Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk with Holy Basil Leaves

I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Easy Thai-style Cookery. I revised the original duck recipe to use chicken instead, and I altered the ingredients and amounts to suit my taste preferences. Chicken is much easier to cook, and for most people also more easily found in their local markets. This is the best curry I've ever made!

As with most Asian recipes you can use any meat that you prefer or have on hand, including chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, and so on. You can use whole skinless chicken thighs, or a whole chicken skinned and cut into breasts, thighs and drumsticks. Cut the breasts into two or three pieces so that all the pieces will be of similar size, so they will cook at the same speed. Remember that meat cooked on the bone always has more flavor than the boneless equivalent. When using boneless chicken, pork or beef you can cut it into bite sized pieces if you like.

1 1/2 lbs. skinless chicken thighs (bone in)
     or 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken, cut up into bite sized pieces
2 T. oil for sauté
2 cans coconut milk (13.5 oz. each, about 3 1/2 C.)
2 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
1-2 C. holy basil leaves, or sweet basil leaves (packed measure)
curry paste (directions below)

1. Preheat wok or skillet over medium heat and then add a small amount of oil. When the oil is heated add the chicken pieces and stir fry, tossing them so that they will brown evenly. When meat is lightly browned—3 to 5 minutes—remove the chicken and set aside.

2. Add half of the coconut milk to the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes.

3. Combine the paste with the remaining coconut milk, add fish sauce and mix well, then add it to the pan.

4. Continue simmering until the chicken is tender, about 20 minutes more (for a total of about 40 minutes).

5. Turn off the heat, remove the wok from the stove, add the basil leaves and stir briefly, then serve.

Suggestion: Serve with steamed Thai jasmine rice or other white rice.

Curry Paste

2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped, about 2/3 C.
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 T. lemon grass, thinly sliced
1 large thumb sized piece of fresh galangal, chopped, about 3 T. (optional if you can't get any)
1/3 C. cilantro leaves and stems, chopped (packed measure)
zest from 1 lime (grated rind, about 1-2 t.)
1/2 t. shrimp paste
2 Kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 t. paprika
1 finger sized piece of fresh tumeric, roughly chopped, about 1 T. (or use 1/4 t. tumeric powder)
1/4 t. cumin
2 t. oil

Your curry will be more authentic and taste better if you use fresh lemon grass, galangal and tumeric, or use the powdered equivalents if you can't find them fresh. Lemon grass and galangal are both tough and fibrous so spend some effort chopping them up. The rest of the chopped ingredients need only rough chopping because your food processor will complete the rest of the job just fine. Combine all the ingredients and blend or process them until they form a uniform paste, or nearly so. The paste may be made up to a week in advance, or make extra for next time. Makes 1 cup.

Credit: Adapted from Easy Thai-style Cookery (Series: Australian Women's Weekly Home Library).

Filed under Poultry   Tagged Thai, chicken