Thai Curry Soup

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asian curry soup

Yum! This is a delicious soup I recently made, thanks to a reader (and ahem, family member) named Jimmy. He had found the recipe in a Rachel Ray magazine, tried it himself and then sent me the instructions. “Maybe if you think it’s worthy enough you could share it with your Cracking Curry viewers,” he said.

The timing could not have been more perfect, as the BF had the flu. What’s better than chicken noodle soup when you’re sick? So after a quick trip to Chinatown to secure the more hard-to-find ingredients (in this case, Thai basil and the rice noodles), I tried making it myself.

To note, this is slightly different than the Rachel Ray version…hers calls for cilantro, which the BF doesn’t like, so I substituted Thai basil (which actually makes the dish more authentic). I used a generous helping of my homemade red curry paste, whereas her recipe calls for just 2 teaspoons. Jimmy mentioned that he used more chicken (hers called for just 12 oz) to make it heartier, so I did the same. I also added a few chopped chile peppers to the soup, as I can’t resist spice — plus I thought the heat might benefit the flu victim’s sinuses.

This was truly delicious — an easy recipe that I’ll definitely try again! Thank you, Jimmy and Rachel Ray. :)

Thai Curry Soup

1 16-ounce chicken breast, with bone in
6 cups chicken broth (plus 2 cups water)
3 tbsp red curry paste
6 oz rice noodles
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 chiles, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
Fresh Thai basil
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and 2 cups water to a boil. Add chicken on bone, and reduce to simmer. Cover until the chicken is cooked through, about a half hour. Remove chicken, let cool, then shed and set aside meat. (If you like, add a dash of fish sauce to help keep chicken moist.) Return bones to the broth, bring to a boil and reduce by about a third. Remove and discard bones. Add curry paste into the broth and return to simmer. Add the noodles and bell pepper; cook until the noodles soften, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Add chiles.
Serve the soup in bowls and top with the scallions and fresh Thai basil leaves. Garnish with lime wedges. Delicious!

Making a Cambodian Curry

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The BF and I have been talking recently about visiting Cambodia when we take a long-awaited trip to Asia next year. I’ve long wanted to see the ruins of Angkor Wat, and the BF (who’s seen them before) wants to go back and explore other parts of Cambodia, such as its beaches. So this is my explanation for why, on a recent Saturday night, I decided to attempt a Cambodian curry.

Fortunately, my Curry Cuisine bible has a recipe for “Saraman,” or cardamom and ginger beef curry with peanuts. I’ve never actually eaten a Cambodian curry, much less attempted to make one, but after finding the recipe, and watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Cambodia episode, I felt ready.

One advantage of my years of Thai and Indian curry-making is a well-stocked cabinet…which is good, because, damn there were a LOT of ingredients in this recipe. I liked that it called for star anise (pictured left), a star-shaped spice which — to sound incredibly girly — is the cutest spice ever. Other hard-to-find ingredients, which I fortunately had on hand: green cardamom pods, mace, cilantro root, galangal…and the list goes on.

The recipe wasn’t as complicated as it was labor-intensive and time-consuming…and there were times when I was skeptical as to whether the hours in the kitchen were worth it. But lo and behold, the finished product was terrific! We decided to eat it the authentic way, using baguettes to scoop up its deliciousness, rather than serving it over rice like most curries. The baguettes are leftover from the French colonization era.

The curry was thick, creamy, complex, layered — all the things a proper curry should be. Here’s my version of the Curry Cuisine recipe.

