We've had a true dilemma recently. Seriously, I say this with a crinkle between my brow, a slow sad swaying of my head, and a heavy sigh of conscious resignation.
Our favorite...most tried and true Thai restaurant has disappointed us not once, not twice, but three times in the past several months.
Something has happened there. We don't know what, nor why, nor how...but...who can live without their favorite curry? N.O.T. the Kenney family.
...the curry was brought to the table...cold!
...the appetizers have arrived with the meals!
...the service has slowed to an impossible speed!
As much as I wish we were the type to travel all over the vast city of Houston trying one restaurant after another, week after week, collecting an assortment of restaurant reviews, critiques, and experiences...truth be told, we are not of that "ilk".
I wouldn't say that we are...boring, per se.
Well, o.k., upon reflection, we are rather unvaried in our restaurant tours, I guess. Oh go ahead, if truth must be outed...we are rather boring, I guess. But, why stray from
what is a known find?
Repeatedly delicious experiences?
and happy bellies in the end?
We just don't eat out that often. When we want delicious Indian, we know where to go. When we want fresh seafood for our po'boys, we can only think of one spot. Same with Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, etc. We have our "go-to" favorites.
So as you can see, my furrowed brow, head swaying, sigh sighing are all part and parcel to the dilemma that we have been enduring.
We no longer have our star Thai restaurant in that beloved line-up of pet picks. Our son is hurting the most. Thai curry is one of his most favorite dishes. He gets the dinner portion so we can bring half home and he can relive the dining pleasure again the next day.
He has requested lately that I "puh-leeze" figure out how to make a curry so that he can hold out until we hunt down the next new and perfect Thai experience.
Yes sir, was my reply to Riley. I knew just where to go. I knew just where to get the inspiration, recipe, and smile that greets me when I visit the lovely Devaki of "Weave a Thousand Flavors".
Devaki had a recipe on her blog the other day that sounded so deliciously creamy, spicy, and perfectly flavored. She takes you right through the steps of finding the ingredients for her dishes as well as how to prepare them.
Often when I'm on my walks, and families in the area have their windows open, I can smell the alluring flavors of Indian spices and wonder what magic is happening in those kitchens and how are those flavors all marrying together.
When we were house hunting a few years back, I would often peek into the pantries of houses where Indian families live and ogle the many colorful jars of spices that were lined up on the shelves.
Cumin, Coriander, ginger, cardamom, chili pepper, and cinnamon were just some of the scents I could detect.
So, with Devaki's recipe in hand, I made her "Creamy Penang Beef Curry". I had a fabulous time, slowing cruising the Viet Huong Asian market here in Houston locating the varied ingredients. We learned that many regions of SW Asia as well as regions of India have their own variations of curry. And that in addition to the root ginger, there is a root called...Galanga.
So, this curry recipe is from Penang, which is in Northwestern Malaysia. We learned that the lemon grass, lime leaves, red peanuts, and garlic are indicative of the flavors of Thailand...but the cumin, coriander, and shrimp paste are uniquely Malay.
In short, the description Devaki gave on her blog was exactly how the dish tasted. Our windows were open and the aromas of all of the spices swirled in and out of windows all up and down the street.
This could be dangerous indeed... or the beginning of a wonderful culinary journey in my kitchen. I may just start going down the list of our Thai favorites and recreate our own tried and true experiences...that are served
...after the appetizer,
...hot instead of cold,
...and not long after our order is placed! Hmphff!
Malaysian Panang Curry
Serves 4 (from "Weave a Thousand Flavors" blog)
Preparation time - 20 minutes
Cooking time – approx. 1 hr -20 mins
2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast or boneless lamb
5 tbs vegetable oil
4-5 kaffir lime leaves
1 qty 15 oz can coconut milk
2 tbs vegetable oil
6 tbs water (add 1-2 tbs more as needed)
1 stalk lemongrass (or 1 tbs chopped lemongrass)
2" fresh galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp red chili powder (less if you don’t like it spicy)
1 tsp salt
2 tbs shrimp paste (or shrimp belacan)
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/3 cup red skin peanuts
1-1/2 tbs sugar (or palm sugar)
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp salt
For garnish: Thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaves if desired.
To serve: Steamed Jasmine rice
Place the steak in the freezer while preparing the vegetables.
Curry paste: Blend all the ingredients into a smooth paste in a food processor. **I couldn't break down the lemon grass enough. So, I smashed it with a meat tenderizer and put it in the curry sauce. I then removed it from the sauce before serving (sort of like a bouquet-garni)
Steak: With a very sharp knife, slice into 1/4" thick strips against the grain to shorten the muscle fibers resulting in tender meat when cooked.
On medium-high heat, heat oil in a wok or heavy bottom pan. Add the kaffir lime leaves & stir-fry for 10 seconds.
Add the curry paste and on medium heat and continue stir-frying for about 5-7 minutes until the oil slightly separates in puddles & the curry paste is fragrant.
Add the beef in and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes till the oil separates form the curry paste once again.
Add the coconut milk, sauce & ¼ cup water. Stir well & bring to a simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid.
Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 1 hour to 1 hr – 20 mins or until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Stir regularly to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pan
Cook’s Note: Add 1/4 cup water at a time if when it appears bit dry, is sticking to the bottom of the pan or you prefer it soupier
Taste and adjust seasonings – salt, fish sauce & sugar.
The curry should be rich and thick – not like the soupier Thai curries.
Sprinkle with more finely sliced kaffir leaves if desired and serve with steamed Jasmine rice.