Not long ago, I got a terrible hankering for curry chicken. It was on a day when the delicious Thai Way food truck in Alpine was closed, and there were no other possibilities of getting curry made by someone else without a three-hour, one-way drive. Doesn’t food made by someone else usually taste so much better?
Two separate instances of Thai Way green curry with chicken. I’ve heard a rumor that they’re closed for good, and THAT makes me sad.
Since my husband and I moved here from the Hill Country with easy access to San Antonio, we had our go-to Thai place for many years. I do my best to fill that sawasdee-shaped hole in our bellies out here by cooking my own take on Thai recipes. The word “sawasdee” is a greeting for both “hello” and “goodbye”. I’m still trying to figure out a good Pad Woon Sen recipe. I can’t think about the Pad Woon Sen at Thai Dee in San Antonio for very long because it make my eyes water from missing it so much.
This is pad woon sen – it’s not a curry, but it’s one of my favorite foods…
While my attempts at Thai food are always tasty (and I’m not just saying that, you can ask the Mister), to me something is always missing. I’ve yet to put my finger on what it is. Perhaps it’s my 7th generation Texan status that keeps my Thai food from being authentic… but I’ll not quit trying. I’ve always got coconut cream, coconut milk, curry powder, fish sauce, hot green and red chiles and fresh cilantro in my pantry and fridge. When I’m lucky, I have curry paste in green and red. Yellow, if I’m really very lucky. Otherwise, I’m using powdered curry.
Indian curry is typically based on dry seasonings, including coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and powdered chile peppers for Indian curry powder. Thai curry begins with a wet curry paste made with similar base ingredients – hot chiles, lemon grass, ginger, garlic, shallot, shrimp paste and dry herbs like cumin, coriander seeds, and turmeric. There are many variations of curry.
Over dinner one evening with our friends Dedie and Lonn Taylor, the subject of Thai food came up. Lonn told us about his favorite Thai restaurant in El Paso, saying it was one of the best he’d ever visited. He’s a very well-traveled foodie, and I should have been taking better notes.
On our next trip to El Paso, we wracked our brains trying to remember which restaurant Lonn said was a must – and Yelp told me there were only a dozen or three dozen to choose from.
I’m not sure if it’s the one that he suggested or if the name was so familiar because I have a friend named Tara, but we went to Tara Thai, right across from the University of Texas at El Paso. Again, don’t believe everything you read online because the place only had 3.5 stars out of 5. I would have given it at least 6 or 7 or 10 stars.
My husband ordered Panaang Curry (golden and spicy),
and I got the Green Curry (one pepper, please), both with chicken and a heaping helping of steamy white rice.
We were blown away. The flavors were so incredible that neither one of us spoke while we ate, other than the guttural sounds of delighted diners. Lunch portions were pretty big but not big enough to make us over-stuffed, even with the salad that was served first. And, I think we got out of Tara Thai for under twenty bucks. Excellent.
I scoured the internet for chicken curry recipes with the ingredients I had on-hand. I found one that had five-star reviews. It looked so easy. It was so easy. It was the tastiest chicken curry I’ve had in a very long time, no offense to my beloved Thai Way or new El Paso favorite Tara Thai. Sometimes, you have to fend for yourself and do a mighty fine job of it.
I made it on a Friday night for dinner,
and ended up making it again on Sunday because we ate it all Friday.
It was fast, easy and delicious. I sent the recipe to my sister, and she made it for dinner that night and said it was going into her favorite-recipes-rotation. It’s just that good, y’all.
Serve it over rice or with naan bread or both. And add it to your favorites-file. It’s in mine.
Curry in a Hurry
- 2 tablespoons oil (I use avocado oil for high heat cooking)
- 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1-2 tbsp curry powder (the more curry the better, in my opinion)
- 3 tomatoes, diced (thank you, Village Farms!)
- 1 jalapeno, sliced finely and seeded (optional if you want some heat!)
- 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk (I used a can of milk the first time and cream the second time – I’m using coconut cream from here on out)
- 8 oz. baby spinach
Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the chicken for 4-5 mins, turning as necessary, then add the onions and garlic. After about 2 mins, stir in the curry powder and sauté briefly. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for 3–4 mins. Pour in the coconut milk (or coconut cream) and simmer for 10 mins, then add the spinach. Season to taste and serve with naan bread.
Note: I had some fresh basil since my plants were finally producing and I added about a tablespoon of chiffonade basil (just finely slice it) to the simmer stage. Garnish with a little extra if you have it.
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