Here's an overview of the different types of Thai curries (from mild to spicy) and the most common combinations:
- Yellow Curry (Kaeng Kari). This is generally a mild Thai curry and turmeric in the paste results in a bright yellow color. Yellow curry is most often made with chicken, onion, and potatoes. For a paleo version of this basic recipe, I substitute rutabaga or other paleo-friendly root vegetables for the potatoes. I also like making a yellow curry with shrimp and baby sweet tomatoes.
- Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman). This Thai curry is Muslim in origin and the paste contains "warming" spices like cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and nutmeg. Massaman curry is a great winter curry and is most often made with beef, nuts, onion, and potatoes. I generally make massaman curry with beef, onion, and cashews then serve it over mixed raw cut veggies although again, paleo-friendly root vegetables can be substituted for the potatoes.
- Panang Curry (Panaeng). This Thai curry is one of my favorites and can range from quite mild to fiery hot. Panang curry paste has similar ingredients to red curry paste (and in some cases, recipes even call for red curry paste), but the preparation of a panang curry makes it distinct. While the other curries tend to be served in a bowl with a creamy coconut gravy, panang is a "dry" curry made it less coconut milk and served on a plate. Panang curry is often made with beef or chicken and peanuts. I like substituting cashews for the peanuts and I think pretty much any veggie tastes great in a panang curry.
- Red Curry (Kaeng Phet). This is a spicier Thai curry made with red chilies and is usually prepared with chicken or seafood and bamboo shoots. I like adding red bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli although like the panang, I will use any veggie in a red curry.
- Green Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan). This is one of the spiciest Thai curries made with green chilies and I believe the most common in Thailand. It is made with a variety of meats but almost always contains eggplant. In addition to eggplant, I like making it with chicken and adding other green vegatables like fresh green beans, zucchini, baby bok choy and broccoli.
Note that I do not make my own curry paste. There are plenty of recipes for each type of curry paste, but most pre-packaged pastes are paleo-friendly (but read the ingredients to be sure) and I've never been quite able to attain the same tastes with my homemade curry paste. So I take the easy road here.
- 1 T coconut oil
- 1 "scoop" curry paste of choice (start with 1-2 tsp - you can add more later)
- 1 can coconut milk
- kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- chilies or sambal oelek for more kick (optional)
- 2-3 cups vegetable(s) of choice, chopped
- 1 pound meat of choice, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1-2 tsp fish sauce
- 2-4 tsp lime juice
- 2-3 T fresh basil or cilantro, chopped (optional)
- cashews (optional)
- Heat oil in a wok or pan over medium-high heat.
- Add curry paste and fry for 2-3 minutes. The paste will become fragrant and may begin popping and sizzling.
- Add about 1/3 can of coconut milk and kaffir limes leaves (if using) and mix well with the curry paste and oil. Fry for 5-10 minutes or until an oily sheen appears the coconut milks begins to separate.
- Add the vegetables and fry 1-2 minutes.
- Add the meat and fry 1-2 minutes.
- Add the remaining 2/3 can of coconut milk along with the fish sauce and lime juice. Cook 5 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are at a desired doneness.
- Taste and adjust. Too mild? Add more curry paste. Too bland? Add more fish sauce and/or lime juice. Too thick? Add a little water. Continue adjusting until you reach that taste of ultimate yumminess.
- Stir in basil or cilantro and cashews (if using).
- Serve immediately over Cauliflower Rice, Spaghetti Squash, or a mix of chopped raw vegetables.