Panang Curry Chicken

I felt like getting back to my Thai cooking roots with this post.  This is one of the most flavorful dishes you will ever eat.  Incorporating the best from sweet, savory, sour and spicy, this meal makes your taste buds sing!  This dish is a favorite among most of my family (the part of my family that can eat somewhat spicy food).  While Panang Curry is a Malaysian dish by name, the use of a pounded curry paste with lemon grass and coconut milk or cream is definitely a Thai tradition.  So though this dish may be popular in Malaysia, it is most definitely a rice dish of Thai origin.

Above we have most of the ingredients of our curry paste.  Not shown are garlic, shallots, soy sauce, ginger and galangal.  But starting from the top and winding in clockwise are Chili powder in a bag, ground coriander, shrimp paste, tmato paste, red onion and lemon grass and ground cumin.

The shrimp paste is an ingredient rarely seen or discussed in the US so I will go into more detail on that here.

This is dried, fermented shrimp paste.  This is perhaps the most pungent ingredient used in Thai cooking.  The smell is very strong and depending on what you are making with it, it is often better to be cooked outside.  Indeed there is a dish called Nam Prik Gapee (fried fish with shrimp paste and water dip) that when eaten, can literally wreck your breath for more than a day.  I know because it’s happened to me and I had to sleep on the couch when I ate it.  This condiment is made by harvesting fresh small shrimp from the sea or from fresh water lakes and then mashing them into a paste.  The paste is then mixed with salt and allowed to ferment in baskets.  It is later dried in the sun and formed into solid bricks or cakes of shrimp paste.  Called Gapee in Thai, the dried shrimp is mixed with other ingredients to flavor food.  This stuff is impossible to eat straight out of the container (it is incredibly salty) and it has to be cooked before use.  In the tub above, even after opening the lid, the surface of the product was coated with a wax seal that I had to break when I opened it.  That’s when the smell hits you.  I store my excess in the garage.  For what we are going cook, we only need to use about a tablespoon of it and we’ll be grilling it and then mixing it with a lot of other ingredients so it shouldn’t be too smelly cooked indoors.

Above, I have about a tablespoon that I will wrap in aluminum foil to cook.  I cook it not only for the grilled flavor but to ensure the paste is safe to eat and cooking it cuts way back on that fishy taste and smell.

I have the paste wrapped in aluminum foil.  Now you COULD cook it over your grill but we only need about a minute of high heat for a tablespon full like we have here.  A gas stove on high will work too.

I am cooking mine with a brulee torch on all sides for about a minute before adding the paste to the mortar and pestle with the other curry paste ingredients.

Here I have pounded the roasted shrimp paste with the garlic, shallots, onion, lemon grass, coriander, cumin, chili powder, ginger, galangal, soy sauce and a little lime juice.

Above are my ingredients for the gravy part of the sauce.  Coconut cream, brown sugar and fish sauce.  Before we start, it is important that we start cooking our rice.  For me, that means adding 3 cups of well rinsed Japanese medium grain rice to the required amount of water and starting the cooker.  This is the way this dish would be eaten in Northern Thailand.  In Southern Thailand they would use Jasmine rice.  You can use whatever rice suits your own fancy.

Here I have about 1.5 lbs of chicken tenderloins cut into bite sized pieces.  To start this dish, we will heat some oil and fry the curry paste first.

I will let the vegetable oil heat here for a full minute on high heat before adding the curry paste.

You want to fry the paste until it’s very fragrant.  The smells of garlic, lemon grass, chili pepper and shrimp paste will be prominent before we add the next ingredient.  I cooked this on high heat for about 90 seconds stirring constantly.

Here I am adding the two cans of coconut cream.  Thai people add coconut milk and/or cream to their curries to soften the savage attack of the spices on the palette.  This curry paste is quite strong in flavor and will easy overpower the palette of most people.  The coconut attenuates this to a normal level for us.  And for this dish – this is next point is very important.  When you go to get the coconut cream for this.  If you go to any Asian market (and even some US grocery store chains) you will see they have coconut milk at least and hopefully the cream.  Try to find the coconut CREAM instead of the MILK.  There is a difference.  Coconut cream is the liquid that is the first press from the shredded coconut meat and if you don’t have it, you have to add corn starch to the gravy to get it as thick as the cream will get it.  You want the gravy to be rich and somewhat thick.

I use a whisk for this next step.  You want the curry paste well mixed into the coconut cream.  If it isn’t, your diners might get a lump or two of the paste itself and you will hear about it if they do.  Much spicier and hotter than the rest of the gravy, it is brutal on the taste buds.  Take the extra time to get this well mixed.  Note the lovely peachy hue of our gravy.  That pinkish-orange color is the hallmark of good Panang curry sauce.

