I’m all for making things from scratch, and I think it would be fun someday to make my own Thai curry pastes. But I have to say, there’s something wonderful about having pre-made curry paste on hand. Curry paste + coconut milk + seasonal vegetables + meat = one of my favorite formulas for a fast and flavorful meal.
There are actually a few Northwest companies making their own really tasty curry pastes. Thai Curry Simple right by the International District light rail/bus tunnel stop sells their own pastes, although they contain soy sauce, which isn’t gluten-free, so I can’t eat them. I’ve been buying Thai & True, a Portland-based company’s paste at Whole Foods and other stores. It has good flavor and simple ingredients. (Note, I’m not endorsing any of these products. I don’t do endorsements; I just eat stuff.)
Last week, I found myself with panang curry paste on hand, some fresh asparagus, spring carrots, and shiitakes from the farmers market, and a lamb shoulder chop. Less than fifteen minutes later, I had dinner. If you’re short on time, and heavy on asparagus, try this recipe out. You can substitute in other vegetables, of course. This can be served over rice or just eaten with a spoon. I did the latter.
Panang Curry with Lamb, Asparagus, Shiitake and Carrot
– 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) panang curry paste
– 1/2 can coconut milk
– 1 lamb shoulder steak (or 2 if you’re both really hungry)
– a handful fresh shiitake mushrooms
– 1/8 – 1/4 lb fresh asparagus
– small bunch small spring carrots
– 2-4 kaffir lime leaves (buy in an Asian market and keep in your freezer)
– coconut oil
– fish sauce
1. Prepare vegetables: Remove hard parts from asparagus and cut into bite-sized pieces. Slice mushrooms, discarding harder parts of stems. Cut carrots into small pieces. Cut lime leaves into thin strips with a sharp knife or scissors.
2. Prepare meat: Cut lamb shoulder meat off the bone, salvaging as much meat as possible. You can save the bone in the freezer for stock. Keep fat on the meat except the very outer-most layer of the outer fat, which is a bit too tough to chew.
3. Heat oil. Add carrots to pan and stir a few minutes, letting the edges brown slightly. Add mushrooms, a bit more coconut oil, and a dash of fish sauce. Cook until mushrooms brown and release out some of their oil.
4. Add curry paste to the oil. Let it bubble and cook. Stir it gently to spread it out.
5. Add meat and lime leaves to the oil/curry mixture. Let meat brown on all sides. Add the asparagus shortly after.
6. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Let the curry simmer for just a few minutes; you don’t want to overcook the lamb. While it’s simmering, taste it for saltiness and adjust fish sauce as desired.
7. Serve immediately, as-is or over rice.