Introduction: Thai Curry Chicken

Picture of Thai Curry Chicken

The lazy cook's approach to surprisingly good Thai curry with chicken. Shortcuts abound.

Step 1: Assemble Initial Ingredients

Picture of Assemble Initial Ingredients

While I love my copy of Thai Food I rarely have the time or ingredients on hand to really make the dishes properly. So, I look at the pretty food porn then try to make something similar that fits my time frame and the ingredients in my fridge.

Ingredients
2 onions, coarsely chopped
few dried chiles, whole
sweet red pepper, chopped (Bell pepper or similar. These were gypsy peppers from the farmers' market.)
1.5 lbs Japanese eggplant*, chopped
few fresh chiles, chopped (how spicy do you like your curries?)
ginger, coarsely chopped
leeks, chopped (I had leftovers in the fridge; they're hardly traditional)

Add the onions and dried chiles to the pot with some canola oil, and stir while you chop the rest of the veggies.

*Use anything but the big Italian type. Asian eggplants are smaller, sweeter, and cook better in stir-fries.

Step 2: Add Vegetables

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When the onions have browned, add the leeks and hot peppers.

When they've softened, add the eggplant, a bit more canola oil, and the ginger. Stir as needed to prevent sticking.

Step 3: Chicken

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Chop chicken (or turkey) into small chunks, then add to the pot after the eggplant has softened. Boneless bird meat of any type should work nicely.

Step 4: Season

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Seasonings:
~1c coconut cream (coconut milk will do)
~1T curry powder to taste/color
2-3 limes, zested* and juiced
5+ cloves grated garlic* (I like LOTS of garlic; your mileage may vary)
grated ginger* (yes, we did add ginger earlier- this is extra)
handful cilantro, chopped
handful raisins (sweet)
~1T brown sugar (in lieu of palm sugar)
fresh ground pepper
salt

optional but very good:
~1t fish sauce (to taste)
splash sesame oil
~1/2t tamarind paste (for additional sourness)
fresh tumeric, grated* (for yellow and a bit of flavor depth)

*use a microplane zester

Add seasonings and stir as the chicken cooks. This should go quickly if you've chopped it into small enough chunks. When the chicken is done, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You should clearly taste hot, sour, sweet, and salty within the curry. Punching up the flavor with a bit more of the fresh ingredients at the very end can be extra-good.

Step 5: Serve

Picture of Serve

Garnish with cilantro and roasted, chopped nuts. I've used cashews here, but peanuts or almonds will also work well.

Like all curries, this stores and reheats well, and improves as the flavors mingle.

I was actually surprised by how good this was; it was an intentional hack job, given that I skipped many of the proper ingredients and preparation steps. We were out of galangal and lemongrass, I didn't feel like picking kaffir lime leaves in the rain, these weren't the proper type of peppers, and leeks in curry? Whatever. Curries are quite forgiving, and so long as you have a good idea of what a good one tastes like you can modify the flavors at the end to make something quite convincing.

Next time I'd cut both the turkey and the eggplant into smaller pieces, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Comments

susanchen2011 (author)2012-08-10

wow. it looks very delicious.

natangel320 (author)2012-05-19

Much heard about a Thai hen, but never tried. Thanks for the recipe. Today we attempt chickens.

HolyTracker (author)2010-01-16

canida, where are you from? You seem to know quite well the Asian and Centro-American ingredients. Or is that just the result of traveling with a bag full of love to food? Im intrigued

bears0 (author)2009-10-30

 there is a restaurant in tampa called royal palace it has the BEST food you have ever eaten.

westfw (author)2006-11-03

Presumably in step 4 where you say "coconut cream", you do NOY mean the Coco Lopez stuff used to make pina coladas! The health concious can try this without the coconut; I've made curries both ways, and there's surprisingly little difference. BTW, can you define the difference between a Thai Curry and an Indian Curry?

hishealer (author)westfw2009-10-14

What's unhealthy in coconut?

westfw (author)hishealer2009-10-20

Coconut milk has a particularly high fat content (~17%), and it's a particularly highly saturated far as well.  Though there is some debate as to whether coconut fat is as "harmful" as other saturated fats.


hishealer (author)westfw2009-10-21

Not only less harmful, but also beneficial in moderation.  It breaks down less when heated, and the medium chain fatty acids are stored as fat far less.  Check out http://www.coconutoil.com/  (which is not trying to sell anything!)

canida (author)westfw2006-11-03

Ew, no- I mean the higher-fat version of coconut milk. The fat really does nice things with the spices, though- without it they don't mingle as well, and the flavors are harsher. I'd choose to use a smaller quantity of low-fat coconut milk rather than eliminate the coconut all together.

