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Easy and Delicious Panang Curry Recipe

Bowls of Thai curriesI’m not sure why it took a backpacking trip through North and South Thailand to get me hooked on Thai food, but it certainly did the trick. My favorite food for the past decade continues to be Thai, and I’m especially partial to authentic Thai curries, in particular the Panang curry.

Note that I say authentic. It’s not all that easy finding good tasting, authentic Thai food, much less Thai curries. It’s for this reason that we bring you our famous Panang curry recipe, based on a recipe that has been handed down through the generations. With a slight twist that is – we make it a bit easier for you to make. We also provide a quick and easy version for those of you that have a Trader Joe’s nearby.

Panang Curry Recipe

Panang curryPanang curry (or Penang curry) is our favorite of the common Thai curries (red, green, yellow, brown). Panang curry is often made as a vegetarian curry as well (simply make it without meat or fish).

Note that Panang curry is not red curry – Panang, when made according to Thai tradition, is made using the cream of the coconut milk, and provides a thicker, pastier curry than the red curry, which is more of a soup curry. Furthermore, Panang curry is fried in coconut milk, as opposed to red curry, which is boiled. It is possible, however, to make a “soup” version of this curry, and that is actually our favorite.

This recipe makes two large servings. In most cases you’ll have some leftovers, so this could easily be enough for three people (as it usually is in our case).

Panang Curry Paste

At some point in the future we may add a section on making the Panang curry paste, but for now, it’s easy to simply buy some at your local grocery store. Panang curry paste is made up of:

Panang Curry Paste Ingredients

  • Chili peppers (5 large dried red chili peppers, seeded and soaked – prig kee nu chili is the most authentic choice)
  • Galangal (a root) (1 tsp, sliced)
  • Lemongrass (fresh, yellow section only – 1 tsp, thinly sliced using a very sharp knife)
  • Coriander (1 tsp)
  • Cilantro (root or stem – 1 tsp, sliced)
  • Ground Cumin (1 tsp)
  • Garlic (1 clove, pressed)
  • Shallots (5, sliced)
  • Peanuts (optional, 1/4 cup)
  • Kaffir Lime (the rind – 12 leaves, sliced)
  • Shrimp paste (optional, 1 Tbsp)
  • Sea Salt (1 tsp)
  • Pepper (white or black – 2 tsp)

Panang Curry Paste – Preparation

To make the panang curry paste, simply combine all the ingredients and pound with a mortar and pestle. You can also blend it all together in a food processor or blender.

The ingredients for our Panang curry recipe are as follows:

Panang Curry Ingredients

  • Protein: Chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or, since we eat mostly vegetarian, we use extra firm tofu sautéed in a couple Tbsp of olive or canola oil until browned (it is important to brown the tofu before you add it to the curry)
  • Rice (2 cups)
  • Coconut milk (use light coconut milk if you prefer) (2 cans)
  • Panang curry paste (1.5 Tbsp)
  • Brown sugar (3 Tbsp)
  • Fish sauce (2 Tbsp)
  • Green Peas or Sugar Snap Peas (1/2 cup)
  • Kaffir lime leaves (4-6)
  • Sweet basil leaves (for garnish)
  • Some water (to thin out and make more soupy, less thick)

Making your Panang Curry

Making the rice – boiling rice is not the most difficult part. For those that want a quick and easy way to boil rice – simply combine 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp butter in a microwave safe container with a lid. (There are many microwave rice cookers available on the market now, we use a Pampered Chef vegetable steamer). Microwave on high temperature for 5 minutes, and then on medium for 15 minutes.  Note that the cooking time applies specifically to the portions. If you use less or more rice you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you’re unsure of the ratios to use, simply make two or more batches. If you’re boiling your rice on the stove, pour the whole mixture into a pot, bring it to a boil, cover and then simmer for 20 minutes on low to medium heat.

Making the curry – Mix the coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, and fish sauce together in a pot, bring to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. Next, add your meat, seafood or pre-cooked tofu (optional), peas and kaffir lime leaves and simmer for an additional ten minutes. Before you remove from heat, make sure the meat or seafood is cooked all the way! Take the thickest piece, cut it in half, and verify that it’s cooked all the way through. If you find that you’ve boiled down your curry too much – and it tastes too thick, salty and concentrated, add some water to thin it out.

Serving the curry – When you’re all done, remove everything from the heat, and fill a bowl about halfway with rice, then top with curry (our favorite way to enjoy this meal). Or, for a more traditional approach, stuff all the rice in a small bowl, then turn the bowl upside down on a plate and tap it until the rice ball falls out (this is an easy way to make a fancy looking rice ball, like the ones you’re served in Thai restaurants). Next, pour a good portion of curry into a medium sized bowl, and place it next to the rice ball and serve. You may want to garnish it with sweet basil or thai basil leaves before serving.

