This seemingly difficult recipe is actually very easy and packed with flavor. Once you have all of your ingredients prepared, this beautiful Panang curry comes together in a snap.
To start the paste, boil the peanuts until very soft. This should take about 45 minutes at a gentle boil. Remove the seeds from the chilies, leaving a few seeds in if you like more heat. Soak the chilies in a pot of hot water for about 15 minutes. Add a bit of water to the peanuts if needed as the water will boil down quite a bit. In the meantime, toast the cumin, coriander and mace/nutmeg and set aside to cool.
When the chilies are soft, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Finely chop and set aside. Once the peanuts are soft, drain and set aside to cool completely.
Remove the outer skin of the galangal and finely chop. Mince the bottom (white part) of the lemongrass. Next, finely chop the garlic, shallot and the root of the coriander. Lastly, zest the kaffir lime.
To make the paste, in a mortar and pestle grind the cumin, coriander and mace/nutmeg until you have a fine powder. Next, grind the chilies along with a good pinch of salt. Scrape down the sides of the pestle from time to time and pound the chilies until very fine. Add the galangal. Pound each ingredient in fully before adding the next. Add the lemongrass, garlic, coriander root, shallots and lime zest. Finally, grind in the peanuts.
Tear half of the kaffir lime leaves into small pieces, removing the tough stem in the middle; chiffonade the other half. Slice the chili on a slight angle.
Remove the basil leaves from the rest of the stems and set aside. Measure the palm sugar and Fish-less Fish Sauce. Finally, measure out the coconut cream into 1 cup portions.
Heat your wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the first cup of coconut cream and let cook until the coconut oil begins to separate, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add about 5 to 6 tablespoons of the Panang paste. Fry this for a minute or two until very fragrant, before adding the beefless tips. Cook the beefless tips until the outside is cooked.
Add the remaining cup of coconut cream and bring to a gentle boil. Then turn the heat down to medium and add the palm sugar, Fish-less Fish Sauce and the torn pieces of lime leaves. Stir and let cook for a few minutes.
Test one of the larger pieces of beefless tips for doneness. They should be quite firm and tender. Once done, add the basil leaves. Scoop into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, the chiffonade of lime leaves, red chilies and remaining basil. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.
- Mace is the thin, red lace-like cover on the outside of the nutmeg. It has a very similar flavor to nutmeg; it’s just a bit more delicate. If you can’t find mace, you could substitute with a bit of nutmeg.
- Sweet Thai basil is not the same as regular basil. Thai basil has a beautiful aroma and flavor, which really adds to this dish.
- Take care when handling chilies, as you can burn your skin from the seeds and ribs of the chilies. Wear gloves or thoroughly wash your hands with hot soapy water after chopping.
- Kaffir lime leaves are very strong. You can halve the amount if you like. You may also find the torn pieces of kaffir lime to be too tough. However, it is very common in Thai cooking to add larger pieces of the more aromatic ingredients.
- Panang curry is excellent with plant-based chick’n, tofu, tempeh or vegetables. The paste will keep for quite a few days in the refrigerator or for several months in the freezer.