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Home Thai curries?

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I love Thai curries, eating out at Thai restaurants, and getting Thai to go. I like it so much, I've decided to start making my own. I like to be able to control how it turns out. One peeve of mine, for example, with to-go curriy dishes is that I usually end up with a cup half-full of bamboo shoots with a little curry on top, like gravy. I hate bamboo shoots; they're tasteless, and it's clear they are there just to be a cheap filler to cut the amount of curry they dole out. I also hate straw mushrooms, another staple of take-out curries. I want CURRY, not cheap vegetable filler. So screw'm, I thot, I'll make my own. I like to go to Silom Thai market in Hollywood; there must be a hundred different curry preparations, paste, powders, etc. The recipes I've found all seem to call for curry paste, cocoanut milk, and whatever meat and veg's you care to add. Doesn't seem too hard. (I'm not interested in making curry from scratch). I've tried a red curry already, and it was pretty good. I'd like to know if curry fans here can give some tips and fave recipes that guys like me can use. For example, I ran across today a comment from a woman who had made some curry that was a little too hot for her husband's taste. She said, "I used the old trick of adding a teaspoon of peanut butter to cut the heat". I've never heard of that. Does adding PB reduce the heat? Thanks in advance.

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  1. I use Mae Ploy curry pastes: red, green, yellow, masman, and panang. Mae Ploy and Chaokoh are good brands of canned coconut milk. I also like to add some nam prik pow at the end. I use Pantainorasingh brand "chili paste with soya bean oil." Select the meats and vegetables you want and follow the directions on the curry paste tub. I brown my meat off first before putting it into the curry. Also, I carefully take the top off the coconut milk can after the can has sat undisturbed for a while, so the cream will have risen to the top. Spoon off the cream and fry the curry paste in that first, then add the rest of the coconut milk. This is quick and easy and will give you a very flavorful curry.


    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Washburn

      This is also how I learned to make green curry from friends who took a class in Oakland, CA. The best thing is to keep tasting as you go along, but also keep in mind that all the flavors won't blend together until the end. For example, adding palm sugar near the end somehow brings out a different kind of spiciness, and having the coconut milk/curry paste combo near the beginning be too salty is okay as the later ingredients will balance that out. Check out this website for more brand recommendations and recipes:


      1. re: Jim Washburn

        Thanks, all, for your great ideas. I will be trying Mae ploy and Maesri curry pastes, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, palm sugar,etc.

        1. re: Andrew Gore

          I think the Maesri is far superior to the Mae Ploy.

          1. re: JonParker

            It's quite subjective, though. I agree with you: I strongly prefer Mae Sri over Mae Ploy (and love the fact that Mae Sri comes in convenient one-to-two serving cans, which eliminates the risk of it going stale in the fridge like those big tubs of curry paste), but I know many people who like Mae Ploy much more.

            Frankly, I find that no matter which one you use, you need to dress it up with a few fresh-cut aromatics or it tastes hollow and two dimensional. (I usually just make my own curry paste, though.)

      2. With Mae Ploy pastes, I seem to only be able to produce Thai hot level of heat, too hot for me to taste anything else. I did run across a recipe somewhere that added fish sauce and brown sugar, that seemed to come closer to what I was used to from restaurants.

        Maesri Musaman paste is good right out of the can with c-milk. Gonna try their panang paste soonish.

        Someone posted not too long ago about a third brand of paste that was their fave, can't remember the brand or ever having seen it.

        Might not hurt to ask at the rests you like if you can buy some of their paste.

        1. Yep, thai curry is easy to make if you start with the paste. Here's the quick/lazy method: Saute meat and veg., remove from pan. Mix desired amt. paste into coconut milk (depends how hot you want it, and how much you are making). For 2 servings start with 1 tbs. Don't boil it, just simmer until it combines. Add 2 tbs. fish sauce and 1 tbs. brown sugar. Simmer 5 min., then add meat/veg to heat thru.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Aimee

            Give or take, that's about exactly what I do. It's pretty much impossible to screw up, and it always tastes at least as good as (if not better than) anything I have in restaurants.

            1. re: nickblesch

              see the note from Louise farther down this string. You want to fry the paste (either in the cream on the tip of the coconut milk or some oil) at the beginning of the procedure, then add the other ingredients. That will get the correct flavor for the shrimp paste and other components in the paste.

