Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thai ‘Panang’ Beef Curry (Gaeng Panang Nua)

For a cooking class recently featuring curries, I finally taught one with beef. Previously I found beef so slow to cook, that although we enjoy beef curries at home, I didn't teach them in class because there wasn't sufficient time.

Then, in the last year, I discovered the merits of a tender cut of beef that is not forbiddingly expensive. The "flatiron" steak, a recent meat-cutting development, is a lean section from beef chuck -- a tasty but normally tough piece of beef. It is long and flat, with the grain running lengthwise. The shape makes thin cross-grain slicing easy, perfect for stir-fries, among other things. Sliced slightly wider, the meat cooks quickly in a Thai curry. Best of all, the steaks range from 3/4 to 1 1/2 or more pounds, making them conveniently sized for a meal. They are often sold at reduced prices.

Panang curry is a little richer, and less hot, than the familiar Thai red curry. Its origins are in southern Thailand and include Malay influences, notably the chopped peanuts that are sometimes dusted on the curry before serving (which I have not done here). The curry paste can be homemade (but is tedious and requires hard-to-find ingredients; see a Thai cook book) or purchased in cans at Asian food shops. Thai cooks these days typically buy their curry mixtures fresh from market vendors specializing in seasonings.

The recipe serves six, and should be ladled over unsalted rice.

The traditional drink with curry in Thailand is lager-type beer (Singha in particular). I also like Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino (a new favorite) or fairly dry Riesling wines with Thai curries.

Thai Panang Beef Curry

1 1/2 pounds flatiron steak of beef, 2 small or 1 large
1 can (4 ounces) Penang curry paste (for a milder curry, use part of the can and freeze the rest for later use, wrapped tightly in plastic)
1 tablespoon oil
1 (14-15-ounce) can sliced or shredded bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened Thai coconut milk (available at Asian groceries); shake well before opening
1/2 can of water
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce, plus to taste (available at Asian groceries), or substitute salt to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 hot red chili pepper for garnish
Either 4 double kaffir lime leaves (sometimes available at Asian groceries) or 12 sprigs fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves

Trim steak(s) of any tough “silver skin” fibers from surface. Place meat flat on cutting board and slice crosswise 1/8-inch thick with a sharp knife. Cut any pieces over 3 inches into halves.

Heat cooking pot to high. Add oil. Then add sliced beef, and stir and fry until raw color has mostly changed.

Add the quantity of curry paste to be used, and stir and fry 2 minutes.

Add drained and rinsed bamboo shoots and continue to stir and fry 1 minute.

Add half the coconut milk and stir until boiling. Add remainder of coconut milk then the half can of water. When mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Add fish sauce (or 1/2 teaspoon salt) and sugar. Simmer two more minutes. Remove from heat. Taste the sauce and add a little fish sauce or sugar as needed, making the sauce slightly salty, because the meat and bamboo shoots will absorb more salt. The sauce should also have a mild sweetness.

If using kaffir lime, cut out central vein. Stack the leaves on cutting board and slice crosswise into very fine threads, or cut with kitchen shears. Stir half into the curry.

Serve the curry in an attractive shallow bowl garnished with thinly sliced red chili pepper plus either the remainder of the shredded kaffir lime leaves or the coriander leaves picked off their stems.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Do you have a brand of panang curry paste that you prefer? We usually get the small pink cans from Hoa Binh (Maesri) and find that following these portions produces a nearly unbearable amount of heat, and we are not strangers to spicy foods. Could it be the brand, or could we cut the heat by reducing the amount of curry paste in the recipe?

7:58 PM  
Blogger Tim Dondero said...


I use Maesri brand. You can use as little as half the amount of curry paste (and have the dish taste like in many American Thai restaurants). Thai people actually eat a huge amount of rice with much less curry, to flavor the rice. American style is to eat plenty of curry with a smaller amount of rice on the side.


10:32 AM  

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