Monday, October 5, 2009

Thai Red Curry with Chicken, Red Peppers, and Pineapple

There is not much that is more satisfying to me than a bowl of Thai curry with some fluffy white rice on the side. My default bonding activity with my sister for the last few years has been to meet up for Thai food at our favorite place in the Loop area of St. Louis. There are four Thai restaurants within 2 city blocks of each other there, and they are all owned by the same family. The strange part of this scenario is not the number, but the differing levels of quality of these restaurants. The one that my sister and I go to is, in my mind, unquestionably the best. My cousins, however, maintain that the restaurant a block away is superior. In any case, during the summers, when my cousins are all around, back from school or from out of town for the summer, inordinate amounts of Thai food is a given. Sometimes more than once a week, we head over to Thai Café and tell stories and laugh (often hysterically) with each other as we spoon curry onto beds of rice. And as adventurous as we all may be outside of that restaurant, our orders hardly ever change. Unfailingly, I order panaang curry with chicken, my sister gets yellow curry with only chicken and potatoes, and my cousins ask for the masman curry. And it is delicious every time.
The day eventually came when I decided, just that once, to deviate from my usual and try a different taste. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to stray from the coconut curries into other, less-traveled sections of the menu, but I studied the selection and chose the red curry with some slight trepidation. Would it live up to my beloved panaang? Would it be $7.50 down the drain, having me wish I’d just stuck to what I know is good? But when it came, I decided I had found a dish to rival my old favorite. The red curry paste maintains the intense heat of the dish, while the red bell peppers and pineapple soften the bite.
Since being in Swaziland for the last four months, there are foods that I have missed from home. And ironically, one of the foods that I miss most from America is that Thai curry. My lovely sister understood very well and was kind enough to send me a huge care package with some of my favorite foods, including containers of both red and panaang curry paste. It only took me about 2 days before I broke open the red curry, and this is what I was able to recreate.
Thai Red Curry with Chicken, Red Peppers, and Pineapple

1 tbsp. olive oil
3 green onions, chopped finely
2 – 5 tbsp. red curry paste (start with 2 and taste it after it has simmered for a while before adding more)
1 15-oz. can coconut milk
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin slices
¾ - 1 cup pineapple chunks (if from a can, drain the juice)
1 - 2 tsp. sugar, to taste
¼ - ½ cup boiling water, if extra liquid is necessary to cover all ingredients
salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions for about 2 – 3 minutes, or until they start to become translucent. Add the curry paste and continue to sauté for another 1 – 2 minutes, stirring it constantly. Add the can of coconut milk and stir well to mix. Heat through and bring to a simmer, and then add the chicken and red bell peppers and stir, then cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sugar to taste.   Add the pineapple chunks and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. When the chicken is cooked all the way through, add more curry paste, if desired, and salt to taste. Serve with fluffy white jasmine or basmati rice.

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