Next we’ll add our chicken.  Now you can add beef or shrimp but I find red curry to be best for beef and green curry to pair better with shrimp.  (I will add those recipes at some point later to this blog).  But you are by no means bound by my preferences.  Feel free to cook what you want in your kitchen.

Stir this well until the chicken pieces start to get opaque.

Here I’ll add a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar and stir well to dissolve it.  

Next I’ll add the juice of one whole lime, one half at a time.  We need some more citrus to balance out that sweetness.

And here, I’ll add about 3 tablespoons of fish sauce.  Stir this very well.  It’s here that you will want to taste it.  It should have a nice balance between sweet, salty and sour as well as with spicy heat.  Here is where you will make any final corrections in flavor.  Add sugar, lime juice or fish sauce, depending on whether your dish needs more sweetness, acid (sour) or salt, respectively.

I like to add a cup or so of frozen peas and carrots.  This will be the last ingredient we will add while the dish is actively cooking.   Give it a good stir and let it simmer on very low heat for about 10 more minutes.

With 8 minutes left for my rice to cook, I shut off the heat on my curry sauce.

I have one final ingredient I will add to the curry after the stove is shut off.  These snow pea pods will cook using the left over residual heat from our gravy.

Snow peas added to our curry.

And our final stew ready to be served over rice.

This is my own dish with chopped cilantro leaves and sliced Thai red chili pepper added.  I add about 1/2-1 cup of gravy to each cup of cooked rice.

And the final dish after a good stir.  It’s ready to eat after a quick drizzle of additional fish sauce.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family and I do!

Panang Curry Chicken (serves 5-6 as a main course)


  • 1.5 lbs chicken tenderloins cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Two 13.5 oz cans of premium quality coconut cream
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
  • 1.5 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 1.5 cups cut fresh snow pea pods
  • 2-4 tablespoons fish sause (to taste)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons of either prepackaged penang curry paste or use the below recipe

Panang Curry Paste

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tsp minced red onion
  • 1 large shallot
  • 2 lemon grass stalks pounded into paste
  • 1 tablespoon galangal (thai ginger) root pounded to paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grilled Thai shrimp paste
  • 2 tablespoons red chili powder or 4 fresh thai chilis pounded into paste
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin


  • Pound the Panang Curry paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle or use premade paste bought from an Asian grocer.
  • Begin cooking the rice you will serve with the dish.
  • Begin heating the oil in a pot
  • Fry the curry paste in the oil for about 90 seconds (it will be very fragrant)
  • Add both cans of coconut milk and whisk together well.
  • When red oil starts to appear on top of the coconut milk, add the chicken pieces and stir well.
  • Add brown sugar
  • Add lime juice
  • Add fish sauce
  • Stir well and taste.  Add any of the 3 condiments desired to fill in flavor gaps to personal taste.
  • Add the frozen vegetables and stir well.
  • Simmer on very low heat for about 10 more minutes.
  • Turn off heat.
  • Add the snow pea pods and stir well.  Allow the gravy to rest about 10 minutes.
  • Serve over steamed white rice (your preference here).





Thai Glass Noodle Salad

This is a cold dish that is remarkably simple to prepare but very high in flavor.  When I was a child in Thailand our maids used to make this all the time but the strong flavors didn’t appeal to me in my youth and sadly, I didn’t like it.  But the flavor was hard to forget and when I was reminiscing with my younger brother about the dishes we remembered most from Thailand, I remembered this one and got a strange craving for it.  After discussing this with our friend Tu (a former Thai restaurant owner) I came up with the recipe below which might not be exactly what our maids made, but the flavor sure is the same.  This is a very authentic Thai dish that can be eaten as a main course or as an appetizer with smaller portions.

Our first (and perhaps most important) ingredient is our glass noodles.

You can get these at almost any Asian market.  The ones I have here are made in Korea but they are almost always made with sweet potato starch, no matter the country of origin.  Cooking the noodles is simple.  Boil for 5 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water.  I prefer to then soak them in an ice water bath to get them even colder.  I will use this whole 12 oz package.

Now for the meat you can cook your own.  If you do, you have to add in the time to chill your meat after it is coooked.  Here I am taking a shortcut and using frozen precooked salad shrimp.  So named because it’s usually used in shrimp salad 😉

I will use about a half pound of these thawed.  Toss these in with your chilled, cooked noodles.

Above are Japanese black sesame seeds used in making sushi.  Again, this will be sold by your local asian grocer.  I like these because they have a pleasant texture as well as a roasted sesame taste that ads character to our salad.  But these have to be roasted in a pan for about 5-6 minutes before being used to release that flavor.

You don’t need a lot of heat.  I am using my smallest burner here.

For the rest of the ingredients you will want cilantro (extremely important), Thai chili peppers, green onions, lime juice, fish sauce and some chopped nuts for texture as well as flavor (I prefer cashews).