Express (Quick) Panang Curry Recipe

If you’re in a hurry, or haven’t quite gotten the above thai red curry recipe to taste like you want it to, there’s a shortcut. This will not taste quite like the authentic red curry you’ll get in Thailand, and it uses somewhat different ingredients, but it’s super quick, healthy, natural, and very tasty. The secret? Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce (an 11 oz. bottle in the Asian/sauce section of Trader Joe’s).

Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce Ingredients

Curious as to what is in TJ’s red curry sauce and how closely it resembles the ingredients in our Panang curry paste?  The primary ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Coconut Milk
  • Red Chili Puree
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Sugar
  • Canola Oil
  • Salt
  • Cornstarch
  • Spices
  • Ginger
  • Onion Powder
  • Egg Yolks

Making Panang Curry with Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce

If you’ve decided to take the express route and make your Panang curry with Trader Joe’s red curry sauce, your job is even easier. Simply bring the red curry sauce to a simmer over medium heat, then add your meat, seafood or pre-cooked tofu (optional), and your peas and kaffir leaves, and simmer until the meat is cooked. You can even add carrots (peeled and sliced), potatoes (peeled and sliced) or other vegetables that you think would work well in this curry recipe. Then serve as described above.

Hungry For More?

Learn more about other types of curry and the history of the cuisine. Bobby Flay also cooks up an easy Grilled Shrimp curry in this 3 minute video. Enjoy!

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About Alex Schenker

Alex started the website Exploring Life’sMysteries with his wife Michelle, as they set out on a quest to discover the mysteries of life together. Alex loves to philosophize, wonder what our purpose is, and travel the world in search of new cultures, ideas, and lifestyles.
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  • Jennifer

    Hi, at the top you mentioned making it more like a soup, a favorite of yours. How would I do that? That is how it is served at the local Thai restaurant and I love it!

    Thanks,

    Jennifer

  • panang fan

    I’m also a huge fan of panang curry, but lately I’ve become even fonder of the brownish Massaman curry (typically served with potatoes, carrots, and a protein). It’s similar to yellow, just a little sweeter.

    Your panang curry recipe is fantastic, so I would love it if you could also put up a Massaman curry recipe.

  • a guest

    Nice website. Panang curry is my favorite dish after tom yum soup.

    • a guest

      If you go to an Asian supermarket you can buy all kinds of curry paste it’s really easy and tastes the same as making from scratch. I love Thai food but it’s very expensive to order in a restaurant. But, if you make it at home it’s only about $3 a portion if you use meat and it’s even cheaper to go vegetarian.

  • a guest

    There are so many chili peppers to choose from I’m not sure what is typical for Thailand cuisine. Do you have a preference? Thanks!

    • ExploringLifesMysteries

      We have lots of thoughts on Thai chili peppers to be used in curry but please know that it will be hard to find many in the U.S. so use what you can (we often use Serrano chili peppers which are readily available in most grocery stores). If you can find thai chili options, we recommend prig kee nu which is an authentic Thai chili pepper. It is extremely small and also quite short (only about 1 inch in length) and come in both red and green varieties.It is considered to be one of the very hottest peppers in the wide world of peppers so please wear a glove when cutting it!

      You can reduce the spiciness of the prig kee nu chili or any other chili by removing any seeds and by increasing the proportion of coconut milk to chili pepper. Also porous vegetables like potatoes will absorb some of the heat. Additionally, palm sugar can be used to add sweetness which is also quite helpful in balancing spiciness from the chili peppers. Yet another alternative is to use dried chili peppers which often pack less heat than a fresh chili pepper.

      Hope this was helpful. Good luck and let us know how your cooking adventure with Thai Panang Curry goes!

  • a guest

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! I used to work in a Thai Restaurant, and share your passion for Thai food and curries. It is really difficult to find proper Thai curry paste, so I am delighted with this recipe and will try it as soon as I have collected the ingredients! Yum Yum!

  • a guest

    I just made the curry paste and recipe, the past yielded a phenomenal, fresh tasting curry that my wife and I both loved. Glad we made tons of paste, as this will be a repeat in the near future. Appreciate you sharing the recipe.

  • a guest

    Very good and I had all the correct ingredients with the exception of having fresh Thai chiles instead of dried. I added more chiles and used 3 1/2 tablespoons of the Panang paste I made and my husband and I could have had it hotter (next time). I usually make homemade Indian Curry dishes so this was a nice twist. I made homemade naan bread on my baking stone with it and the rest is history. Thanks for sharing! Happy cooking to all!

