Thai Curry From Scratch
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For years Most of the time I use canned curry paste to make my Panang curry or any other coconut milk based curry.  But there are times when I turn to this recipe and make the curry paste from scratch.  The canned curry paste is really a convenient time saver and it makes a delicious curry.  But making curry paste from scratch is rewarding and it does give a completely different home made taste. Ingredients for the curry stock: 6 pounds cut up chicken pieces, bone-in and skinless.  You may substitute lots of vegetables for a vegetarian version. 1 ½ cans coconut milk, about 19 ounces  (I use Chef’s Choice brand) 2 cups home made chicken stock or use water as a substitute.  Do not use canned chicken stock. For the curry paste: 7 large dried whole red chili peppers.  I use the kind I find in Asian grocery stores.  They come in a big bag and are each about 3-4 inches long and ½ to ¾ inches wide. 12 shallots or 1 medium to large yellow onion, peeled and diced 10 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 2 teaspoons turmeric for color 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, found in a small jar in Asian grocery stores.  (see photo) You may omit this if you cannot find it.  Or try adding just 1 or 2 small peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped fine. For the seasoning when cooking is done: 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, soaked for 30-45 minutes in 1 cup water to make tamarind juice (see instructions.)  You can find tamarind pulp in Asian grocery stores.  Try omitting this if you cannot find it. 4 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (I use Three Crabs brand) 3 tablespoons palm sugar, may use brown sugar, molasses, or white refined sugar as a last resort 1 teaspoon salt In a low oven of 200 degrees F, toast the coriander and cumin seeds for 5-10 minutes until they start to sizzle and pop, or their aroma develops.  They are easy to burn so monitor them closely.  If you have trouble getting this right, you may substitute dried ground coriander and cumin. Soak the dried red chili peppers in water until they soften and start to turn color.  For me this takes a couple of hours. Combine all of the ingredients for the curry paste along with ½ cup of water and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Heat the coconut milk and the chicken stock in a heavy curry pot until it just boils.  Like cow’s milk it is easy to scald coconut milk so be careful to add other ingredients as soon as the coconut milk boils.  Add the curry paste and stir.  Add the chicken or vegetables and simmer on low heat until cooked through.  This can take about an hour for bone-in chicken or as little as 10-20 minutes if you are using boneless breast chicken or vegetables. When you are ready to serve, take the soaked tamarind pulp and squeeze and reserve the water to make fresh tamarind juice.  Add 5 tablespoons of the reserved tamarind juice to the curry pot and discard the pulp.  Add the fish sauce, palm sugar and salt and stir to combine, then serve. Here are some ideas for adding optional fruit and vegetables to the curry pot during cooking: Carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch sticks Potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes Pineapple chunks Green or red sweet pepper You can add about 2 or 3 cups of vegetables to this recipe without adding more coconut milk and chicken stock.  If you are skipping the chicken you can add several more cups of vegetables.  The pineapple and sweet pepper will require hardly any cooking time, so they can be added near the end of the cooking.  The potatoes and carrots will need about 20 minutes to cook in the pot.