Not shown are the thai chilis, julienned cucumber, edamame and cashew nuts.  But above we have our garlic, lime, scallions, cilantro and fish sauce.  I will sautee 2-3 minced cloves of garlic in 4 tablespoons of oil until golden.  Then take the oil and garlic off the heat and put into a cool ceramic bowl.  Mix in the juice of one or two lime wedges (to taste), 2-4 tablespoons of fish sauce (to taste),  and 2-8 thai chili peppers sliced thin (to taste) as well as 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil and whisk together.  That will be our dressing.

Now if you are one of those people that simply cannot abide cilantro you can substiture parsley for it but it will drastically change the flavor profile of the dish.  I will mince up 1 dry measure cup of cilantro, 1/2 cup of scallions and toss these into the noodles.  Lastly I will toss in the dressing and cashews and then top with the roasted black sesame seeds.  In my plate below I also have edamame (soybeans) and some seaweed.  I have omitted the seaweed in my recipe below but you can use that if you can get your hands on some.

Two warnings I will give here.  One is if you decide to use commercial salad seaweed, they use dyes in that which can stain your glass noodles.  Especially if you chill your salad in the fridge for a while before eating it.  The other caution is if you store any left over portion overnight, the glass noodles will cloud over.  It won’t affect the flavor but your dish won’t have as pretty of a presentation.

This is a very strongly flavored salad with shrimp, cilantro, lime and fish sauce giving forward notes and finishing with the heat from the chilis.  Once you’ve had this dish for the first time, any time you remember it your mouth will curiously water, regardless of your fondness for it.  I am at a loss to explain why.  I truly disliked this dish as a child but as an adult, I get an awful craving for it sometimes.

Here is the recipe:

Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer)


  • 12 oz package glass vermicelli noodles
  • 8 oz frozen mini precooked salad shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup shelled, cooked edamame beans (soybeans)
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber


  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
  • 2-10 Thai chili peppers thinly sliced (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Juice of 1-3 lime wedges (to taste)


  • Thaw the frozen shrimp for 1-2 hours before starting.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for 5 minutes.
  • While the noodles are cooking, sautee the minced garlic in the oil in a separate pan until golden.  Remove the oil and garlic to a bowl and whisk in the fish sauce, chili peppers, lime juice and sesame oil.  This is our dressing
  • Drain the noodles and rinse well with cold water.
  • Roast the black sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until fragrant.
  • Toss the noodles with the shrimp, cucumber, cashews, cilantro, soybeans and scallions.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the noodles and toss well.
  • Serve in salad bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.



Prik Nam Pla

I thought I would add this recipe here for Prik Nam Pla since I will reference it frequently when I talk about serving Thai dishes.  To a Thai person, this condiment is like salt and pepper is here in the U.S. and is found on just about every Thai table.  Prik Nam Pla literally translated means spicy-hot fish water.  And even Thai households will have this sauce readily available at every meal to be spooned over a dish to add spice and saltiness.  It’s not just something you will find in restaurants.  This is very easy to make and keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I have been known to keep it longer but it will lose heat if kept past that.  You will need at least 3 ingredients, 4-5 with the optionals.

Nam Pla Prik (Makes about 1 cup)


  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • 3 garlic (chinese) chive flower stalks.
  • 1-2 lime wedges (to taste)
  • Thai Chili peppers (as many as desired – to taste)
  • 1 Red Savina Habanero pepper (optional if you want it REALLY hot).
  • 1/2 cup of a good quality Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce.


You want the ingredients to be as fresh as possible though if you look closely at the picture above, you will see frost on my Thai chilis.  Yes, they were previously frozen so I cheated here.  I grow them all summer long (I’ll discuss that in another post) and freeze them for the winter.  I have a fresh Red Savina Habanero above as well (I do not recommend that unless you have an asbestos palette like I do – a result of having spent my childhood in Thailand).


  • Mince one garlic clove well.  Add to the jar or container that can hold 1 cup in volume.
  • Slice the garlic chives into 1/8″ slices.
  • Slice the peppers into 1/8-1/4″ sections depending on personal taste.  I like 1/8″ myself.  If you decide to add a habanero as I did, mince that well too.  Add to the jar with the garlic.


  • Squeeze as many lime wedges as desired (I prefer one wedge but some may want more citrus in their sauce).


  • Fill the rest of the way with the fish sauce and gently stir well.

I like to chill mine in the fridge for an hour to give the flavors some time to meld.


And below is a batch I made that has minced garlic chive flower stalks in it.  I’ve added that to my recipe here because I always make it like this way now because it drastically improves the flavor after it sits for 3-4 days..

And there you have it.  Over time you will probably make adjustments to your own recipe until you have it the way you like it.  This will be called for to be served with almost all recipes I provide here.