Thai curry, how I love thee. You're spicy yet sweet. You're rich with coconut milk yet surprisingly light. You're full of enough vegetables that I can feel vaguely healthy eating you. And now I can make you at home.The "Cooking Without Recipes" section in Fine Cooking magazine is always one of my favorites, and this formula for cooking endless variations of Thai curry is no exception. We're given the basic building blocks and cooking steps for the recipe, and are then offered our choice of various ingredients. Red, green, yellow, or panang curry? Chicken, shrimp, or tofu? Now, pick four of these fresh vegetables.
I went with red curry and chicken for my recipe test run, scented with kaffir lime leaves and ginger. For vegetables, I chose my favorites: mushrooms, red pepper, carrots, and onion. At the last minute, I threw in some shredded cabbage that had been lingering in the fridge for a few days long, my motto being "leave no vegetable left behind, even with the pot looks full to bursting."
The thing that surprised me the most about this recipe was how quickly and easily it came together. There's not a lot of guess work here. You make the curry base with coconut milk, curry paste, and broth. Then you let the ingredients simmer for a set period of time. I let mine go for a little longer than the recipe recommended, mostly because I'm a chicken when it comes to chicken and prefer to let it cook thoroughly. But it still only took maybe fifteen minutes on the stovetop until the curry was ready to serve.
And the curry was delicious. This is something that I've only ever ordered in a restaurant, and I had to give myself (or rather, Fine Cooking) a pat on the back for assembling an equally tasty dish at home. It was rich and flavorful, with crisp vegetables and tender bits of chicken. I found myself wanting some rice or bread to sop up the last bits of the curry sauce.
I'm definitely adding this one to my weeknight meal rotation. With a can of coconut milk and some curry paste in the pantry, it's an easy recipe to whip up with whatever veggies are on hand.
• Get the Recipe: Thai Curry - Recipe Maker from Fine Cooking
Related: Korma to Vindaloo: DIY Curry Pastes from Jamie Oliver
(Image: Emma Christensen)