Thai curry sounds exotic and complicated, but in truth it’s a quick meal for which you can keep the bulk of ingredients in your pantry or freezer, plus it’s a great option for using up leftovers. If you can’t find curry paste in your supermarket, you can order a variety of curries online for under $10. Vary up the main protein and vegetables based on what’s in your fridge. The basic formula calls for one pound of a protein (tofu, chicken, shrimp, beef or pork) and about two to three handfuls of vegetables but adjust this if you want to increase the ratio of veggies to meat, or on what you’re staring down in your crisper drawer.
Tip: You can store tightly wrapped gingerroot in your freezer. Once you get the technique down, you can prepare this within 15 minutes or so. Knife skills need work? Check out my quick online knife skills video lesson.
When selecting curry paste, you should know the basic differences between the types you’ll find on the shelf. Most include common ingredients, such as lemongrass, galangal, garlic, coriander and some kind of chilies. Many include shrimp paste, so do check the label if you have a shellfish allergy. Additional ingredients provide the color and heat factor.
Red Curry: This is arguably the most versatile of all chili pastes. Chili powder provides its distinctive color and spiciness. This paste works well with chicken, beef, tofu or seafood.
Yellow: Turmeric is the primary ingredient, giving this curry its golden color. It has a milder flavor and less heat than the others listed here. This works best with chicken, tofu and seafood.
Green: Cilantro, lime leaf, basil and green Thai chilies give this curry its color and distinctive flavor. Green curry can be hotter than red, depending on the ratio of chilies used in the paste.
Panang curry: Named for an island off Malaysia, this curry is generally sweeter and spicier than standard red curry pastes.
If you’re starting out making Thai food, I recommend buying curry paste in 4 ounce cans which cost about $2 each and can be easily found online. Cover tightly and you can keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Easy Thai Curry
Vegetables (mix and match)
- 4 ounces mushrooms (125g)
- 4 ounces cabbage (125g)
- 2 carrots
- 1 small handful cilantro or basil
- 1 lime
Protein (your choice)
- 1 lb chicken, beef, pork, fish, tofu or shrimp (500g)
For the curry sauce
- 1 cup coconut milk (about half a 14 oz. can)
- 1/4 cup curry paste (about half a 4 oz. can)
- 1 cup chicken stock or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 pinch red chili flakes
- 3 or 4 slices fresh gingerroot
- Prepare vegetables first by slicing or chopping into thin, bite-sized pieces. Roughly chop cilantro or basil; keep it a bit leafy. Quarter lime. Dice the meat, fish or tofu into 1-inch cubes. If using shrimp, peel and devein. Set aside.
- Shake the can of coconut milk before opening to mix the solids and liquids. Add a half cup of coconut milk to a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce by half, stirring occasionally. This should take about five minutes. Whisk in the curry paste, stirring for about a minute. Then add in the broth, sugar, fish sauce, chili flakes, lime zest and another half cup of coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Add the meat, tofu or seafood, ginger slices and carrots. After 2 minutes add the mushrooms and cabbage. Simmer until everything is tender and cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and taste, adding more fish sauce, sugar or chili flakes as desired. Garnish with chopped basil or cilantro and lime wedges.
This recipe was originally published in 2015. It has been updated.