The beauty of living in the Bay Area of California is that we have such a wide range of restaurants to choose from. Within a 30 minute drive you can pretty much find a restaurant specializing in dishes from just about every culture. We have the typical Mexican restaurants as well as representation from countries all throughout South America. There is German, Austrian, French, Greek, Persian, and of course Italian. When it comes to Asian food, we don’t just refer to it as Chinese – we get specific, Taiwanese, Szechuan, Cantonese and then branch out to Mongolian, Singaporean (think mix of Indian and Chinese), Korean or Vietnamese who serve one of my favorites, pho. Japanese at least 3 ways – sushi, teppanyaki, and udon. And for those that like it spicy, we have Thai.
What I like about going to Thai restaurants is they always ask you, “How spicy?”. I like spicy food, but Thai spicy is en fuego. So I stick with mild and choose to add my spice at the table as there is always a bevy of different sauces and chilies at the table to choose from. My staple dish that I always fall back on is Thai Basil Chicken – it is probably the equivalent typical American order of Kung Pao or Mongolian Beef at a Chinese restaurant. It is a safe, flavorful choice that you really can not go wrong with. When I feel adventurous though, I go for the Thai Red Curry Chicken.
When most people hear the word curry they automatically think of food from India and the unmistakable smell of the spice mix. Thai curry though is slightly different and results in fantastic dishes full of flavorful spice. Note the word flavorful and not hot. The recipe below is on the less hot side so if you want to kick it up a notch, just add more paste and more peppers.
1 med white onion cut in half and sliced
3 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 red bell pepper cut in half and sliced
14 oz can of coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp of Thai Red Curry Paste
1 Tbsp of fresh chopped Thai basil (can substitute sweet basil)
1-2 Thai chili peppers diced
Thai Fish Sauce
1 Tsp of brown sugar
¾ lb of chicken chopped into 1/2”-1” pieces
1/4 cupped fresh chopped cilantro
Start by heating sesame oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add sliced onion, saute 1-2 min. Add garlic and sliced red bell pepper, saute 1-2 min. Add basil and chili peppers and saute for 1 more minute. Add a splash of chicken stock and saute 1-2 min more to bring flavors together. Add coconut milk and stir in curry paste. Turn heat up to bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and continue to simmer. Stir in 2 drops of fish sauce and brown sugar. Taste and adjust spices to your preferences (more curry paste, salt, white pepper). Add chicken to sauce and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Serve the chicken and sauce in a small bowl or plate with edges to hold in the sauce. Top with the fresh cilantro. Serve alongside white rice.
NOTES- I prefer chicken thigh/leg meat as it absorbs the flavor better. If you have the time, there is a longer cooking method that results in a “cleaner” sauce with more crisp vegetables. Prior to serving, quickly saute another onion and the other half of the bell pepper all sliced as before. Just prior to these softening, strain the sauce from your chicken into these vegetables. Let simmer on low for a couple minutes while you remove just the chicken from the strainer and put back in your sauce with the new vegetables. Discard the old onions and bell peppers.