Beef Panang is considered a dry curry (for Thailand at least) because it contains less roux (liquid base), and specifically, less coconut milk than other Thai curries. It is also one of the best uses for lean/tough beef, which is great since that’s pretty much all we have around here. Panang is an easy dish to make and my way is even easier than most. I’ve tried it the normally advocated way, by heating curry paste in coconut milk first, but I’ve found this is a waste of time when using ready-made curry paste. So without further ado:
- Beef – Any cut. Any quantity approximating that in the photos below (about 1.5 pounds).
- Thai red curry paste – Suitable quantity depends on brand; see photos below for reference
- Coconut milk – About one cup
- Fresh kaffir lime leaves – Slice these into strips. I used 2-3 big leaves in the photos below.
- Nampla (filtered fish sauce) – Suitable quantity depends on brand; I only used a couple dashes since I was using a fairly pungent brand. Remember, the only 2 reasons to use nampla are to make things SALTIER and FUNKIER – it doesn’t make a dish magically Thai, but it sure can funktify (esp. if you throw it in a hot frying pan).
- OPTIONAL: Raw cane sugar – A tablespoon or so. I forego the use of sugar because I can’t stand sweet curries, and this dish already contains coconut milk.
Cut the beef into strips. Traditionally, it should be cut into thinner strips than this, but I like bite-sized chunks. Cut the kaffir lime leaves up as well. The baggie in the background contains the red curry paste (we only used about half).
Heat a bit of vegetable oil in the pan and add the red curry paste. Fry it for a couple minutes on medium high heat to activate it, stirring rapidly to prevent sticking and burning. Then add the meat and stir often.
Did I forget to mention that Nam was cooking while I took photos? Anyway, the baby started waking up at this point so the coconut milk was added earlier than usual – we usually wait until the meat is slightly browned but it turned out not to make a difference. Also, the Quick ‘n Dirty series of recipes is designed for those that need to display adaptability on occasion, so they are meant to be stretched and improvised upon.
After the coconut milk is added, add a couple splashes of nampra (be careful, it’s really salty! You can always add more later, as well as sugar if you want) and also the lime leaves. Then turn the heat down to low-medium and let it simmer until either the meat becomes unbelievable soft and succulent, or tempted by the heavenly smell, you start scooping ladlefuls of panang onto hot mounds of rice and let the little piggy in you take over.
Alternatively, you can serve with boiled egg halves and veggies of some kind.
Note that you can eat the lime leaves, but they are a bit tough. I usually put them to the side.
This is C. Buddha signing off with today’s Quick ‘n Dirty recipe – funky and delicious, yet simple and semi-authentic-ish Beef Panang.