Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deconstructing the Curry Dish

Coconut curry is one of the work horses of the Southeast Asian food world. It's like what a buerre blanc is to French people. This stuff tastes good on EVERYTHING.

Even root vegetables. I used to love getting curried root vegetables at this funky little restaurant called Oznot's Dish in Brooklyn. There were crazy lamps reconstructed from junk, and lots of unshaven hipsters ordering $10 bottles of wine to go with their meze. The curried vegetables were so spicy my eyes watered, but sweet and earthy from the parsnips, sweet potatoes and beets, and delicious. Another great thing to curry is shrimp or, hell, even tofu, over black Thai rice.

It's all good. For this dish, I chose chicken for its easy appeal to my kids, and short grain brown rice as the starch, because... I had some. Since I am always trying to sneak the flavors onto my kids' plates, I gently poached the chicken in coconut milk. Then I stir-fried all the vegetables I had in my house, and made a spicy coconut curry, which the adults used almost like a gravy.

It was a hit. It did not perturb any of the adults present (including guests) that they had to pour the curry onto the dish. We got sweaty flushed faces from the delicious heat, just as if it'd all been mixed up at the stove, or arrived in a takeout container. The only difference: children happily sitting next to us, eating coconut-flavored chicken, plain rice, and stir-fried broccoli.


1 can coconut milk
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Handful of basil leaves, stems removed
About 3 cups of vegetables, peeled, trimmed, and roughly cut: zucchini, scallions, broccoli, red peppers
1 tablespoon oil
Lime wedges

1. Start the rice, then the sauce: Pour about 3/4 of the coconut milk, including the cream, into a small pot. Set aside the other quarter. Add the oil to the pot, and heat until bubbling. Add the curry paste, stirring to combine, and continue cooking until the mixture turns brown and the oil separates. Lower heat and add the fish sauce and the sugar. Stir and taste. Add more fish sauce if necessary. Set aside.

2. Pour the remaining coconut milk and the salt into a saucepan. Add the chicken, and 1/4 cup of water, and gently poach until cooked through. Don't overcook. You can add a stalk of lemon grass, sprig of basil, and a few dashes of fish sauce if desired. Set aside and keep warm.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Saute the vegetables, in order of cooking needs: ie, eggplant, broccoli and peppers first, then zucchini, then scallions. With each new addition, push the cooked vegetables to the side, so you can keep them reasonably separate.

4. Quickly reheat the curry, and serve: Rice, Chicken, Vegetables, and Curry Sauce. Garnish with lime wedges and basil leaves, as desired.


Lisa said...

This is brilliant! My husband and I love Thai curries, but have been doing without, except for the rare meal when the kids aren't home, for the past 7 years. As soon as I read this I went to the kitchen, checked the pantry for coconut milk, and started cooking. The kids loved the chicken poached in coconut milk, and we loved it all put together. The peaceful, delicious meal was definately worth cleaning up four pots. I can't wait for more mothership meals!

New York Creates said...

Yay! Thank you for doing this, the answers to my prayers.

Jamie said...

Yay for deconstructed curry! All 3 kids scarfed up the chicken, rice and veggies, and Joe and I loved the spicy sauce. Even Daniel tried the spicy (then drank a whole glass of water.) Yippie for a new family recipe!

popakap said...

This is so smart, Thank you!