Monday, April 6, 2009

Thai curry makeover

I'm not sure whether it was the nasty weather last week or a random Thai curry craving to warm me up, but I decided to experiment in the kitchen a little and ended up concocting the recipe after a quick trip up to the ultimate spice market in the city, Kalustyan's, on Lex and 28th -- if you're a foodie or a spice lover, the place is just insane . You might be wondering why I would ever choose to make (or order) a Thai's made with coconut milk which is high in fat and could that possibly be on a nutritionist's 'go-to' list? I like to find the silver lining in just about everything. True, coconut milk isn't the most healthful, but it is incredibly flavorful and if you spoon out just a few tablespoons of the sauce, you get all the flavor, spice and Asiany deliciousness without all the excess calories. Another bonus point and reason why curry can be a relatively decent option when doing Thai take-out, there's usually very little oil involved in curries which is more than I say for alot of the sauteed dishes that are swimming in grease. On my own terms, in my own kitchen, I lightened things up a bit further and swapped in light coconut milk to ease up on the fat content -- great flavor and you can barely tell the difference. Daunting as ethnic recipes can be sometimes, this dish was super easy to make and I must admit, really freaking good - I may never order Thai curry take-out again. A note of warning however, it's spicy enough to clear up any stuffy nose. If you want to tone down the spice, just add less curry paste, and keep in mind that red curry paste is less hot than green when you’re looking for it in the grocery store. Get creative and change up shrimp for chicken or tofu or toss in different vegetables like green beans or eggplant.

Thai Shrimp Curry with Pineapple & Red Bell Pepper
Serves 4
2 tsp peanut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp red curry paste*
Zest and juice of 1 lime *or if you can find fresh kaffir lime leaves at the grocery, swap them for the fresh lime
1 can light coconut milk
2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce*
1 cup diced fresh or canned (in water) pineapple
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup bamboo shoots
1 cup straw mushrooms*
¾-1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled with the tail left on
1-2 Tbsp each of fresh cilantro, minced and fresh Thai basil leaves, chiffonade*
Garnish with 1-2 cilantro sprigs
*You can find fish sauce, curry paste and straw mushrooms in the Asian section of your grocery store or at your local Asian market.
*chiffonade’ is a cutting technique used for herbs or leafy greens in which they’re rolled tightly, kind of like a cigar (stack a few on top of each other, then roll) and then cut horizontally into very fine, thin ribbons. It’s great for fresh basil leaves.

1. Heat peanut oil in large, heavy sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent. Add curry paste, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and zest. Stir until well-blended.
3. Add pineapple through straw mushrooms. Stir, lower heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
4. Add shrimp to sauce, mix well, return heat to medium-high and cook for another 5-6 minutes until shrimp is cooked through.
5. Add Thai basil and cilantro in the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.
6. Serve with jasmine rice and garnish with extra cilantro sprigs.

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