Thai cuisine offers an explosion of flavors that’s simply irresistible. The balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour that makes the dishes so distinctive also makes them personal. The spirit of Thai cooking is one that invites every cook to make adjustments to suit individual taste. If my Thai is not exactly your Thai, you might kick up the chiles or go easy on the lime, tweaking the flavors so they harmonize perfectly in the only mouth that really matters—your own.
Cooking Thai food at home can involve ingredients you may not have in your pantry, such as fish sauce and curry paste. But once you get them, they will last through many, many meals. And you can find them at the average supermarket.
One ingredient you won’t easily be able to do without is fish sauce (nam pla). Look for a high-quality brand, such as Squid or Tiparos, and don’t be put off by the aroma—fish sauce is a magical, transforming ingredient, and one of the secrets to great Thai cooking.
Chicken Curry with Basil
We used Panang curry paste by Taste of Thai, which you can find in the ethnic section of the supermarket. You can substitute jarred red or green curry paste. Serve over jasmine rice so you won’t miss a drop.
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons Panang curry paste (1.75-ounce package)
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, fish sauce
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 red onion, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch wedges
1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups cooked jasmine or basmati rice
1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, peanut butter and lime juice; whisk well.
2. Add red pepper and onion; stir to coat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
3. Add chicken, cover, and simmer until thoroughly warm, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil; simmer 2 minutes. Serve over rice.
Per serving: 350 calories, 15g fat, 50mg chol., 21g prot., 34g carbs., 3g fiber, 570mg sodium
Recipe by Laraine Perri