Back before kids, we had a favorite Thai place in Watertown. It's gone now, but the memory of all those beautiful curries in red, yellow, orange, and green still lingers. (Also lingering is the memory of having all that spare time.) (And money.)
We had lots of late summer vegetables at our disposal last week, so I decided to try my hand at making a homemade Thai curry. The kids' spiciness tolerance has been getting higher and higher. I was pretty sure they could handle it. Plus, it's a good way to stretch a pair of chicken breasts. The trick is to cut things up so they all cook at the same rate. Dense carrots should be sliced small and thin while porous summer squash should be cut larger and thicker. It's a bit of trial and error at first, but you figure it out eventually.
This recipe got many thumbs up from the family, especially Husband. The 11YO, who always prefers his rice plain, finally agreed to try the curry on top of the rice. He ended up loving the flavor of the rice with the sauce soaked in. (Then he ate a second bowl of rice, plain and unadulterated. Don't mess with the kid's routine.)
This recipe gives you spiciness in the medium-low to medium-high range. Adjust the amount of curry paste as you prefer. Keep in mind that different brands may vary. Start conservatively—you can always add more later. Much like tomato paste, any leftover curry paste can be frozen in tablespoons-sized blobs in a ziploc bag for another day.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2-3 Tbsp. red Thai curry paste (I prefer Maesri brand in the little cans)
2 medium onions, halved through the root end, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
2 medium carrots, sliced thinly
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces (see this video for a cool way to cut)
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, shaved into thin 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 14-oz. can coconut milk (I prefer Thai Kitchen Organic)
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
6 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh Thai or regular basil, torn into small pieces
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the curry paste and stir for about 20 seconds until fragrant. Add the onions, carrots, zucchini, and pepper, and stir for a minute. Add the chicken and stir for a minute more. Stir in the coconut milk, water, fish sauce, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lime leaves, if using. Bring to a simmer and then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove the lime leaves. Serve with jasmine rice.
Note: If you hate fish sauce, you can leave it out, but then omit the sugar, too.
Source: Inspired by Ivy Manning and Fine Cooking