  • a guest

    Ahh… SO delicious! I am a big curry fan, but can never find recipes quite as good as the restaurants. But this one went above and beyond! It was so delicious! Thank you for sharing! I used beef, but I now want to try this out using different meats!!

  • a guest

    If I wanted to add in extra veggies, i.e. broccoli, bell peppers, and onion, should I saute them before hand or just cook them starting from raw in the simmering curry?

    • a guest

      I am a vegan, so I stir fried a mixture of veggies (cabbage, thinly sliced carrots, broccoli, onions, asparagus spears…anything I had on hand ) until al dente, then cooked them for the last 10 minutes of simmering…and they were fantastic!

      • Anya

        I am a vegan also and I’ve been trying to find a fish sauce substitute. When you make the curry, do you just omit the fish sauce? Does it still taste the same? Thanks!

  • a guest

    I followed your recipe and it has turned out to be fantastic and my penang curry tastes yummy!! But I am disappointed that the curry looks white in color and not orange / red as it is in most restaurants and also in the picture you have posted along with this recipe. What do I do??

    I didn’t have shrimp paste on me so I skipped that…could that be the reason?

  • a guest

    I found that adding spinach at the very end works great, thnx 4 tips

  • a guest

    Hello!

    Nice recipe, thanks for sharing! Can you make the paste, and save it for later use?

    • ExploringLifesMysteries

      Absolutely, just cover it or jar it and put it in the fridge. Should be eaten within a few days. If you want, you could try freezing it, although we have yet to try that.

  • a guest

    How many servings does this recipe make?

    • ExploringLifesMysteries

      Two large servings. Will probably be enough for three in most cases.

  • a guest

    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • a guest

    Just buy the paste at the store. A tub, that will allow you to make about 20 meals for 4) is about $3 or $4.

  • a guest

    Is the amount for the kaffir lime leaf correct? 12 tbsps seems like a lot.

    • ExploringLifesMysteries

      Sorry! That should say 12 leaves, not tablespoons. Thanks for catching that!

  • a guest

    I, like Mr. Duh, can’t see the amounts to make the paste. The curry paste ingredients are listed, but not the amounts. It is kind of hard to make the curry if you don’t know how to make the 1.5 TBSP worth of the paste the recipe calls for.

    • ExploringLifesMysteries

      Hey everyone, Sorry for not including the Panang curry paste ingredient amounts initially! We figured most of you would buy the paste, but should have known there were some aspiring chefs among you Smiling We have included details on the amounts of ingredients in the Panang curry paste, as well as instructions on making it (you simply blend all the ingredients into a paste). Enjoy!

  • a guest

    The peanut flavor (and of course the spice) is what makes Panang curry for me, so the Trader Joe’s express version wouldn’t really resemble Panang curry for me, but thanks for the full recipe above!

    Also, there are a ton of other companies that make “red curry paste.” Thai style and most regular grocery stores carry these brands. They are certainly as good as the Trader Joe version, IMO.

  • a guest

    This Panang curry recipe is delicious! I’m trying all kinds of variants based on your suggestions in your coconut curry recipe. And since I’m recently vegetarian (thanks to the movie “Food Inc.”), I’ve been making curries with tofu more and more often.

    My advice, as far as the tofu goes (and this is especially the case for Panang curry), is to crisp the outsides by frying them in the pan before cooking them in the curry. This makes a huge difference in flavor. Tofu can be kind of bland when it’s not crispy!

  • a guest

    I think I may have found some good topics about recipe books. You should be able to find many, including curry recipes, by browsing this site.

  • a guest

    Panang curry is me and my hubby’s favorite. Thanks for the tips.

  • a guest

    Thanks for the recipe. You could also incorporate stuff from other curry recipes, and discuss the inclusion of meats and poultry?

  • a guest

    Amounts of ingredients would be very useful…duh.

    • a guest

      The amount of each ingredient is given…and if you had actually looked at the recipe, you would have noticed that… duh.

    • a guest

      The recipe, INCLUDING AMOUNTS amounts is shown above the listing of TJ’s version.

      • a guest

        Panang curry paste ingredients are not shown which is what I believe they were talking about.

  • guest

    Is their an alternative to the Fish Sauce?

    • sadie

      Try using Vegetarian fish sauce (look for it at your local natural foods store or organic supermarket) or Soy Sauce (if you are gluten intolerant Tamari sauce is another good alternative).