Red Curry Paste: Not all red curry pastes are created equal. They vary in heat and potency, and each has its own flavor characteristics. If you aren't familiar with purchasing curry pastes, you can typically find a brand or two at your nearest chain grocery store. However, a local ethnic foods market would be a great option, if you have one.
When purchasing your curry there are two rough guidelines you can follow. First, typically, the thicker the paste is the more concentrated the flavor will be. Next look on the package to see if it gives a recipe. If it does, look for the ratio of paste to coconut milk the brand recommends. I've tested a few different pastes in the past few months and find the brands that recommend fewer tablespoons per 14 ounces of coconut milk create the most flavorful dishes. If there isn't a ratio given, start with 1 tablespoon in this recipe and taste after the 2 1/2 hour mark. You can always add more.
Thai food can be intimidating. I often hear people say that they would never attempt making it on their own. However, making dishes using traditional Thai flavors can be quite easy; even easier when you throw your crock pot into the mix.
Chopping a few fresh veggies and throwing everything into your pot is about the only prep for this recipe. In just a few minutes you'll have a delicious soup simmering and filling your house with sweet Thai aromas. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, this soup can be great 'comfort food.'
When I first tested this recipe, I put the bell peppers into the mix and let them cook with the soup. In my second batch I found that keeping them raw and adding them at the end with the snow peas adds a sweet crispness to the soup. My husband tells me that soup can end up tasting a little monotone after several spoonfuls; adding fresh vegetables and peanuts is a way to keep your tastebuds moving from one layer of flavor to another.
One more note: this recipe also calls for galangal - a root used as an important ingredient in Thai curry pastes. Its flavor is peppery like ginger but has a more floral and citrusy flavor. I bought powdered galangal from Penzey's Spices; however, if you can't find it or aren't interested in purchasing it, you can leave it out or add an extra teaspoon of ginger. The soup will taste great either way.
Now curry up, Sweet Potato, and thai this soup!
Sweet Potato and Thai Curry Soup
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1 lb of boneless chicken
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 5" stalk of lemongrass, cut into 3 pieces, or 2 tsp of ground
- 3 14 oz. cans coconut milk (full fat is better here)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp galangal powder
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 - 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 limes
- Red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- Snow peas, thinly sliced (about 1/2 lb will do)
- Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)
- Basil, minced (optional)
Combine all the ingredients from the onion through the ginger in a crock pot. I put my chicken in whole and pull it apart later (cutting raw chicken isn't one of my favorite kitchen duties, so I avoid it if I can). Stir until the red curry paste and spices are thoroughly mixed in. Turn your crock on high heat and cook, covered, for 2 1/2 hours. If you're around while it's cooking, stir it occasionally. If you aren't, that's okay!
Stir your soup and taste to see if it needs salt. I would start with 1/2 tsp and go from there, as some chicken broths have more salt than others - salt to your liking. If you started cooking with whole or large chicken pieces, remove them from your pot. Shred with a fork or cut them into bite size pieces then return it to your pot. If you aren't ready to serve, turn your heat down to warm. It'll keep like this for a couple of hours - your sweet potatoes may get softer and start breaking down, but that'll only make for a thicker soup, which is definitely not a bad thing.
When ready to serve, juice the limes into your pot and stir. Fill your bowls with soup, adding bell pepper and snow peas on top. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts and basil, if you have any.