Green curry with coconut milk is one of my favorite Thai dishes. It's sweet, rich, and spicy, a great dish for those of us who believe that hot and spicy food is a great way to cool off in the summertime! Making curry from scratch used to seem a daunting prospect for a weeknight supper, but a Thai friend gave me this easy recipe for restaurant-style green curry that only calls for a handful of ingredients. This is a dish you can put on the table in just about half an hour, thanks to a good brand of green curry paste, and it turns out a silky smooth coconut curry sauce with tender chicken, green zucchini, and glowing heat.
This recipe really couldn't be easier. You use a can of good green curry paste, found at the Asian grocery, and sauté it with a little oil. Add coconut milk, chicken, and simmer. Ta-da — really delicious and spicy green curry.
For the curry paste I use the Maesri brand, which is in little green cans you can find at your local Asian grocery. Good quality coconut milk is important, too; I use Chaokoh.
I like to also add cuttlefish balls, which are little chewy, savory balls made out of pressed fish. (Find them in the frozen section of the Asian grocery.) They add a slightly funky fishy element to the curry that I really like, but they're completely optional — you can leave them out.
And finally, this recipe is easily adaptable to vegetarians — just use the zucchini and leave out the meat and fish, or add some fried tofu squares at the end.
Thai Green Curryserves 6 to 8 (freezes well)
1 pound zucchini
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
8 ounces frozen cuttlefish balls (optional)
2 to 4 ounces Thai green curry paste, such as Maesri
2 cans good quality coconut milk, such as Chaokoh
Fish sauce, to taste
Sugar, to taste,
Soy sauce, to taste
Chop the zucchini into 1/2-inch-wide half moons (cut these in half if the zucchini is very large) and set them aside. Cut the chicken into even, bite-sized chunks about 1-inch long and set aside. Run warm water over the package of cuttlefish balls to soften them. Open the cans of coconut milk and set them to the side.
Heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a 4-quart (or larger) Dutch oven or heavy pot set over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, add the curry paste. (For a fully tongue-tingling experience, use the full 4-ounce can. If you have a lower tolerance for heat, use half the can.) Fry the paste for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. This will be quite pungent, so turn on the fan!
Scoop the thickened coconut solids out of both cans of coconut milk, leaving the watery milk below. Fry this for about 2 minutes with the curry paste too, until the oil starts to separate out, forming beads on top of the curry paste. Add the chicken pieces and sauté for about 1 minute.
Add the rest of the coconut milk. Add the fish balls, if you're using them. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the fish balls are warm — about 10 minutes.
When the chicken is done, add the zucchini and simmer just until they're tender. Taste and adjust seasonings with fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce until it is balanced enough for your tastes.
Serve with rice or rice noodles. This keeps well, freezes well, and does great made the night before and heated up the next day.
(Images: Faith Durand)