              After the coconut milk goes it, it should cook, with the paste and other ingredients, until the oil comes out and floats on the top of the sauce.

              I will usually add some lightly fried onions, pepper or other veg, as well as some finely cut kaffir lime leaf, or thai basil to the dish at the end. You also want to check the flavor balance - I usually add some lemon or lime juice but salt or a little sugar might also be called for.

          2. I use Mae Ploy as well. The green curry is HOT, but that's the way I like it.

            One suggestion: Try and procure a thai lime leaf (magrood) plant and thai basil. Both are easy to grow and tend to, and it gives you some ownership of the dish. I still feel bad about using prepared paste, but good god, I can't beat Mae Ploy!

            1. I make Thai curry at least once a week. I often grind my own pastes (using recipes found in Mai Pham's "The Best of Thai and Vietnamese cooking, but bear in mind that her curry paste is HOT), but I use Maesri brand red and green pastes when I don't have time to grind paste.

              Mai Pham's recipe for green chicken curry is a good place to start, though I add parboiled quartered Thai eggplants and water chestnuts (for crunch) rather than straw mushrooms, and use fresh bamboo shoots (check 99 Ranch) when available.

              You can add and subtract things as you wish. The simplest curry is paste, coconut milk, broth, fish sauce and sugar, but add lime leaves, more lemongrass, chiles, more garlic, ginger, etc. as you see fit.

              1. s
                Sunshine Girl

                Panang - my fave. Mae Ploy is the brand of choice for a chef friend of mine. He has some great thai recipes here, and if you're in LA, their market is fab. Kaffir lime leaves for dirt cheap, all the thai basils you need, etc.

                Link: http://www.bangkokmarket.com

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sunshine Girl

                  Sunshine Girl, which market is that?

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Sunshine Girl, that's a good question. The site says Jet Tila has "a storefront near Thai Town", but there's no clue as to where it is or what it's called. Clue us in, willya?

                    1. re: Andrew Gore

                      Under "about us" it says:

                      Bangkok Market, Inc
                      4757 Melrose Ave.
                      L.A., CA 90029 USA
                      (323) 662-9705
                      (323) 662-7990

                      Below link might offer other ideas for Thai ingredients.

                      Link: http://www.thai-food.com/supplies/cal...

                2. While we're on the subject, if it's available to you, you ought to try the tuna in red panang and the tuna in yellow curry sauce with potatoes and onions. They are spectacular and easy to prepare. They are definitely not fishy. If you like thai and tuna, these are winners. Oh, you get them at Trader Joe's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: stephanie

                    I tried those with high expectations but they were gross. Maybe that's just me!

                  2. Not all brands of canned coconut milk contain preservatives and dyes. I usually look at the ingredient list on all the cans until I find one that is just coconut juice/milk/cream and water. There are some out there, but I don't know their names off the top of my head. I also try to find one that does not have water as the first ingredient b/c I like a fattier, creamier coconut milk.

                    1. It seems by the responses on this thread that there is a consensus of curry dishes being made only with coconut milk. I have made many curry dishes (from my fav 'The Curry Cookbook' by Nancy McDermott) that don't call for coconut milk at all. Is there something I am missing??

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: cooknKate

                        No, some Thai curries are made with coconut milk, some are not.

                        1. re: cheryl_h

                          Indian curries are generally yogurt based while Thai curries are coconut based. You can use Curry paste to make different meals but a Thai Curry always contains coconut milk. Do you know the brand of Coconut milk that does not contain preservatives?

                          1. re: thaifoodie

                            Gang som (sour curry) and gang pah (jungle curry) do not contain coconut milk. And some Indian curries are made with coconut milk but it's not as ubiquitous as it is in Thai cuisine.

                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              Sorry, I was just generally speaking. You are correct that "jungle curry" does not contain coconut milk as it derives from the north jungles of Thailand where coconuts are not as present.

