NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Panang (also spelled Penang and Phanaeng) curry is a mild Thai curry that gets its name from the Malaysian island of Penang. It is similar to Thai red curry but is richer and creamier, and typically uses crushed peanuts as a major part of the dish (I personally use cashews). It is often served with beef, pork, chicken or shrimp in Thai restaurants in the United States, although beef is the traditional meat used in this dish.
While the pre-made Panang curry pastes from Maesri and Mae Ploy are both excellent, they are more spicy than I would like. Reducing the amount of paste used or adding extra coconut milk just makes for a bland meal, so I decided to develop a mild Panang curry paste of my own that could then be adjusted for spiciness. As an added bonus, my recipe is also free of added sugar, unlike the pre-made pastes!
Click here to see this paste in action, in my Chicken Panang recipe.
3 large dried red Anaheim chiles
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds or 1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or 1 tsp ground cumin
3″ lemongrass (white base of one stalk), chopped
2″ galangal, chopped
5 fresh (or dried) kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 cardamom pods
2 small shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
2 tsp water
The spiciness of this dish will be determined by the chiles you use. I used the mildest chili available (Anaheim chiles, also called California chiles), so that you can add heat as you see fit. A variation of them, New Mexico chiles, are slightly spicier and easy to find as well. If you’re looking to add spice to the dish, add a mashed Thai chili or two when you are making the actual curry.
Soak the chiles in water for 30 minutes, then remove the stem and seeds.
Prepare all of your other ingredients, and combine them with the peppers. To make the paste, you could either your a mortar and pestle or something handier, like a food processor. Personally, I used my handy Magic Bullet and it worked perfectly. You may need to add a little more water to get the right consistency.
That’s it! This recipe makes enough for four heaping tablespoons of paste (enough for about 10 servings). Store in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.