This bold, spicy, and creamy Thai-style curry gives take out a run for its money. This sauce is THE definition of umami. Packed with flavor from cooking for hours in the slow cooker and filled with nutrients, it's a comforting and filling dish ready to satisfy your Thai food cravings.
When I go out for Thai (or, more often, get take out), I don't know why I even bother looking at the menu. I always do, just in case something new jumps out at me, but 10 times out of 10 I end up right back where I started: Red (or green) coconut curry.
I've made a lot of coconut curry's at home over the years, mostly in attempt to make something a little healthier -- a version that doesn't leave me feeling puffy and bloated from all the excess sodium. And one that's filled with vegetables (why are they so stingy with the vegetables?). There are a lots of good recipes out there for quick on-the-stove versions that come close enough and satisfy my craving, but I recently discovered that making it in the slow cooker takes the flavor to an entirely new level.
If you don't have a slow cooker, you could certainly do this on the stove. But cooking the chicken for hours in this sauce gives it a chance so really soak up all the flavor and become oh so tender. Plus isn't it nice to just put in the ingredients and then go about your day?
Let's talk about the coconut milk for a moment. We don't fear fat in our house. Some fat in our diets is essential to help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K) as well as many important phytonutrients found in vegetables. It keeps our skin and hair looking good, keeps our immune system strong, and plays a role in many other important functions that keep us healthy. It also plays a role in satiety because it slows digestion. This is all to say...when it comes to coconut milk, use the full-fat stuff here. I have tried it with low-fat or "light" coconut milks and it's just too watery. If you really can't help yourself then all I can say is: you've been warned.
If you haven't cooked with fish sauce before, I have to warn you that it's a bit smelly. But it really makes the dish. You can't have coconut curry without it, so you're going to have to just get over that smell. Don't stick your nose in the bottle and you'll be just fine.
This recipe calls for the entire 4 ounce jar of Thai style curry paste. I don't have a high tolerance for overly spicy foods, so don't worry about it being too spicy. It's bold with a bit of a kick, but not so spicy that you can't taste anything else. What's a little untraditional about this dish is that I add ginger to the sauce. It brightens the flavor and balances the spice a little. You can go the traditional route and leave it out, but why not live on the edge a little?
Otherwise this recipe is fairy flexible. You could use chicken breast instead of thigh (though the thighs are more tender) or stew meat or sliced sirloin for a beef curry. I'm not sure how well tofu would hold up in the slow cooker, so if you're looking for a vegetarian version, you might want to do this on the stovetop and add the tofu for a few minutes at the end. (Follow this guide to make crispy restaurant style tofu in the oven). Add whatever vegetables you like - green beans are also nice option as is baby bok choy.
Serve over brown rice or rice noodles. Don't skip this part. You're going to want something to soak up all that dreamy sauce.
- 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
- 4-ounce jar red Thai curry paste
- 1-inch knob ginger, minced
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 small eggplant, sliced into half moons
- 1 medium bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow), sliced thin
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
- optional toppings fresh lime, chopped mint, or cilantro
- For serving: cooked brown rice or brown rice noodles