Cooking Thai food myself wasn’t something that occurred to me to try until my late twenties (and then it was just Pad Thai, not my own shrimp and coconut cream curry). There’s an intimidation factor associated with cooking (and eating, I suppose) things outside the realm of foods you’ve grown up with. I wasn’t exposed to Thai food until my twenties, when I moved to Tokyo. It simply wasn’t available in the small town I grew up in. When I went away to university, I didn’t seek it out (because I wasn’t familiar with it). My only Thai food experiences thus far have been at restaurants in Tokyo (though this is something I hope to change soon). I enjoy the bold flavors and the pleasant spices of Thai dishes compounded with the punch of lime and cilantro.
In an attempt to push myself into culinary territory outside my comfort zone, I periodically search for food blogs specializing in a specific cuisine (that I am not particularly familiar with). On one such search, I was fortunate enough to find She Simmers, a blog run by Leela, who is a native Thai but lives in the US. As an expat, she works to share authentic Thai dishes, but with ingredients available in the United States. Her straightforward (often loosely described) recipes caught my eye.
She has an eight-sentence recipe for a coconut cream sauce curry with poached shrimp. It seemed simple enough, but as a newbie seeking a bit more guidance than “poach shrimp in brine,” I looked up some information about poaching shrimp, and found a quick solution via Serious Eats, which I enjoy for its science-based recommendations (and sense of humor). Putting all of this knowledge together, I adapted the below recipe for a coconut cream curry and was pleasantly surprised: it was easy to make, had customizable flavors and textures, and was delicious.
I imagine you can use any curry paste you like (and thus, choose your level of spice). You can adjust the consistency of the cream sauce by adding coconut milk until you achieve the thickness you’re looking for. You can create interesting depth of flavor by adding different amounts of fish sauce. I prefer something rich but with a slight kick, so the below instructions reflect that. If you’re in the mood for something spicier, just add more curry paste. If you want something milder, you could even go with a different curry paste. Go crazy. You’ll only need about 30 minutes to make this, so it’s feasible for a quick dinner. I has this with a side of basmati rice. Please note that as palm sugar was not available at my (Japanese) supermarket, I substituted the palm sugar originally called for in Leela’s recipe with a light brown sugar. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
RECIPE: POACHED SHRIMP IN COCONUT CREAM CURRY (THAI)
Makes 2 servings
10 frozen shrimp (about 170 g)
1/3 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 can coconut milk (solid “cream” separated from “milk”)
2.5 tbsps red curry paste (or to taste)
2 pinches light brown sugar
5 drops fish sauce
Basil (for finishing touches)
- Thaw shrimp with cold water. Shell and devein. Toss with salt and baking soda, coating as evenly as possible. Put in small bowl and refrigerate for at least 155 minutes, up to one hour.
- Without shaking, open can of coconut cream. Scoop all solid “cream” into saucepan (should be approximately 1 cup). Set remaining liquid in the can to the side.
- Add red curry paste to the coconut cream in the pan and cook over medium heat until the cream breaks (you’ll start to see small oily looking pools form with the red curry paste). Adjust consistency to desired level with coconut milk. Add 2 pinches light brown sugar and 5 drops fish sauce (or season to taste). Remove from heat and keep warm.
- Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Fill a medium saucepan with cold water. Place the shrimp in the water and heat shrimp over medium-low heat until water reaches 170 degrees F (about 76 degrees C) to poach shrimp. Remove from water and place shrimp on paper towels to absorb extra moisture. Shrimp should be pink.
- Spoon coconut cream curry sauce onto a plate. Top with shrimp and finish with basil. Serve immediately with a side of rice.