A panaeng curry is a very thick and slightly sweet Thai red curry that contains peanuts. I've always wanted to make my own variation of this dish, since it's very difficult to find a good panaeng curry in restaurants and equally hard to find a recipe that provides anything more than satisfactory results. After studying a number of panaeng curry recipes, I concocted this version myself, which turned out to be delightful and absolutely amongst my favourite Thai curries of all time. Making your own curry paste may seem daunting, but given that everything can be combined in a food processor, the only work is in collecting and chopping the ingredients. The end results are a complex array of flavours that definitely justify the effort and are sure to please.
- 4 tbsp panaeng curry paste (see below)
- 2 cups coconut cream
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 lime leaves, shredded
- 1 1/2 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4" cubes
- 1/3 cup unsalted raw peanuts (optional)
- 1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips (optional)
- 4 red birds eye (Thai) chillies, halved and deseeded (optional)
- 20 leaves Thai basil
In a wok over high heat, mix 1 cup of coconut cream and the curry paste and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for five or six minutes, boiling steadily, until thick. Add the fish sauce, lime leaves, and sugar, and stir for one minute or until sugar is entirely dissolved.
Add the second cup of coconut cream, stir, and return to a boil. Mix in the chicken and allow to cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the peanuts, the red pepper, and the chillies if using, and cook for one more minute. Stir in the basil, cook for 30 more seconds, and remove from heat.
Garnish with lime wedges, sprigs of Thai basil, red pepper slivers, or shredded lime leaves. If desired, to add colour and taste, pour four tbsp of fresh coconut milk on top.
Serve immediately with jasmine rice.
Panaeng Curry Paste
- 20 birds eye (Thai) red chillies, halved and deseeded
- 1/3 cut coriander root (or stems, if unavailable), roughly chopped
- 3 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced into thin rounds
- 1/3 cup raw unsalted peanuts
- 1 tbsp galangal (Thai ginger), peeled and chopped
- Peel of 1 kaffir lime (or, alternatively, 3 lime leaves), chopped
- 3/4 tsp coriander seeds
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp white peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
Place the peanuts in a small saucepan and cover with a generous quantity of water. Turn stove to high heat, and when boiling, reduce slightly. Cook at a steady boil for 30 minutes to soften and sweeten.
Place the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorns in a small pan and heat over medium-high heat until darkened, but not burnt. This should take several minutes, during which you should stir gently from time-to-time to ensure even roasting. When finished, grind the concoction using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
Add all ingredients to a food processor in approximately the order above (the idea is to have the smaller or oiler ingredients on top to ensure even blending). Blend on medium speed for around 5-10 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (the mixture should be resemble a thick paste, although chopped ingredients will still be identifiable). Stir occasionally by hand to help the blending process.
Alternatively, if one does not have a food processor, a blender can be used, or if one is ambitious, the procedure can be done by hand using a mortar and pestle.