cast ion wok. Duh. Any large pan or pot will work though. Crank it to high and get that thing smoking hot.

Slice your vegetables to manageable sizes. If using bell beppers, remove the seeds and white ribs inside as they can impart a bitter flavor. Set in a bowl

Next slice your pork or chicken in tiny thin strips across the grain. This will keep it tender and allow it to cook quickly. Set in dish and place out of the way. Wash everything.

Open the can of coconut milk. DO NOT SHAKE IT! You want it to be as separated as possible. Scoop the thick cream out (should be about the top half of the can) and carefully (stand back-make sure you’re wearing pants) place it in the red hot pan. By now your stove fan should be on and front door open because it’s gonna smoke like crazy. This step is called “cracking the coconut” and it is crucial to getting proper curry. Heat/boil/stir the coconut cream for a good 3 minutes. You want it to reduce and break. You will see a change happen where the coconut oil breaks out as the water is evaporated. At this time add your curry paste and mix well to blend it in. The hot coconut fat will do magic on the curry paste and cause the essential oils in the paste to break out.

Add the meat strips to the bubbling goo along with a few splashes of fish sauce and stir-fry until mostly cooked, about 6 minutes.

Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to transfer the meat out and replace with the vegetables. If you can keep both in the pan, great. With vegetables in pan, add the remainder of the coconut milk can. Simmer another 4 min or until everything is cooked. To get a real authentic flavor, add Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves during the simmer.

Take a step-by-step tour with the slideshow

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  1. Tanya says

    Thanks Dain! This is great because last night I made red curry out of what I had on hand and it came out more like soup than rich thick curry. I will try this method, with “cracking the coconut” next time. Also, great tip on getting the curry paste at cash and carry. Nom, nom nom….

    • Cristie says

      Replying to my own comment here … I made this dish today and it was FANTASTIC! Thanks for the great recipe.

  2. Ted Barbeau says

    Great recipe. Looking forward to trying when I get back from Iowa. Gotta love Global Knives, too. I have the same pair and they make cooking so much more enjoyable.

  3. Jeni says

    I just made a green curry the other night where the curry sauce was chunky-ish and weird. I thought that maybe I had let it boil too long. However, made your recipe for dinner tonight and the “breaking the coconut” technique produced the most amazing and creamy sauce EVER! Thanks so much for this recipe, your blog and the kickass podcast!!

  4. Ashley Rudolph says

    Dain! thank you so much for finally posting a recipe….. Your pix always make everything look so amazing. I can’t wait for you to post more

  5. Nick says

    So you scoop out the top layer of coconut milk and use that only? or just the liquid? or all of it? Sorry first time cooking with coconut milk and I wanna get this right:)

    • says

      I start with the thick cream first. Scoop that out and use that for the initial heating and stir frying of meat. Add the reserved thinner watery second half of the can when you add the veggies. If you’re lucky and have a whole can of thick cream (each can varies) do the same and use the can in two parts and add a little water at the end to adjust consistency.

  6. Angela says

    Thank you for breaking this down for me. I have been trying for YEARS to get curry to taste the way I want it to, and never knew about “breaking the coconut”. Bless you for this.

  7. Dave says

    I lack cooking skills. So can the pan be too hot? I tried this coconut cracking, smoked up the whole house, got down to the oil, put in the curry paste and it looked scorched. I think this was beyond me. 😀 I got out another pan, threw in some coconut oil and went from there, ended up kinda bland, but I didn’t have fish sauce either though.

  8. Michael says

    Yum! Dain, do you do anything differently when you use the frozen veggies, like thaw them first?

    • says

      I have done both. If using frozen, toss in and allow extra time for them to cook. However, my last two times making similar dishes, I have par-cooked the frozen veggies in the microwave for about 5 min – just to get the ice off and heat them up before tossing them in. Then only letting them simmer in the food for about 3 min. I find this allows more of the Thai flavor to shine through since you’re not defrosting the ice and veggie water into the dish.

  9. Bridget says

    Perfect! I used 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, which I marinated in 1 TB fish sauce, (rather than adding the sauce toward the end). I used 1/2 onion sliced into half moons, julienned orange and red peppers, and about 1 cup of thawed stir-fry veggies. I used 1 TB Mae Ploy red curry paste. The recipe on the tub calls for 50 grams, (over 3 TB) which would have blown the top of my head clean off. 1 TB is about what you’d get if you ordered 2 stars out of 5 at a Thai restaurant. Thanks for the tip of separating the coconut milk and cream. Most recipes have you bloom the curry in oil, then add the un-separated coconut milk. This is a much better way to go!

  10. peter says

    I can’t believe I’ve been making Thai Curry wrong for so many years! I was completely blown away by this approach. Can’t wait to experiment with some different pastes/meats/veggies :)

  11. Elli Voorhees says

    I just made this dish and it turned out fabulous! My boyfriend (who is usually a picky eater) said it smelled so good he had to try it and enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing your recipe. It was easy to follow for an amateur curry chef like myself!

  12. Mary Beth says

    I cooked this tonight and this is by far the best curry dish I have ever tasted! I really, really do not like to cook, but this dish may change my mind. Thank you!

  13. Jill says

    Made this and it was a winner all around! I loved, husband and kids did too. The leftovers were a hit the next day!

  14. says

    The way it is here, it would be good for 2 to get super full. It could be extended to a family of four with the addition of a salad or roasted veggies.

  15. Mark says

    I’ve made this recipe twice now. Awesome!!! Just need to find a way to get it hotter. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It really makes me look good :)

  16. Kate says

    Planning to make this for dinner tonight.
    Would it be ok to use light coconut milk or will there not be enough cream at the top of the can?
    Also how can I add a bit of heat (4 stars)? Sirracha?
    Would butternut squash work in this dish? How much extra cooking time?


  17. Angela says

    I made this last night and it was delicious! I was shocked when my 3 year old grandson asked for some, and then more! He loved it too. I used Green Curry Paste…will make over and over. Thank you for the recipe.

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