Red Thai Curry Chicken

I admit that when I first moved to Canada my palate was pretty limited. Exotic meant Chinese, and Chinese meant chow mein and chicken balls. Japanese food was looked upon in suspicion because it sounded like it would be all fish, and Indian food was out of the question – too hot!

Fortunately, I married a man whose tastes were wide and varied, and I let him cook for me. Over time, he got me to eat a lot of different foods that I never would have considered before. One of the dishes that he made for me was his red Thai curry chicken.

Thai Curry Chicken

He’d been making this dish for a few years when I realized that I was slowly being conditioned. It is a spicy dish, but the spiciness can be altered based on how much curry paste you put into the sauce. When he started making the curry, he’d only put a smattering of curry paste in it. Gradually he increased the “dosage” until it was at full strength. Sure enough, I’d been habituated to eat much spicier food than I had been willing to try when we got married.

I’d sort of like to call this dish “Bachelor Thai Curry Chicken.” It’s not authentic by any stretch of the imagination, and a lot of the ingredients come out of a can. On the other hand, it’s quick (super quick if you do all the chopping the night before) and a bit of a crowd-pleaser. My instructions below are to serve the curry over couscous, which makes a really creamy base for the curry, but basmati rice or quinoa would work just as well.

You will need:

  • 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken (I like breasts but you can use thighs, too)
  • 2 400ml (13.5 fl oz) cans coconut milk
  • 2 284g (10 fl oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 227g (8oz) cans sliced bamboo
  • 1 227g (8oz) can sliced water chestnuts (optional)
  • 3 sweet bell peppers (we like using one each red, orange and yellow)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (this amount makes a curry with medium to high heat; increase or decrease the amount of curry paste to your taste)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups instant couscous

A note about the curry paste: you may need to do some experimentation to find a type you like that’s available in your area. In Winnipeg, all the major grocery stores carry the Thai Kitchen brand curry paste, which is what we use.

Seed the bell peppers and slice them into thin strips. Set aside.

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Add mushroom soup and most of the coconut milk (retain about 1/2 cup). Stir to combine.

Mix the curry paste with the retained coconut milk. Mix it well and break up any lumps. (Even small lumps of curry paste can be a nasty surprise.) Add the curry and coconut milk mixture to the pan and stir.

Heat the chicken and sauce until the sauce is well combined and no longer lumpy. Stir in the sugar and fish sauce.

Add the sweet pepper strips and bamboo (and water chestnuts and baby corn, if using) to the pan. Stir.

Bring sauce to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Let cook until hot.

While the curry is heating through, bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water is boiling, add the instant couscous to the water. Remove from heat and cover. The couscous will be ready in about five minutes. Note: This makes a slightly dry couscous, which allows it to absorb some of the moisture and flavour from the curry sauce. If you’d rather have your couscous on the side, use two and a half cups of water, and let the couscous sit for 10 minutes.

To serve, place a scoop of couscous in a bowl and cover with the chicken curry. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, and to allow the couscous to absorb some of the sauce.

This is also fantastic the next day, reheated for lunch.

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