I live in a neighborhood with an abundance of Thai restaurants, and my order of choice is usually some type of curry.  I just can’t get enough of that sweet yet spicy, coconut-milk-drenched goodness.  In my post-meal food   coma I always think ‘wow, that was tasty, maybe I could try making that at home sometime!’  Well, this weekend I finally got around to doing just that.  The recipe that I chose was from Complete Thai Cooking, which had a picture of Chiang Mai jungle curry that looked similar to curries I’ve had while eating out.  The day before I wanted to cook it, I made the curry paste.  This process was simple enough: just roughly chop up the ingredients and let a food processor do the real work.  The recipe actually called for white peppercorns, but I couldn’t find them in either of the grocery stores that I visited, so I substituted black.  The paste looked delicious and even smelled hot. Yum.  So I put the paste in the fridge and the next day I made my curry.  The results were very tasty, but not quite what I’ve experienced in restaurants.  Mine was a bit creamier and thicker than I’m used to, and also only slightly spicy (not blazing hot!).  I’m also used to a sweeter curry than this one.  All in all, though, I would make this again and if it was a dish at a restaurant I’d order it.  If I made it again, I’d try to find yellow bean sauce (the original recipe calls for 2 T.) and fresh red chilies (I had to substitute green).

Chiang Mai Jungle Curry

Ingredients   Cost
2 T. oil   pantry
1 lb. lean beef, thinly sliced   $6.05
1 ¾ c. coconut milk $1.19
salt and pepper pantry
Spice Paste    
3 T. Red Curry Paste (see below) $1.10
2 T. palm sugar pantry
4 shallots, roughly chopped $1.13
2 garlic cloves $0.10
2 large fresh red chilies, seeded and chopped $1.40
1 lemon grass stalk, roughly chopped   $0.40
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped $0.30
½ tsp. dried shrimp paste   pantry
4 T. lime juice   $0.89
Rice for accompaniment $0.84
Scallions     $0.43
Red bell pepper   $0.99
    Total cost (5 servings) $14.82
    Cost per serving $2.96
Red Curry Paste    
6 dried red chilies, seeded, soaked, drained, roughly chopped $1.15
2 T. chopped lemon grass   $0.30
1 T. chopped shallots   $0.56
1 T. chopped garlic   $0.10
1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger   $0.10
2 tsp. coriander   pantry
1 tsp. cumin   pantry
6 black peppercorns   pantry
1 tsp. salt     pantry
1 tsp. shrimp paste   pantry
    Total cost  (6 T.) $2.21

For red curry paste: Put all ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste.  Transfer the paste to an airtight container.  May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. 

For curry: Make the spice paste.  Put all the paste ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste.  Heat the oil in a large skillet and stir-fry the beef over a moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the spice paste and stir-fry for 3 additional minutes. 

Pour the coconut milk into the pan, stir to mix and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer the curry gently, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes or until the beef is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serve the curry over rice and garnish with thinly sliced bell pepper and scallions.