Chicken Curry Help!
Why is my chicken curry so dull? I have tried many variations, many different ingredients, and I just can't get any depth of flavor....
I like thai/malaysian style coconut curries. I use store bought coconut milk, fish sauce, curry powder, and curry paste. I I try to amp up the flavor with chicken broth concentrate, chili powder, cardamom pods, soy sauce... I have even tried throwing in 2 tablespoons of jar marinara I have in the fridge!! I have tried cooking chicken thighs with skin in the curry as well... I just can't get a rich, fulfilling flavor to my curry... any suggestions?
I can't speak for thai curries, but Malay curries have a good base to them -- onions, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, lots of fresh red chilli, etc. You saute those, then add your spices like ground coriander, ground fennel seed, turmeric, star anise, etc and then add your meat. Cook the meat for a bit in the base, then cover and cook some more. Then add some water and coconut milk, and cook some more.
Slow and steady makes for a good Malay curry.
Can you describe the cooking process a little more? That can make such a difference in the flavor of curry-as boogie baby mentioned, sauteing spices make a huge difference. Freshness of spices (e.g. getting from a place with high turnover) also makes for good curry.
Anyway, more info might help with troubleshooting!
I made this Beef curry (Randang) from Molly Stevens' original recipe and loved it. This version is very close and should do well and gives you the technique for chicken although have not done this with chicken. I did cook it very slowly. I love the sauce.
What is your reference point? 'depth of flavor' is a vague target.
One possibility is that you are adding too many things (soy sauce, marinara etc), and the result is just a muddy taste, where nothing stands out.
Canned coconut milk, fish sauce, and Thai curry paste gives plenty of flavor - to my thinking.
Here is my base ingredient list:
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp red curry paste
2 tbsp green curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 stalk lemongrass sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 red onion- large chop
handful of cilantro leaves- chopped
To that I have tried to cook chicken thighs in the sauce to increase flavor... I have tried to add tumeric, cardamom, and garlic powder to boost flavor. Maybe I am adding too much, or not cooking the base long enough. I have concocted this recipe from various recipes on the internet and it's quite possible I need to strip some of it down. I think that maybe making my own curry base, as opposed to using powder/paste might be better too...
I find the prepared Curry Pastes are really short on the aromatics and high on the salt and chili.
If you are willing to make your own that will yield the best tasting curry.
Short of that I often use the premade paste as a base and beef it up with more of the aromatics ie. Lemongrass, Galanga, Spices (depending on style of curry) Shrimp paste, onion and Garlic.
Also make sure that you are cooking your paste till the oil breaks back out of it before adding your coconut milk.
Using bone in pieces cut through the bone and sweating the chicken in the paste for a few minutes before adding the liquid also helps with flavor, not to brown it but to stiffen the meat slightly.
It occurs to me that you might be actually adding too many ingredients, so the flavour is getting muddy, as paulj said. For example, I use either red *or* green curry, depending on which kind I use, no stock, no soy sauce, and I add herbs depending on the paste. My usual recipe, for pre-made green paste is
1 can coconut milk
1 package green curry paste (~2T)
~3 large or four small chicken breasts, skin off
~4 long asian eggplants
handful of basil.
Saute curry paste in a bit of neutral oil. Add the coconut milk, cut up chicken and cut up eggplant. Simmer slowly until the chicken is cooked, eggplant is nicely soft, and coconut milk is slightly separated. Stir in the basil, cook a few minutes. Add a dash of fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime, to taste. Serve with rice. The result is an intense, balanced flavour.
The paste I use is really good - a Thai brand that reads like an ingredient list, not a chemical experiment. If your paste isn't good quality, then it might be worth making from scratch, and freezing it for later use.
I've tried quite a few of them, and I always keep coming back to Maesri Red as my canned favorite, but that's not why I asked the op which brand (if any) they are using.
Since not all red and green curry pastes are the exact same, I wonder if the op's curry pastes are the issue causing the lack of depth of flavor.
I agree that you need more aromatics and then need good cooking technique. I would first saute shallot (1/3 c or so), diced small, then add 2 T ea minced garlic and ginger. stir a couple minutes add coconut cream--thick part from top of unshaken can of coconut. Add curry paste and spices (I would definitely omit turmeric. I personally don't think it adds much, plus to me it is more Indian than Thai. Cook slowly for at least 10 minutes. add lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, minced, if you can get them, rest of coconut can, meat. cook slowly. I would use boneless strips of meat. Add fish sauce lime, and sugar (brown but white is just fine). 2 T-1T to start. no soy. correct seasoning. add cilantro.