Skip the drive to OC and make Thai curry at home

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Do you like trying out new restaurants? I love going to a new place to see what the food and atmosphere are all about. Sometimes the buzz around a restaurant is all marketing and hype but sometimes it really is the food.

I subscribe to an Orange County magazine and each month I salivate over the restaurant reviews and foodie descriptions. Yes, my heart and home are in the Inland Empire, but my stomach is definitely in Orange County.

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of having lunch with a wonderful friend who loves food as much as I do. We went to a Japanese restaurant and instead of ordering the usual, sushi, we ordered Japanese curry.

When I think of curry, my mind immediately goes to Indian curry, which is a complex combination of several spices including turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger and dried or fresh chilies. But doing a little research I discovered that curry is much more.

The Indian subcontinent is home to several different styles of curry, all of them differing slightly in ingredients and preparation. Each country in the area, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have different styles of curries.

There are “dry” curries and “wet” curries, those made with water versus those made with coconut milk, spicy and not spicy, meat-filled and meatless. And then there is what is served alongside the curry: unleavened breads, rice, or millet. The variations seem to be endless.

But wait, there’s more. Other countries have adopted and adapted curry due to migrating populations and available local vegetables, producing even more stylistic interpretations of the Indian dish.

Countries all over East Asia, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Korea and China, among others, have their own version of curry. That explains the Japanese curry dish, Chicken Katsu Curry, I had while visiting with my friend in Orange County.

Recently my husband and I ate at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, which happens to be in Lake Elsinore (yay, IE!). In perusing the menu, I noticed that they serve several Thai curry dishes. Why hadn’t I seen that before?

How does Thai curry differ from Indian curry? Thai curries are made from a paste consisting of several ingredients ground together including onions or shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, coriander, chilies and sometimes a fermented fish paste or shrimp paste.

Most Thai curries feature either meat, fish, or shellfish, along with regional or seasonal vegetables. They are also topped with fresh herbs, like Thai basil, just before serving.

This week’s recipe comes from the McCormick.com website and is another “dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes” recipe. Actually, this one takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish, not including any rice or noodles you might serve with this.

Additionally, this recipe fits into many diet plans, including gluten-free, dairy free, paleo and keto. To make this vegetarian or vegan, substitute tofu for the shrimp and eliminate the fish sauce. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy Thai curry.


Thai Red Curry Shrimp with Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (13.66 ounces) Coconut Milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste (such as Thai Kitchen brand)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup assorted vegetables, such as snap peas, bamboo shoots, sliced mushrooms, or sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Thai Fish Sauce
  • Fresh red chilis, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions:

In a large nonstick or cast iron skillet, bring coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add curry paste and sugar; stir until well blended. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Add raw shrimp and assorted vegetables.

Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp just turns pink and vegetables are tender-crisp. Add Thai basil and fish sauce. Serve with jasmine rice or rice noodles. Garnish with red chili slices.

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Betty Williams