South Indian curries are about halfway between Thai curries and Northern Indian curries as far as flavors/ingredients go. Food in this part of the world can really be charted geographically; ie Afghan food tastes halfway between Indian and Persian. Thus, there's a geographically-based sliding scale; this makes it tricky, especially when you realize there are lots of S. Indian immigrants living in/near Thailand, particularly on the west coast of Malaysia. (The Indian food in Malaysia is fantastic, BTW.)

The big differences: Thai uses sharper, fresher flavors such as fish sauce, lime (leaves, zest, juice), lemongrass, galangal, and the like. They usually start curries with a fresh wet paste, not powdered spices. Fat comes from coconut milk instead of yogurt or cream. There are fewer beans, more seafood, less bread, and more rice. The real difference is in style of cooking- good Indian curries simmer for a long time to let the flavors mingle, while good Thai curries are minimally cooked, and the flavors are supposed to run into each other in interesting ways.
For a proper discussion of this sort of thing check out the frighteningly large tome that is Thai Food. It will tell you more than you ever wanted to know.

Anba (author)canida2008-12-10

I am very jelous. Curry dishes seem to be a form of art, their is a lot of pride that go into these dishes. One of these day I hope to speak with as much knowledge as you do. It's time to start with trial and error. There is a manga called Addicted to Curry that got me interest. I would love to be excited about the food that cook.

westfw (author)Anba2008-12-10

There is a relatively recent trend (not THAT recent) to publish cookbooks that include lots of history and cultural comments as well as actual recipes. I definitely prefer them to the "mix these and cook" style of book.

westfw (author)canida2006-11-04

Don't "Ew" too hard. A preliminary experiment with standard short-grain rice and Coco Lopez style coconut cream looks like it yields a not-too-bad substitute for sweetened sticky rice (for sticky rice w/Mangos) with a lot less trouble.

hishealer (author)2009-10-14

I'm glad I'm not the only one that cooks like this.  I learned toimprovise early on when I was broke and had to make leftoversexciting.  I have made some of the best meals this way and gottenmuch praise from my husband, especially when we didn't waste nearly asmuch food as it could have been!  \o/   \o/ \o/  (three cheers!) and five stars!

unbentcrayfish (author)2008-12-17

looks good...

Crash2108 (author)2006-11-04

It sounds good but doesn't look good.

canida (author)Crash21082006-11-04

My photobooth needs more lights. Creating food porn is harder than it looks, especially when most of your food can be described as "slops".

fungus amungus (author)canida2006-11-04

Much better than the scary "brain goo" photos from before. A light aimed form teh side would give some of those glisteny highlights. Also, you can change the temperature of the color in Photoshop or Picasa. This image can be cleaned p a bit.

Here's an example. This is just a couple minutes of tweaking the color, contrast, and saturation.

canida (author)fungus amungus2006-11-06

That does look much better! I should poke around with Photoshop more. There's a long-standing conflict between my innate perfectionism and my innate laziness. We'll see how this shakes out; in the meantime I'll probably just let Eric continue to play with his photobooth. Last night he brought up the blinding halogen task lights- hopefully those pictures will be improved.

Ken_USA (author)canida2008-02-27

When you shoot with the white background, try +2 stops on your exposure. Then when you go photoshop, you can increase saturation if neccessary. Alternatively, just go to levels, click the white eyedropper and then click on a white part of the background, that'll boost the exposure, then you can play with the color and saturation. :) Cheers & thanks for the cooking post!

canida (author)Ken_USA2008-02-27

Awesome. Thanks for the advice!

fungus amungus (author)canida2006-11-06

Remember that it's also about the temperature of the lights. if you want to do basic fixes, try out Picasa. It's been super handy for managing my photos and it's faster for my basic needs than Photoshop.

Crash2108 (author)canida2007-11-22

Actually, that should be 'shlop'. Like 'gloopy'.

Crash2108 (author)canida2006-11-04

Add a super bright white LED pointing straight down.

bumsugger (author)2007-10-11

Looks good enough to, E-A-T !!

Tobita (author)2007-09-29

i don't like eggplant, except in that Iranian thing that's eaten with bread, and because i have a lot of condiments in my mom's cupboard that are kept for a long time( i found a packet of soy sauce from 1983 the other day) my coconut milk is a "just add water" powder so i have more powder than water until it is the desired thickness and beat it until it is kind of fluffy.

lemonie (author)2007-01-21

I'd strongly advise using fish sauce, and lemon-grass would be good if you can get hold of it. For information: Thai cashews are picked out of their shells by low-paid women with plastic bags wrapped around their fingers. You could call it a 'sweat-shop', but then the climate is 'sweaty'...

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Bio: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!
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