Okay, so my ‘healthy food binge‘ is over and I’m earnestly trying to cook up some more of my favorite meals in the final days of this challenge (whether or not they are super healthy). Hence – penang curry. It is one of my favorite Thai restaurant dishes, but I’ve never truly figured out what was in it. Peanuts? Coconut? Something red/orange? Time to find out!

I dusted off (yep, literally) my Thai food cookbook and quickly realized that there is a reason why my taste buds were always so confused. There is a lot of stuff in penang curry paste. I had some of the odd ingredients already (like cardamom pods!). But the recipe also listed a lot of ingredients I hadn’t heard of or used before — like galangal (?!?!?!), unknown spicy chilies, and kaffir lime leaves. Uh oh. Should I cheat and buy curry paste?

Of course not! This is supposed to be a challenge! So, I squeezed in a flash trip to Lam’s Seafood Market for some lemongrass, thai basil, galangal (go figure – it looks like ginger), and some other key ingredients — but alas, they were out of kaffir lime leaves — and I had to run off to a meeting in Bellevue. Luckily, Bellevue has Asian supermarkets as well, so I visited the Asian Food Center after my meeting. Nope – they were off of kaffir lime leaves, too. The Central Co-op in Capitol Hill? Sorry, they couldn’t find kaffir lime leaves of high enough quality to stock their shelves.

Think that item is ginger? Think again! It's galangal.

Think that item is ginger? Think again! It’s galangal.

Running out of time and getting hungry, I ceased my search. I would be making penang curry without kaffir lime leaves.

The recipe: See below. I also drew inspiration from this Bon Appetit recipe.

curry recipe

Quick recap: I was overwhelmed by the chilies. I had no idea which ones I had and how many to use (without turning my tongue into a fire poker). So I was somewhat conservative. Also, blending all these ingredients together in a (not fabulous) food processor was a challenge. That galangal is tough! I added dry-fried tofu and mushrooms, onions and sugar snap peas to the curry as well. I served it with rice noodles and thai basil.

curry 2

The verdict: Interesting… let me take another bite to better assess. Flavorful. Tasty. Rich. Good amount of heat and spice. But very coconutty.  And super creamy and not at all red/orange. It’s good, but it didn’t really taste like the penang curry I know. Hmmm… probably it lacked kaffir lime leaves!!!

curry 4