Christmas Surprises & Kaeng Kari Kai (Thai Yellow Chicken Curry)

Notice anything different?  I'll give you a hint...I didn't get a haircut. 

I'm difficult to surprise at Christmas time.  Partly because I'm the mommy, and it comes with the territory to mostly know what goes on under the roof of the house I consider my womanly domain. :)  I see the packages that arrive, and through December I try not to think too hard about them if they aren't addressed to me.  But this year it wasn't the return address on a package that had my husband sweating bullets while he tried to keep his thoughtful gift a surprise, it was the thought I might randomly look into a domain name and find I already owned one.  Happily, I was truly astonished to unwrap a little box that held a small slip of paper with on it.

Totally sweet of him, right?  I own a domain! 

I think the move from blogspot has been seamless; all existing links and bookmarks should continue to work.  My little podunk blog suddenly feels so legit.  :)  Let me know if you encounter any problems with feeds or otherwise. 

Now let's talk about Thai food.

To say that it was a stretch to get me to try Thai for the first time would be an understatement.  If I hadn't wanted so badly to prove to the dashing guy I was seeing (now my husband) that I could adapt to his varied palate, I might still be eating Hot Pockets and freezer pizzas.  But there's something in Thai food that gave my run of the mill American taste buds serious pause, and that thing was fish sauce.  Victor Sodsook writes in True ThaiNo ingredient is more vital to Thai cooking than this thin, flavorful, vitamin-rich sauce.  Its aroma may seem strong, but nam pla quickly cooks down to a demure undertone that helps to "marry" various flavors within a dish.  Since it is made from salt-packed, fermented fish, there's no need to use a salt shaker on a Thai table.  Romans made a similar sauce and used it in nearly every dish, as Thais do today.

Hot Pocket vs. fermented fish juice.  It wasn't really a contest in my mind.  But I'm singing a different song now; I just hold my nose while I do it (and I haven't been tempted by Hot Pockets in at least 6 years).  Fish sauce is essential to this dish, as it is to most Thai food.  It's detectable in the final product, but it really does sink blissfully into the background, somehow uniting all the other flavors into something glorious.  This creamy dish has become to me as much a "comfort food" meal as macaroni and cheese.  And even if you think you don't like coconut or fish sauce, you just might love it here.

Kaeng Kari Kai
Yellow Chicken Curry

(adapted from True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking )

4 medium potatoes (about 14 oz.), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cans (one 14 oz., one 19 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
1 (4 oz.) can yellow curry paste (the original recipe calls for 1 c. homemade curry paste, but we've found 1 4 oz. can of store-bought paste is perfect, making a mild-medium curry)
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 3/4 c. canned chicken broth
3 T. Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
6 T. sugar
1-2 large onions, sliced
about 2 c. loosely packed tatsoi, optional (we like the addition of the leafy greens to the dish)
peanuts, for garnish

  1. Parboil the potatoes in boiling water just until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes, and set aside.
  2. Skim the cream from the top of the canned coconut milk and bring it to a low boil in a large soup pot, reserving the milk for later.  Stir in the curry paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  
  3. Add the reserved coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, and sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and blended.  Add the potatoes and onion, and raise the heat to high to bring everything to a low boil.  
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken, potatoes, and onion are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  If desired, add the tatsoi about halfway through that time--it's done when the leaves are wilted and the stems are tender.  
  5. Serve with jasmine rice, and garnish with peanuts.

This recipe supposedly tastes best made a few hours or even a full day before you intend to eat it; keep it covered and refrigerated and heat it through without allowing it to come to a boil before serving.  We just know we can look forward to enjoying the leftovers tremendously.


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