Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Panang Beef

No, It's Not Something Nasty Involving A Cow!

I haven't posted a recipe in ages, and I'm stuffed full of yummy Thai food right now, so I thought I'd share the wealth and give y'all the recipe for my favorite Thai culinary obsession.

It's a curry, but don't let that scare you off. Most people upon hearing "curry" usually imagine a nuclear-yellow thick soup that will peel the skin off your tongue. While this can be true (often deliciously so!), this curry is quite mild-mannered, and even pale-skinned Yankees can eat this one without turning beet red and sweating through their scalp.

I've been eating this dish on a regular basis from the little Thai joint near my building downtown. I try not to go there more than once a week lest I burn myself out on it, but that's hard to imagine since it's so darn good.

I had to play around with several recipes before I found one like they make at this place. Sure, it would have been easy to ask the owners for their Panang Beef recipe, but while I enjoy their food, I'm nervous about getting near them. See, the wife of the duo has got this really freaky expression when she talks. She's very friendly, but when she recognizes you and smiles, her eyes open up real wide, and her lips pull back from her teeth about 2 inches, and with her pale skin and tiny nose, she looks exactly like a skull chattering at you in a thick Thai accent. I'm worried that if I get too close, she'll eat my face off.

Y'know... I'm just assuming that's beef. Hmmmm... wonder if they're connected to the disappearing homeless person problem downtown. I always thought "Sweeney Todd's House Of Thai" was an odd name.

I digress...

Here's how you make it. It'll take about an hour altogether.

First, put a bunch of rice in your rice cooker and cook it. You DO have a rice cooker, don't you? You'll want to serve this over a bed of rice. I prefer basmati, but any long grain rice will do.

Next, make sure you have the following ingredients:

1.5 - 2 pounds lean beef, cubed (you can use chicken or pork, too)
2 cans coconut milk
5 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste Use less if you're a chili-heat weenie, but not much less!
1/2 cup yellow or red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup red bell pepper (optional)*
1/2 cup Thai Basil stems and leaves (optional)*
6-8 kaffir lime leaves, minced
2 tbsp Thai Fish sauce (or nuoc mam)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp Tamarind paste

*Note: I don't like basil all that much, nor red bell peppers, so I omit these. Still, you might give it a try. The red bell peppers do add needed color for presentation, if you're making this for a party. When I'm alone, I could give a damn about how it looks!


In skillet or pan in a bit of oil, brown meat on all sides. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

In medium saucepan, heat 1/4 of a can of coconut milk on medium heat. When it starts to bubble, stir in the curry paste and lime leaves. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds until paste starts to brown.

Stir in remaining coconut milk into curry paste. Increase heat to high, bringing mixture to a boil. Allow to boil for about 5 to 10 minutes or until it reduces by a third.

Reduce to simmer. Add beef, basil leaves, onion, fish sauce, tamarind and sugar. Let simmer until it reduces further, and gets thick and goopy. You'll see a lot of red chili oil float to the top. Do NOT skim this off! Stir it back in!

Garnish with red bell peppers, serve over rice. Will serve 4 normal folks, or one Texan.

Now, likely there are foodie snobs out there turning up their noses since I have the temerity to suggest making a Thai recipe, and not being 100% authentic and making my own curry paste.

Well, time is a factor in my life, and red curry paste is a mixture of dry chili pepper, shallot, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, cilantro root, peppercorn, coriander, salt, shrimp paste and kaffir lime zest. It takes a lot of time to gather the ingredients, prepare them, and grind the paste, time that I don't really have. I don't make my own fish sauce, either. The neigbors complained last time I had a 55 gallon drum of fermenting anchovies on the front porch, so that project had to cease.

Also, making your own red curry paste involves acquiring something called galangal. I don't know what galangal is, and neither do you. So, just buy the premade paste and do the best you can. The Thai people will forgive you!

Hope y'all enjoy it!