Curry Challenge: Thai Green Curry with Shrimp

Although I illustrated this challenge with Aarti, who cooks Indian curries, when I say “curry” I mean Thai curry. Indian curries are delicious, but I love the balance of spicy/creamy and sweet/sour flavors in Thai foods. The good news that you can make a Thai curry sauce with just two ingredients: curry paste and coconut milk. That’s it. If you have the time and inclination, you can add layers of complexity to the dish with other traditional Thai ingredients but the basic recipe is very good too, because the curry paste itself includes quite a few spices and flavors. My favorite brand of green curry paste, Mae Ploy, will start off your dish with these ingredients: green chilli, lemongrass, garlic, salt, galangal, shrimp paste, kaffir lime peel, coriander seed, pepper, cumin, turmeric. Adding ginger, fish sauce and fresh kaffir lime is just icing on the cake.

You can buy Thai curry paste, coconut milk and fish sauce in most grocery stores (Thai Kitchen brand is widely available), although often they only stock red curry and it is not as intensely flavored as the imported pastes, or you can order traditional ingredients from the links below.

If you want a little adventure with your curry, make a visit to an Asian grocery store. In Little Rock, Sam’s Oriental Store on University Ave across from UALR has a very wide selection of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and some Indian ingredients. It also has fresh Asian produce and shrimp on Saturdays. Be prepared: fish sauce and some other ingredients have a very strong smell. Don’t be alarmed–you’re only using a little bit.

Enough ingredient talk. On to the recipe!

Thai Green Curry with Shrimp and Peppers (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (I like Aroy-D or Chaokoh brands)
  • 2 T. Thai green curry paste–less if you want it very mild, more if you want it to burn (I like Mae Ploy brand)
  • 1 c. water or stock
  • 1 t. sugar (palm sugar or brown sugar preferred)
  • 2 T. fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand) (optional)
  • 1 in. piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated (optional)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 T. basil, chiffonade
  • 1/2 T. mint , chiffonade (optional, but nice)
  • 1/2 T. cilantro, chiffonade (optional, but nice)

Open the coconut milk, but do not shake it! You want the thicker coconut cream at the top of the can to stay there. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the thick cream from the top. Like this:

Open the curry paste (refrigerate after opening). Start with 2 T., then add more if you want it spicier:

Cook curry and cream, stirring, over medium heat in a wok or a large saucepan until paste is distributed and cream begins to bubble. Add remaining coconut milk, water/stock, sugar, ginger, peppers, kaffir and fish sauce (if using), bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add shrimp and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Sprinkle with herb combination. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

This same technique and ingredients can be used for many different types of curry, like the Red Curry with Beef pictured below. For the beef curry, substitute flank steak for the shrimp, and red curry paste for the green curry paste.  I also added sliced eggplant and summer squash.  The only variation to the technique is that you’ll need to vary cooking times based on your ingredients–if the meat will take longer to cook than the vegetables, add the meat first and simmer until tender and then add the vegetables.  Curries are also great for a vegetarian meal with lots of hearty vegetables.  Experimentation is the key. Enjoy!