Chicken Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Bamboo Shoots

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Recipe courtesy Wiley and PK Frank, Little Uncle

When using fresh curry paste, it is important to fry the paste first, before adding your desired liquids, flavorings, and garnishes. This releases flavor and improves the color of the final curry. This recipe is fairly standard, but the sky is the limit for what you want to put in it—try different meats, vegetables, or even some fresh turmeric and dry roasted spices to give it a Southern Thai flavor. Canned coconut milk creates a thicker curry and requires more stock to thin to a desired consistency. Making your own fresh coconut milk yields a lighter, more vibrant curry with a reddish sheen on top, a desirable characteristic.

serves: 2 | start to finish: 30 minutes

1/4 cup your choice of vegetable oil, chicken or pork fat
1 to 3 tablespoons Peeks Pantry red curry paste, depending on desired spiciness
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk, or 3 cups fresh coconut milk
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 ounce palm sugar (about 4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup quartered Thai eggplant (round, green eggplant available at Asian markets)
1 cup chicken meat cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup stemmed Thai basil
Fish sauce to taste
Steamed rice for serving

In a 3-4 quart saucepan, melt the oil/fat over medium heat. Add the curry paste and fry until the paste becomes fragrant (about 1 minute, or until the air in the kitchen becomes hard to breathe and you cough uncontrollably). Add 1/2 cup of the thickest part of the coconut milk and continue to fry the paste until the fatty coconut milk breaks and the oil separates, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remainder of the coconut milk, stock, palm sugar, salt, and bamboo shoots. Bring the curry to a simmer and lower heat. Add eggplant and chicken and simmer until both are cooked through. Add the basil and stir. Taste the curry. There should be a balance of spicy heat, saltiness, and sweetness. If the curry needs heat, fry up more curry paste with oil in a separate pan, deglaze with stock, and add to the main pot. Add sugar for greater sweetness, fish sauce for saltiness. If the curry seems too viscous, add more stock.



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