Chris Cooks

Light Coconut Curry with Brown Rice – a Healthier Take on Thai Red Curry

January 7, 2014  —  Written by Chris 

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Hello e’rbody! Long time no blog.

I’ve had a few questions asking about all the gluten in my cooking recently, and why we haven’t been so strict on that. Well, because Jules has been so sick, her doctors told her to just eat whatever she could and they’d monitor her levels closely. For almost a month she was only able to eat English muffins and other bread stuff, so we haven’t been worried about it. But now that she’s feeling a little better, I’ve decided to go back to gluten-free cooking. And what better way to dive back into gluten-free cooking than with one of my favorite Thai dishes: red curry.

Now I love me some curry. I mean, I love Thai food in general, as we’ve discussed. The intense flavors of curry are just so wonderful and I can’t stop eating it. Unfortunately, it can be pretty rich and heavy. And since the clock just struck 2014, I’m still in full “resolution” mode – i.e., eating healthy. So  the goal becomes to make a lighter version of this delicious dish, and what do you know, it’s super easy. Here’s what you need. This is enough to feed 4-6 people.

• 2 chicken tenders, tendon removed and meat sliced (yes, only 2. this is not a massively meaty dish)
• 1 small green bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
• 1 small red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
• 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
• 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
• 3 tbsp basil, chopped
• 1 can of coconut milk (this brand isn’t my favorite, but is the best our Idaho grocery stores offer – I’m a fan of Mae Ploy)
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 Tbsp fish sauce
• 2 Tbsp red curry past
• 1.5 Tbsp Tamarind paste (also can’t find this around here, but I had this left over from making it for Pad Thai way back when – it keeps for a really, really long time)
• 2 Tbsp coconut oil
• 1 lime, cut into wedges
• Steamed brown rice, to serve it with

Let’s make this quick. Heat a pot over medium low heat. Add the coconut oil and let it heat for a few seconds. Then add the curry paste and stir fry that for a minute. Add the can of coconut milk, stir and let simmer until the bubbles are red. Add the chicken stock, fish sauce and tamarind paste, stir well and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and bring it back to a simmer. Add green bell pepper, red bell pepper, carrot and onion. Stir it all together, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the basil, stir, simmer for 30-60 seconds, and it’s ready.

Cooking it this way, the veggies maintain some texture and integrity, but the harshness of the onion is cooked out just enough that it won’t be like eating a raw onion. Basil and other fresh herbs are best when added right at the end of cooking, because fresh herbs can taste a little muddy when overcooked.

The broth is packed with curry flavor, but eats more like a chicken soup than a curry. Served with brown rice and lime wedges, it’s a healthy, hearty meal that doesn’t sit heavy in the belly. Plus it’s easy.

Do you have a curry recipe that you love? I’m just a curry fiend and am always up to try something new. If you’re the same, feel free to give this a try and let me know how it goes. Happy new year, all! Peace out.

What do you think?

  1. Crystal says:

    Stumbled on to your blog and love it! I have tried four of your recipes so far and just wanted to say thanks! I am making your curry dish tonight. Smells amazing and I’m sure I will not be disappointed. My husband has given a thumbs up for each of your culinary creations. Love the details and the pictures. Much appreciated.

  2. And is it a green curry if you just sub the red for green curry paste?

    • Chris says:

      If you wanted to make it green, I would replace the carrots with bamboo shoots (drained), the red bell pepper with a green bell pepper, and green curry paste instead of red. Also, add a kefir lime leaf at the beginning of cooking (you’ll remove it before serving-kinda like using a bay leaf). You can buy them at that store in Provo. I seriously miss that store.

      • Thanks for the detailed replies! I appreciate it. We’ll try red and green side by side tomorrow night. I am SO wishing it was already tomorrow night.

      • Hey thanks again for your help! We made red curry AND green (per your instructions) last night. They were awesome! We had a hard time deciding which was our favorite, but I think green won by a lime leaf in the end. :) Just wanted to let you know that they were delicious!

      • Chris says:

        So glad you liked it! Of course it would be the lime leaf. :)

  3. Oh, I’m in Spanish Fork by the way. :)

  4. Hey Chris, where’d you find the tamarind paste when you were in Utah? The little ethnic store I used to buy coconut milk and thai basil from is closed, and they were my best known bet. ANy suggestions? Thanks! This looks great.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Jessica! I always went to the Asian Market just off center street in Provo. It’s right on the corner of Center and 500 W – kitty corner from Pioneer Park, directly across the street from the Fresh Market there. They used to be on E 500 S in Provo, but moved there maybe 18 months ago. I hope that’s not the place you used to go to that closed. I loved that store.

  5. Kelly says:

    I have that same bottle of red curry paste. On the back they have a recipe for red thai curry and I think they say you can use 2 tbsp brown sugar in place of tamarind? I followed their recipe using the brown sugar, but it was waay too sweet. I would knock it down to half tbsp and taste, then go from there.

    • Chris says:

      Other than being too sweet, how was the consistency? Did it seem heavy, or was it fairly light? I’m always worried the recipes included on the package will be too intensely heavy, salty, or sweet. Would love to know more about it!

      • Kelly says:

        Consistency was good, but you put it in earlier than you would if you were using taramind paste.

        I put the sugar in on the first step, at the same time that I added the oil and the curry paste. That way is dissolves/melts in with the other ingredients, then resume recipe as normal.

      • Kelly says:

        Here’s a link from Nigella that talks about subbing brown sugar for tamarind. She says to mix the brown sugar with lime juice, which I did not do. Perhaps that’s why I thought it was too sweet! Hope this helps :)

        http://www.nigella.com/kitchen-queries/view/Tamarind-Paste-Substitute/2844

  6. My mouth is watering…

  7. Summer says:

    I will definitely be trying this recipe. My husband is a world traveler and absolutely LOVES curry, but I have never been daring enough to attempt making it. Before we moved, we had neighbors from India and they would invite him over anytime they had it. Thanks Chris, for helping me to give it a go.

  8. Erin says:

    I just made something similar last night! I used this recipe, but I added a can of chick peas and a can of crushed tomatoes (without the liquid). It was awesome!

    http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2009/09/basil-chicken-in-coconut-curry-sauce.html#comments

    • Looks great! Good call on the tomatoes. I like a less gravy-like curry sauce, and I bet the tomatoes really helped with that. Thanks so much for sharing!

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