When it comes to food in Eau Claire, I have good number of favorites. The cheeseburgers at the Court ‘n House, fish & chips and the blackened tuna steak sandwich at Mogie’s, cajun pasta at Cicone’s and the Ahi Tuna at Grizzly’s all rank high and I have to have them all fairly regularly.
But there’s one dish that’s so good that it actually influenced my decision when I decided to move last May. There’s a lot of awesome things about where I live right now. Farmer’s market, great bars, Charly’s Market, Cafe Tempo…all great, sure, whatever. But none compare to the awesomeness that is the red curry chicken at Pad Thai. It was the first thing I had to have on my move-in day downtown. If you haven’t tried it yet, YOU’RE DOING LIFE WRONG.
A couple years ago I’d heard what an awesome dish it was and I gave it a shot. Dudes, it’s borderline life-changing. It’s not too spicy, even at its hottest. It’s a big portion, enough for two. It’s even relatively healthy. There have been Sundays when I’ve been legitimately depressed because Pad Thai was closed. Now I try the red curry whenever I hit up a new Thai joint, and nothing ever compares.
So yea, it’s awesome and I doubt I ever get it again. Not after what I made last night.
Like I said, Pad Thai is closed on Sundays. This blows, because after the damage I typically do to my body on Friday and Saturday nights all I want is something light and healthy. But necessity is the mother of all invention and I wasn’t going to let something as simple as a closed restaurant keep me from what I craved.
Now, I’ve never made anything close to resembling Thai cuisine before. To be honest, I still probably haven’t. I didn’t necessarily try to copy Pad Thai, they were just the inspiration. I know there are some ingredients below that aren’t in traditional Thai, but I like ’em and I figured it’d go well with the dish.
I feel like this was a pretty good attempt, particularly when my method was basically “throw some shit into a pot and hope it tastes good”.
It did, SO LET’S ROLL.
Red Curry Chicken
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips (I suspect Pad Thai uses chicken thighs)
1 tsp hot chili oil
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1 14 oz can Lite Coconut Milk
1 red bell pepper, julienne
1 green bell pepper, julienne
1 red onion, julienne
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 whole shallot, diced
2 tbsp ginger, diced (about the size of your thumb)
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 15 oz can of baby corn, preferably chopped
1 8 oz can of bamboo shoots, sliced
1/2 tbsp dried cilantro
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried bay leaf
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp red curry paste (yea, I got the jarred stuff and didn’t make my own. Whatever.)
1 – GET YOUR SHIT READY. There’s actually very little cooking to do here and it all goes pretty quick. So do your chopping, slicing and measuring beforehand. This is basic and you should be doing it whenever you cook anything, but with 20+ ingredients here it’s important.
2 – In a 2 QT covered pan, heat your chili and olive oil over medium heat. When it’s hot, add your chicken and salt. Sauté the chicken until the meat is close to done, about four minutes.
3 – Add the finely diced ginger, garlic and shallots and continue cooking until the aroma of the garlic and ginger is strong, about three minutes.
4 – Add EVERYTHING ELSE. Oh, and a 1/2 cup of water.
Seriously, just dump all that awesome stuff in the pot.
First, the coconut milk and water. Then the peppers, onion, corn, bamboo shoots and herbs. Then the cream and (finally) the red curry paste*.
5 – Drop the heat to medium low and let it simmer for 30 minutes, or until you get the consistency you want. I like mine less soupy so I let it reduce for a while. I think you’ll know it’s done when your red curry chicken looks a very bright orange.
6 – Serve with rice. BOOM.
*IMPORTANT: I love me some heat. The above recipe isn’t all that hot in my opinion, but I tend to tolerate heat better than most of my friends. Most curry recipes I’ve seen call for significantly less red curry, but I find the flavor to more or less suck without at least one tablespoon. So I’d start with that and add more as it cooks. The flavor becomes stronger the longer you let it reduce.
Overall this is a pretty easy, pretty cheap (seriously), pretty healthy and hella flavorful meal. I ate a little when it was done (cooking anything makes me lose my appetite), vacuum-sealed and froze individual portions for down the road.
Give it a shot, let me know what you think.