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panang curry final

A couple of months ago I hardly knew what curry was, now I’m blogging about how to make it. Ain’t life funny? A recent writing assignment took me to far-flung corners of my city that I hardly knew existed. I was introduced to the complex, spicy, creamy flavors of Thai food and I fell in love…head over heels.

Now I realize my recent obsession is way behind the rest of the world. I tried Thai cuisine nearly 10 years ago but wrote it off because of a disdain for coconut milk. Thankfully, tastes change. After almost a year without dairy, anything I can eat that’s described as “creamy” simply knocks my socks off.

The dish that really made my skirt fly up was a saucy little number called Panang Curry. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. So a little googling turned up a recipe, and, after a lot of experimenting I had something similar to what I ate in the restaurant. Now I must share it with you because even though it sounds terribly exotic and intimidating, it’s actually very simple to make.

And like any recipe in my kitchen, it’s flexible. You’ll see what I mean in a bit… Let’s just say after a virus hit our house like the bubonic plague I wasn’t feeling top-notch when I made this dish.

You start by sauteeing chicken in the pan. Shocking, right?


Then you add the savory stuff: shallots, garlic, and ginger.


Let it sizzle until shallots are tender.

chicken and shallots

 Then add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste.

chicken and spices

Now I didn’t have cumin (it’s still a mystery as to where it is) and my peanut butter was running low so I only used about half of what it called for. It was still yummy. Also, it called for two teaspoons of turmeric, which I measured in meticulous fashion.


I love eyeballing measurements in my hand. Makes me feel gutsy and a little daring.

That probably means I need to get out of the house more, but let’s just get back to the dish.

Next you whisk in water, coconut milk, lime juice and brown sugar. You only use half a can of coconut milk, but freeze the rest for another time.

coconut milk

Now if you were holding true to authentic Thai cuisine, you’d use kaffir lime leaves. But if you’re fresh out of kaffir lime leaves, or if you’ve never heard of them and wouldn’t know them if they walked in and tapped you on the shoulder, you can substitute with lime juice and grated lime peel. Or, if you’re a real a stickler like me, you could use this…

lime juice

I know, I shudder every time I use this stuff but sometimes a girl’s gotta improvise, right?

Anyway, now that you have a lovely sauce, you add the chopped carrots and bell pepper. Or, if you’re fresh out of bell pepper like I was, just use carrots.

panang curry final

Once the veggies are tender you’re good to go. And, as if this dish weren’t easy enough, the sauce can be made up to three days ahead. So take a walk on the wild side and try this dish soon…your taste buds will thank you.

Here’s the handy-dandy printable version (highlight it and right click to print the selection):

Panang Curry

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated, peeled ginger
  • 4 tsp diced garlic
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp hot chili paste (or less according to heat preference, I recommend sambal oelek)
  • 1 cup water
  • Half a can of coconut milk (I used 14 ounce can, shake well before opening)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves or 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice and 1 1/2 tsp grated lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste. Stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in water, then coconut milk, lime and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer. Add carrots and bell pepper and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Adjust heat to medium low if curry begins to boil and stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm over rice.

Can be made three days ahead. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.


final 1

Plans are meant to be broken. See, I’m a horrible planner, but lately I’ve been trying to improve because I have an 18-pound alarm clock who gets pretty cranky when I’m running behind.

“Waah!” has come to mean a lot of things at our house. Depending on the time of day, this monosyllabic noise could mean “I’m hungry,” “I’m tired,” “I need a new diaper,” etc.

Without a schedule, I’m sunk.

However….this baby mind reading is more of an art than a science really. (Take that Babywise!) After all, sometimes “waah” means “I need to be held” or “My tummy hurts” or, most recently “I have an ear infection!”

So, what does this have to do with stir fry? Well, I’m glad you asked.

In my attempt to become an organized, Type A sort of person I try to plan my meals for the week (or sometimes even the month). That sounds insane but I just pick out three to four dishes I’d like to make per week. It’s more of a suggestion than a rigid schedule. True to form, I strayed from even my loosely made plan.

This stir fry was a whim…a passing fancy…a thrown together conglomeration of whatever I had in the fridge that night. And it was delicious.

So kick up your heels, break your plans and try this dish soon. You’ll feel liberated…and satisfied.

First I have to show you the secret to this wonderful dish. You know how I love to reveal secrets…

sambal olek

Thai chili paste. And yes, I purchased this at MY grocery store. Amazing. 

I got this tip from a wonderful Thai blogger named Tes. She lives halfway around the world and somehow stumbled along my little blog. Don’t you just love technology? Anyway, she’s got lots of great dishes so check her out sometime.

So, onto cooking. Start with chicken and onion, sizzling in a pan. You know, that’s pretty much how I begin all of my chicken recipes…hmmm.

chicken and onion

Add a little ground ginger and mustard to taste. You know me…I didn’t measure. Just do what feels right.

chicken and onion with ginger

Add half tablespoon of the Thai chili paste. I did measure this because too much of a good thing will leave you scorched.

thai chili paste

And last but not least, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

soy sauce

Now for the veggies.


I’ve been on a Thai kick so we happened to have fresh ginger, green onion and cabbage in the fridge. Mmmmm. I also used brocolli, bell pepper and garlic. Any veggies will do, thus the beauty of this recipe. Just be sure to add something for crunch like carrots or cabbage or water chestnuts.

Then again, who keeps water chestnuts on hand? Anway, moving on…

Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, turn it to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

stir fry in pan

I was so hard up for ingredients, I didn’t even have rice. So I dug these “sticks” out of a deep, dark corner of my pantry (also known as rice noodles). Seriously, these things do NOT go bad. They were older than Fuss.

rice noodles

I have no idea the “proper” way to make these, but I submerged them in boiling water and hoped for the best. According to the package, you take it off the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.

noodles soaking

After draining, I added seasame oil for flavor. And since I didn’t break them before cooking, I had my lovely assistant cut them. Otherwise, they would have gone on for days and made for a very interesting dining experience.

cutting noodles

So there you have it folks – an exotic dining experience that no one will ever suspect you just threw together.

final 2

Thai Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered white onion
  • olive oil
  • ground mustard to taste
  • ground ginger to taste
  • 1/2 Tbsp Thai chili paste (preferably Sambal Olek)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brocolli
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • fresh ginger, diced aproximately 1″ x 2″
  • rice noodles
  • 1/2 tsp. seasame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to large pan for two turns of the pan. Heat on medium high. Add chicken and onion. Add next four ingredients and stir to coat. Cook until chicken is opaque, about five minutes. Add vegetables (next six ingredients) with enough water to cover bottom of the pan. Simmer on low for 20 minutes to let flavors meld.

Meanwhile, bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. Add rice noodles, cover and remove from heat, letting steep for 10 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and add seasame oil. Toss to coat.

Add noodles to plate, cutting if too long. Top with stir fry and devour with wild abandon.

Ever longingly wish for the days before breast pumps were considered mandatory office equipment?


Or when you didn’t have to say the words “breast” and “pump” on a regular basis?

Or ever?

Or when your fridge wasn’t filled with almond milk and, um, other milk?


Or when weekends away weren’t based on what was in your freezer?

frozen milk

Or when your kitchen wasn’t spilling over with bottles, nipples, sippy cups, sterilizers and other random paraphenelia?

bottle drawer


Nah, me neither.