                              1. re: thaifoodie

                                keo's thai cuisine cookbook has coconut milk in his "evil jungle prince" vegetables. is that considered "jungle curry"? if so, i didn't know it wasn't authentic.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Keo's 'evil jungle prince' dish is something he made up himself. We lived in Hawaii for three years and he was operating about 3 Thai restaurants there at the time. My (Thai) wife and I tried them a few times and then stayed away. Not only was the food not very authentic, neither is Keo himself. He is not Thai and his bio suggests that he never spent any real time in that country either. There were several far better and more authentic Thai restaurants on Oahu than any of his. But to get back to your question, all real Thai 'jungle curries,' and there are several, are water-based and have absolutely not a drop of coconut in them. To me, the dominant flavor in real jungle curries is the fingerroot (Krachai in Thai) that can be bought here in canned form.

                                  1. re: ThaiNut

                                    man, thainut, you are really bustin' my thainuts these days. ;-(.

                                    thanks for keepin' me on the straight path, though! ;-).

                            2. re: thaifoodie

                              I believe Trader Joe's coconut milk contains only coconut and water.

                              1. re: thaifoodie

                                The organic Thai Kitchen brand has no additives. It's very thick and creamy too.

                          2. anyone know where to get kaffir lime peel in seattle.I know it's got to be here somewhere

                            1. Does anyone know what to do if your curry ends up too creamy or thick? Add chicken stock? Also, does anyone have issues with thai eggplant skins being too tough?

                              1. Can you source coconut cream easily in the US? Rather a different beast to coconut milk, and half a cup or so (in addition to the coconut milk) can really elevate a Thai curry.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Robin Joy

                                  There are lots of Thai dishes that call for more coconut cream than you get in the top of a can of coconut milk. "Thai Agri Foods" Co. of Samut Prakan, Thailand exports a 14 oz (400 ml) can of pure coconut cream under the "Savoy" brand. We recently found it in a very large Asian food store in Spartanburg, SC, USA and they were selling it for a mere $.99 a can. Their web site is: www.thaiagri.com

                                  1. re: ThaiNut

                                    thainut, would you please weigh in on my question about pad kee mao? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588245

                                    and thanks for that link. you've got a great price.

                                    1. re: ThaiNut

                                      Is it recommended to use just the cream in curries, or can you use the coconut milk too? Sometimes I feel my curries have a strange aftertaste that I don't find in restaurant curries and I'm wondering if that's the reason.

                                      1. re: takadi

                                        The way I learned (from the teacher in Oakland referenced above) was to scoop the cream off and fry the curry paste in that, then add the meat and sturdier veg and give it a stir, then mix in the thinner milk and simmer til done. Then season to taste with fish sauce and palm sugar. If using seafood or a more delicate veg, it was added partway through instead of at the beginning. And if you were stirring in fresh basil leaves, that was always right at the end.

                                        Can you describe the 'strange aftertaste'?

                                        1. re: Louise

                                          Most of the Thai recipes I have call for both coconut cream and the coconut milk, and their use is exactly as Louise described it, i.e. fry the curry paste in the cream until the oil separates out, then add the milk and other stuff, and lastly the fish sauce, palm sugar and any basil.

                                          I wonder if your aftertaste comes from using canned curry paste. We always make our own pastes in the mortar and pestle unless we are in a hurry, and then we fall back on the canned stuff, but I've not noticed any unpleasant aftertastes.

                                          1. re: Louise

                                            It stays in my mouth for a while, it's almost like vomit and feels really greasy, like some cheap coconut cosmetic product. It could be due to so many reasons, an old can of coconut milk, too much coconut milk or cream, too much lime leaf or basil, old lime leaf, too much chicken or bad chicken preparation, bad cooking methods like boiling it too long...I really don't know

                                            Come to think of it, I did have a couple of cans of coconut milk that had a peculiar smell, almost like chicken

                                            1. re: takadi

                                              The best advice I can give (absent taking one of Kasma's classes) is to read her site's information on choosing coconut milk and either preparing your own curry paste, or selecting store bought. She has a lot of good notes on ingredients.


                                              Note, when I refer to coconut cream I do NOT mean that coco lopez sweetened stuff. That is for pina coladas, which I like, don't get me wrong. But don't use it for Thai cooking. Coconut cream for Thai cooking is not a separate product, it is the stuff that rises to the top in an unshaken can of coconut milk.

                                              1. re: Louise

                                                Thanks for the site louise! Looking at her recipes, I definitely know that I added WAYY too much lime leaves and coconut milk (two cans instead of one). It might explain the lingering aftertaste and the "greasiness".