This recipe, adapted from the NY Times, shows how to make panang curry, one of my favorites, by modifying the commonly available red curry paste. A key ingredient to this is using full-fat coconut milk, and not shaking the can so that all the coconut fat is on the top of the can and can be used to fry the curry paste. I have a kaffir lime tree, so I used its leaves. A substitute would be some lime zest. This will make 4 servings and will be done in less than an hour. Although this is made with chicken, it can be made with other proteins such as beef or shrimp.
½ tsp. coriander seeds
½ tsp. cumin seeds
¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
4 Tbs. red curry paste
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp. fish sauce
6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced with the rib removed
1-1/2 tsp. palm or brown sugar
½ jalapeno, chopped
In a small skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Do not let them burn. Put the toasted seeds in a mortar and grind them into a powder. Add the peanuts and grind them into a powder. Put the ground spices and peanuts in a small bowl with the red curry paste and mix well.
Put the chicken in a bowl or tray and sprinkle with the fish sauce. Mix well.
Heat a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of coconut fat from the top of the can of coconut milk. Cook until it is bubbling. Add the spiced curry mix and stir fry, stirring frequently and mixing, until fragrant and the formation of a thick sauce. (If it gets too dry, add a little of the coconut milk from the can.)
Add the kaffir lime leaves and the sugar. Mix well and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce back to medium. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon and there is a layer of red oil on top, about 4-8 minutes.
Add the chicken and jalapeno and stir it into the sauce. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Check the seasoning of the sauce for a good balance of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. Adjust as needed with more sugar, fish sauce, and chopped jalapeno. Serve over steamed rice.