When I was in the eighth grade, my computer science teacher told me how much he LOVED Thai food (right after he wanted to know what I thought of “Platoon,” and if the gun shots in the movie frightened me and reminded me of war–WHAT war was he talking about, I wondered, as I’d spent my entire life in America). I had never had Thai food and just stared blankly at him as he described how much the food made him sweat, he said it made him sweat into his eyes and made him cry but he just LOVED THAI FOOD. I was so grossed out by the thought of him sweating into his food that the thought of Thai food receded into the background…and I did not try Thai food until my adult years.
But the vision of delicious Thai food that could reduce a man to tears stayed imprinted deep in my mind.
When I finally did eat Thai food for the first time in college, I started off eating pad thai which was a nice and easyy introduction to the Thai tastes of coconut milk and fish sauce undertones–but where were the spice and heat? Then I delved into the various Thai curry dishes. And loved them. Hot. Spicy. Yes.
Which leads to my first attempt at making beef panang curry–it led to MANY tears. But not the sad kind, the “I am eating way too many chili peppers” kind. I had become my 8th grade computer science teacher. I used a bit too much curry paste (you can buy this at the Berkeley Bowl in the Bay Area or various Ranch 99 stores) and ended up scorching my taste buds! It tasted SO good, but I was sweating and crying while I ate it! (I hope I don’t gross you out like my teacher grossed me out) I had to get up halfway through my meal and pour myself a glass of milk to keep things under control. Next time, I’ll add less curry paste and stay in my seat the whole time.
btw, my husband who normally does NOT like leftovers, ate the beef panang curry leftovers today. I’d say that means this is tasty! I hope you like it too.
Panang Nuea, Beef Panang Curry
* 1 pound of beef, any flavorful cut will do, I used a strip steak cut into bite size pieces
* 2-3 heaping tbsp of red curry paste (um, I used double this amount)
* 1 can of coconut milk, about 14 fl.oz or 400 g.
* 1/2 cup of water
* fish sauce to taste (start with 1 tbsp and go from there, this stuff is salty)
* 1/8 cup ground peanuts (optional)
* 3 tbsp of sugar
* a few kefir lime leaves for the curry and a few cut into chiffonade or very very thin strips (for garnish)
* 1/8 tsp cumin
* 1 pinch of cinnamon
* 1 pinch of ground cloves
* handful of basil leaves
* 1 tsp ground white or black pepper
* optional: 1 tablespoon galangal, chopped
* optional: 2 stalks lemongrass chopped
* optional: various vegetables (baby corn, or bamboo shoots or carrots etc.)
1. cook the curry paste and the coconut milk, stirring vigorously, until separated
2. add the beef and mix well with the curry, then the rest of ingredients, except the chiffonade lime leaves
3. let cook at a very low simmer for about an hour or two, or until the liquid reduces by about half into a thick sauce, or until the beef is melting soft, check the seasonings, add more fish sauce or sugar as needed. Garnish with the kefir lime leaf chiffonade.
4. serve with steamed jasmine rice