Thursday, February 12, 2015

Panang Pork Curry with Kabocha Squash

Once in a while I’m just craving for some good Thai curries that really truly hit the spot.  The curry I always make is red curry chicken with bamboo shoots or some mixed veggies and eat with hot steamed rice or rice noodles.  It’s kind of Thai style comfort food I’d grown up eating all my life. It’s just really hit the spot!

There are many different kinds of coconut-based Thai curries – red curry, green curry, yellow curry, as well as masaman curry and panang curry.  The former four curries are soupy curry types, the ladder, the popular panang curry, is creamier than the other curries, and easier to make with few ingredients.   
Panang curry typically can be made with beef, pork, or chicken meat.  However, there is no limit of what kind of meat you would like to use. (Wild boar, rabbit, or bison….go for it!)   Panang curry is made usually only meat without any vegetable add into it.   Since I have kabocha squash in hand and I love eating it so much, I added into my panang this time which made my panang even more creamy and dreamy awesome!   The essential ingredient to this panang that “must include” is the kaffir lime leaves.   And if you notice, there is no oil using in my recipe.   Why?   Because the coconut milk will render and release its oil when frying on the hot pan.   If you ever eating panang at the Thai restaurant and find some fatty greasy oil floating on the top so the curry looks "pretty," you can be sure that panang has some cooking oil added, which i don't like it.  This issue has led to a misconception to some thinking that Thai food is greasy!   

Can Thai basil be used as a substitute?   Yes, you can BUT the distinctive taste and fragrant of kaffir lime leave is the essence of panang curry.    I used to get a question asking… which curry is the spiciest of all?   To be honest, there is none!  Thai curries are not spicy at all.  Some Thais even add some more dried chili flakes to make it even spicier.   It is all only the heat from all the spices in the curry paste that gives the curry a unique taste on its own.  The curries are normally seasoning with fish sauce and palm sugar, and that’s it, more or less depends on which curry you are making.    
Notes to the use of fish sauce:  If you are not comfortable using fish sauce or do not have it, you can use salt.   And sea salt is better than regular table salt.   I would not recommend using soy sauce because the taste wouldn’t be the same.  But if you only have soy sauce in hand, use it and try it.  You will know why I don’t recommend using it.   Believe me.  The taste would not be the same!    
Let’s cook! 

What you need:  for 2-4 servings

400 g. pork tenderloin sliced to bite size
2 tbsp. panang curry paste – I used Maesri which can be found at Asian supermarket
1 can/13.5 fl.oz. Coconut milk – I used Chao Koa
2 cups Kabocha squash (or other squash you have), cut to bite size
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
4-5 leaves kaffir lime leaves, thinly chiffonaded
2-3 red chili (such as red serrano peppers) seeded and thinly sliced
And steamed white/brown rice to be served with the Panang

1. Reserve 3 tablespoons of coconut milk aside for garnish.
2. Set a medium pan over medium low heat.  When the pan is hot, add 1/4 cup coconut milk into the pan as it will get a little sizzle since the pan is hot.  Stir in panang curry paste until they are well combine and fragrant.  Add a little more coconut milk and stir.  When it gets bubbles, add pork slices, stir, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the rest of coconut milk, squash, fish sauce, sugar, half portion of kaffir lime leaves chiffonaded, and stir to combine well.  Let it cook for another 7-10 minutes or until the pork and squash are cooked.

4. Serve with drizzling of the reserved coconut milk over Panang and garnish with kaffir lime leaves chiffonaded and red chili on top.  Serve with steamed white/brown rice.  Enjoy! 

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