Chicken Thai Panang Curry
Thai Panang chicken curry is so full of flavour but without toasting your tastebuds with any chilli heat. Although I live for spicy food (all day every day!), sometimes I need to take a break and appreciate the sweeter, milder side of Thai cuisine. This recipe is very simple, really going back to basics with this one. Chicken in Thai curry sauce, what’s not to love?
One of the most intensely rich and fragrant curries that Thailand has to offer is Panang and for me, it's all about the sauce. Traditionally the sauce is thicker than other Thai curries and is reduced longer so that the sauce becomes ‘muddy’ and clings to the meat. When a sauce becomes muddy, you will see a separation of oil and sauce and this is good, it’s all about trusting the cooking process!
When you are out eating at Thai restaurants or markets, a good sign of an authentic Thai curry is the separation of oil and sauce. A layer of oil should float to the top and give the curry some texture on the surface. The oils should be a similar colour to the curry paste used - so for panang, the oils should be a reddish colour and green, should be a slightly darker green. This is the most important step when cooking a Thai curry, although it may look wrong when you see it separate but this is the correct way of cooking, and this method should be used for other curries.
It's all flavour at the end of the day, so don’t be put off by the oil - you would have eaten it anyway had it not separated! So how do you get the oil to separate from the sauce? The process is rather simple and you don’t actually need to do very much. For this method, you do not need to start with any oil. Instead, find a good quality coconut milk (I recommend Aroy-D) and scoop out the thick coconut cream layer and add to a wok. Heat to a medium to high temperature and stir fry the curry paste, as you would normally. Once blended, keep on a med/high temperature and simmer for at least 5 minutes, this would be enough time to allow the separation. Don’t be tempted to stir, just watch the colour rise to the surface. You can season before or after this step.
How to Cook Thai Chicken Panang Curry
What I mentioned before is already half the story but let’s start from the beginning! I am cooking with chicken breast today as it is a leaner cut but going for fatter cuts such as chicken thighs will also taste amazing in Thai Panang curry. Preparing the chicken breast by slicing diagonally into thin slices. Next, is the step I mention above, heat the thick layer of coconut milk in a wok on medium to high heat. Stir fry Thai panang curry paste into the coconut milk and simmer for at least 5 minutes.
Once you see the oils rise to the surface after 5 minutes or so, season the sauce with a tablespoon of fish sauce and palm sugar. Blend well together before adding in the sliced chicken, stir the chicken in the sauce so that all the chicken has been fully coated. Next, add in the remaining contents of the coconut milk and the curry to simmer for 7-10 minutes to let the chicken fully cook. Then serve up with freshly steamed Thai jasmine rice and garnish with thinly chopped kaffir lime leaves. And that is it - Thai chicken panang curry, enjoy!
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