One of my favorite dishes at Thai/Laotian restaurants is penang curry, which I usually get with tofu, because, yes, I actually like tofu! Penang curry is characterized by a peanut curry sauce that is absolutely addictive. Last night I was hungering for something Thai, but didn’t want to run out to buy anything, so I attempted to make penang curry without a recipe. Sure, I could’ve looked one up, but part of the fun in cooking is the whole problem-solving aspect.
First, I started by sautéing some crushed garlic, diced onion, and finely chopped fresh ginger– the holy trinity of most Asian cuisine. After the onion became a little translucent, I added both nước mắm (fish sauce) and soy sauce and deglazed the pan with some vegetable broth. Then came the fresh vegetable melange: carrots, which needed to cook for a little bit longer than the others, then diced zucchini, and green pepper. I thought about adding tomatoes, but decided against it since the dish I usually get doesn’t contain them.
To make the peanut-based sauce, I simply stirred in some smooth peanut butter and coconut milk to taste. It needed more spice and I didn’t have any fresh chilies on hand, so I tossed in a healthy amount of ground cayenne pepper, along with pre-mixed curry powder and freshly ground black pepper.
The end result was fairly close to the typical penang curry served in Vientiane Cafe down the street: spicy, thick and nutty. The spice in the sauce was a heat that slowly warmed on the tongue, with the cayenne and black pepper hitting different taste buds. Next time, I plan on adding shrimp or tofu, depending what I have on hand. Also, I need to learn how to make that amazing bamboo-steamed sticky rice!