The foods Omar and I miss most are definitely Asian foods. Sushi, Thai, Korean, Pho — unfortunately there are none to be had in Rabat (none that we’ve found to be good anyway). It’s hard to even find the proper ingredients for these cuisines, so making them at home is no easy task. A couple weeks ago, I picked up some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and oyster sauce. This coupled with some fresh garlic, ginger, and Sriracha is enough to create some basic Asian flavors, but good Thai food is basically non-existent. This might not sound like a big deal, but Thai food and Sushi are the primary cuisines we chose whenever we ate out in DC. We could give up steak houses, pub grub, fancy French joints, and even Italian, and spend all of our dining out dollars on Thai and Sushi. Of course, it’s not an option here.
With that as a background, imagine my giddiness when I found Thai Red Curry paste at the Marjane last weekend. Spotting it on a top shelf, dusty and lonely, I climbed onto the shelf reached up on my tip toes and reached with all my might. My fingertips barely grazed the container. Seeing a desperate, short, struggling Asian girl reaching for Thai curry paste in the middle of the Marjane must be a sight, because TWO people came over to help me get the container down. “Shokraan! Merci!” Taking the container, I looked at lid: MFD: Mar 2012. Yes, it was manufactured over a year and a half ago and “expires” in 2 months. Who cares? RED THAI CURRY PASTE! I grabbed it and scuttled over to see if I could find some unsweetened coconut milk. BINGO. Yes. With these two ingredients, some fresh cilantro, ginger, and garlic, I had the perfect recipe for an anniversary dinner.
Back home in the US, this red curry would be an easy weeknight meal. In fact, I’d probably be lamenting the fact that I didn’t have any kaffir lime leaves or fish sauce, but here in Rabat, I was giddy with excitement. Our seventh wedding anniversary fell on a Monday and when Omar asked if I wanted to go out for dinner, I quickly suggested that we eat in instead 🙂 . I told him I had a special dinner planned. He’s used to my dinner concoctions and recipe experiments, so he nodded and went to work. When he came home that evening his Thai food radar went off. “Ooooh, what are you cooking?” he asked. As he walked into the kitchen and peered into the simmering pot of red curry, his eyes lit up, “Where did you get the curry?” I looked at him, “Marjane” I replied.
“Awesome!” — It was just the reaction I was hoping for.
THAI RED CURRY (Make a Pumpkin version here)
5-6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 small cauliflower, cut into pieces (you can easily, use butternut squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant, or other “sturdy” vegetable that takes well to simmering)
4-5 small zucchinis, sliced into half-moons (optional too, see note above re: veggies)
2-3 green chilies (optional)
1-2 teaspoons of curry powder (optional, I really like a kick in my curry)
1/8 cup Red Thai Curry paste (brand of your choice, in my case, there was no choice, I was just happy to have any Thai Curry Paste)
1 15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1/8 cup freshly chopped cilantro
½ fresh lime
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs generously.
In a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Place the chicken into the pot, leaving space between the pieces, taking care not to crowd the chicken and working in batches if necessary. Leave the chicken for 4-5 minutes, flip once, and brown the other side. If the chicken sticks or is hard to remove when you try to flip it, don’t force it, just give it another minute or two before you flip it. Don’t move the chicken around either! You want to give it time to develop a nice sear.
Once the chicken is browned on both sides (don’t worry if it’s not cooked through), remove the chicken and place on a plate, set aside. In the same pot, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and leave any chicken drippings. Add the onions and carrots and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the other veggies you are using, garlic, and chilies, if using. Saute the veggies for another 3-4 minutes, or a few additional minutes especially if you are using potatoes or other veggies.
While the veggies are cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together half of the curry paste, curry power (if using), and coconut milk. Set aside.
Now, make a space in the veggies and add the other half of the curry paste and toast the paste lightly in the small place at the bottom of the pan for 1 minute.
Then stir to coat the veggies in the paste and add the coconut milk mixture. Bring the coconut milk to a simmer, then add the chicken and juices back into the pot, nestling the chicken in to the milk.
Simmer everything on low for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and all veggies are cooked. Stir occasionally to make sure the coconut milk doesn’t scorch. Once the chicken and veggies are done, serve over rice with some freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.