Thai food is one of those gorgeous cuisines that without a few key ingredients you can never come close to duplicating it at home. That’s why when I decided to make some Thai curry for my family I went on an urban foraging trip to find ingredients like fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce.
Fish sauce is probably more familiar to people since it is generally available in most grocery stores, along side bottled Thai curry paste. But lemon grass and especially kaffir lime leaves are usually only found in Asian markets. The great thing about lime leaves is they freeze well, so stock up when you find them. As for lemongrass, it does not keep well and needs to be used within a few days. However, if you find yourself really cooking Thai a lot, it’s very easy to grow lemongrass; I purchased two plants in the mail and they grew to huge bushes in one summer and wintered over inside the house nicely.
I posted about this version of curry here, but I updated it to include the fish sauce, lime leaves and fresh lemongrass. I think it makes a difference. Of course you could substitute any vegetables or protein you desired (except beef or pork, they don’t work as well with curry). I think an assortment of mushrooms would be lovely or even eggplant, especially the little round green Thai eggplant. Just follow the principles of cooking harder foods first and ending with quicker cooking foods like greens or bell peppers or seafood last.
Seafood Thai Red Curry
10 raw shrimp, shelled
4 large scallops, cut in half
1-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (according to desired heat level)
1 tablespoon safflower/sunflower oil
2 stalks broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1 red pepper, cut into bite size pieces
3 stalks lemongrass
4-6 lime leaves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
15 oz can coconut milk
5-6 basil leaves, chiffonaded
Trim the end and peel the outer leaves of the lemongrass and set aside two. Split the third stalk down the middle and remove two more layers of outer leaves and finely mince the soft inner stalk; set aside. In large stock pan heat oil over high heat. Add curry paste and mash it up to saute in the oil, 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk, lime leaves, minced lemongrass, 1 can of water, and place whole lemongrass stalks in pot and bring to boil. Reduce to medium high heat and add fish sauce and broccoli and cook 2-3 minutes. Add peppers and shrimp and scallops and cook until seafood is done. Add basil after removing from heat and ladle curry over cooked rice.