Sweet coconut milk, spicy curry paste, and lots of chicken and hearty vegetables…this Thai chicken & eggplant curry is an unbelievably easy, delicious dish.
I never ate or cooked much Thai food before culinary school. One of our classes was focused on the cuisines of Asia, and the food of Thailand was my favorite. Curries in particular. Not only do I love coconut milk, and that is the base for most Thai curries, but the dish amazed me with how simple in preparation it was, yet full of so much complex flavor…the sweetness from the coconut, the depth from the soy and fish sauce, the tanginess from the lime. Everything balances out into a uniquely tasting, rich sauce that coats the seared chicken and vegetables.
The biggest flavor component is the curry paste. I’m using a red curry paste in this dish, but you can also make yellow curry pastes or even green curry pastes. Each is full of spice and deep, rich flavors. You can find curry pastes in most stores, but if you want to get truly authentic, I suggest making your own. Since one of the best parts about a curry is that it comes together very quickly, I would make the curry paste over the weekend, and then use it during the week to make the dish.
Here’s how to make a red curry paste:
Soak ½ cup of small dried red chile peppers and 8 dried guajillo peppers (both stemmed) in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove them from the water and set aside.
Combine 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, and ½ teaspoon of black peppercorns in a skillet. Toast them over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant. Let cool and grind the spices until fine using a spice grinder.
In a blender, add the soaked chiles and the spice mixture, 6 sliced garlic cloves, 3 sliced shallots, 2 tablespoons of sliced lemongrass, 1 tablespoon of sliced galangal, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, 3 chopped kaffir lime leaves, 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro root, and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Puree until a smooth paste forms, adding water as needed (about ¼ of a cup). Transfer the curry paste to a container and store in the fridge until ready to use. Enjoy!
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- ½ tsp salt
- 3” lemongrass stalk
- vegetable oil
- 1 ½ lbs chicken breast, cubed
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 yellow peppers, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 large eggplant, diced
- ¼ cup red curry paste
- 2 (15 oz) cans coconut milk
- 3” lemongrass stalk
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- ½ cup cooked peas
- 8 Thai basil leaves, chiffonade
- more thai basil, to garnish
- watercress, to garnish
- Combine the basmati rice with the chicken stock and salt in a small pot. Take the piece of lemongrass and bruise it with your knife, smashing it so that all the oils will release. Add to the pot. Bring the liquid up to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot. Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat. Fluff it with a fork, and keep warm until the curry is ready.
- While the rice cooks, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a medium pot (a Le Creuset is perfect for this) over medium-high heat. Season the cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches (you don’t want to overcrowd the pan), sear the chicken in the pan. Make sure it is golden brown on all sides, but don’t worry about cooking it all the way through. Remove the chicken from the pot and reserve. Add a little bit more oil if needed. Add the onion. Let sweat until translucent. Add the yellow pepper and cook until tender. Once there is good caramelization on both the onion and the pepper, add the garlic and ginger. Let cook for a minute. Add the eggplant and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the red curry paste, letting it fry in the oil. Slowly add the coconut milk and stir until fully incorporated. Smash the lemongrass and add it to the liquid. Let the coconut milk come to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened. Season the curry with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken back to the pot to finish cooking. Stir in the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, peas, and Thai basil right at the end.
- Serve a mound of the chicken and vegetables over the rice. Ladle the curry sauce on top. Garnish with more Thai basil and watercress.