I like all Thai curries, but Panang curry is the one that I favor the most. I just love everything about it. It spicy, of course, but also has sweet flavor from the coconut milk and palm sugar. Fragrant? Yes! Thanks to aromatic kaffir lime leafs and the lemongrass, they really add beguiling sweet-citrusy to this curry. Food that is delicious, and has good aroma, will help me to sleep better and have a beautiful dream.
About the ingredients, I know cilantro root is nowhere to be found here in my neighborhood. This is why I always plant cilantro in a pot. It is such an easy thing to do, spread the seed, water if needed, let it grow, then if you need a few roots, just pluck them. Same thing with lemongrass and kaffir lime, I just grow them in a pot. For other ingredients, Asian store will be the best destination.
Crab Panang Curry
serve 4 to 6
2 fresh crabs (about 4 pounds)
2 red pepper jalapeno, seeded, thinly sliced
2 cups coconut milk
3 tbs fish sauce (this brand has less acrid smell compare to other)
3 tbs palm sugar
10 kaffir lime leafs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Panang chili paste, recipe follows
3 tbs canola oil, or any vegetable oil
Discard the main shell of the crabs including the grey gills and the soft insides. Cut the body into quarter, then crack the claws and the legs lightly with the back of a knife. Set aside. You can also check this article on how to prepare your crab before cooking.
Heat the oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Add Panang Chili paste, stir constantly until fragrant and the raw smell disappear. Add the crabs, thinly sliced red jalapeno pepper, fish sauce, palm sugar, and kaffir lime. Stir continuously to ensure that the crab coated nicely with spices. Add coconut milk, stir. Turn the heat to low, gently simmer, stirring often to prevent the coconut milk from separating, and to ensure even cooking. Cook until the crab is done, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with simple steam Jasmine rice.
Panang Chili Paste
makes 1/2 cup
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs minced cilantro roots (see my note above)
10 red pepper jalapeno-seeded
1/2 tsp white peppercorn
1 tsp minced fresh galangal
1/4 cup minced fresh lemongrass from white part only
5 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
zest from 1 kaffir lime
2 shallot, minced
1 tsp shrimp paste
3 tbs dry roasted unsalted peanut, finely ground
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
Using a large mortar and pestle, pound all ingredients to make a smooth paste. Or, use food processor to do the job, add a little water to keep the blade running. If not ready to use that day, transfer into a jar, and refrigerate. It should stay fresh up to a week.