Cambodian Curry

3-inch piece ginger, pureed in food processor
1 lb beef (I got tender pieces, already cubed, used for making beef stew)
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 dried large red chiles, soaked, seeded and sliced
1 tsp galangal
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
7 green cardamon pods
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp nutmeg
2-3 cilantro roots, chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1/2 can coconut cream
1 can (or 1 16-oz frozen bag) of coconut milk
4 tbsp palm sugar
1/4 cup tamarind water (water mixed with 1/4 tsp tamarind)
2 tbsp fish sauce
big handful roasted peanut halves
2-4 Thai chiles, sliced lengthwise
1 French baguette (sliced)

Puree the ginger and then squeeze it in your hand to release the juice into a mixing bowl. Discard the dry fiber. Add the beef cubes to the bowl, and marinate  in the ginger juice for a half-hour so. Meanwhile, pound the cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamons and mace in mortar & pestle; set aside. Heat the coconut oil and stir-fry the chiles, galangal, garlic, shallot and lemongrass until fragrant. Add the cinnamon/anise/cardamon/mace mixture along with the nutmeg until all are toasted. Transfer all to a food processor. Blend. Add cilantro root, turmeric and a small amount of  water; blend until paste. Set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan (like a Le Creuset) over medium-high heat and stir-fry the shrimp paste, breaking apart with spoon until it’s dark. Add half the coconut cream and coconut milk, and all of the curry paste. Stir all. Add the beef and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining coconut cream and coconut milk, the palm sugar, the tamarind water, the fish sauce and the peanuts, then reduce heat. Simmer for about 1.5 hours of so. Add Thai chiles for heat. Serve with slices of French baguette, which you can use to scoop up the sauce. Delicious!

Making a Pork Vindaloo

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Continuing my quest to perfect Indian curries this fall, I recently made a pork vindaloo, using a recipe from my Curry Cuisine bible. I’ve always enjoyed fiery vindaloos, and had no idea that an integral ingredient is vinegar! This dish came out quite good, but not quite as yummy as my lamb curry. The next time I try this, I may opt for chicken instead. I enjoyed grinding up an entire cinnamon stick, which resulted in a heavenly scent as the curry was stewing. Pictorial essay below. Enjoy!

To make the spice paste, grind 1 tsp cumin seeds, 4 black cardamon pods, 4 whole cloves, a cinnamon stick and 5 black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.


Next, blend the spice power with 3 tbsp lemon juice, 4 garlic cloves, 1-inch piece of ginger root and 1 green chile in a food processor, until you’ve created a nice paste.


Mix the spice paste with 2 lbs boned pork (cubed) in a large bowl. Cover and allow to marinate for 1.5 hours.

spice-encrusted pork

Heat 4 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan, sauté five cloves of finely chopped garlic for a minute, then add two chopped onions and slowly sauté for quite some time, until golden. Add 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp tomato paste and 3 tsbp vinger (I used white wine vinegar, but you could also use cider vinegar). Chop up three tomatoes and add to the mix, stirring well.


Add the marinated pork, and salt to taste. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often; pour in 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for an hour or so. Finished product pictured below. Serve with rice. Yum!

pork vindaloo

Lamb Curry with Turnips & Carrots

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A few months ago, I had dinner with an older Indian couple (parents of my BF’s friend) who were in town from Delhi. As soon as I found out that the dad liked to cook, I knew this was my opportunity. “What’s the secret to making a great Indian curry?” I asked. “Time,” he answered. “Spend the whole day making it.”

He’s exactly right. In this high-speed world we live in, we’re often zooming here and there, jumping on subways, hailing cabs, ducking scaffolding, jumping over potholes…and that’s just the commute to work. Throw in life and even trips to the grocery store (it’s impossible to stock up when your apartment is the size of a postage stamp) — and well, there’s not a lot of time for a slow-cooked dinner.

Which is why, on a recent Saturday — with work done for the week, and no commitments — I decided to dedicate most of the day to making a proper Indian curry. An added incentive: it was my boyfriend’s birthday, so this needed to be special. I found a lamb curry recipe in my curry bible, “Curry Cuisine,” and was happy to find that I had most ingredients in stock: ghee, cumin seeds, turmeric, nutmeg, green cardamom and even the impossible-to-find mace. In fact, the only thing I needed from Citarella was lamb (which the butcher nicely cubed for me), beef stock, spinach and…fresh dill. That last ingredient surprised me, as I haven’t often used it in a curry…but — spoiler alert! — I do think it turned out to be this dish’s secret weapon.

Hours later, with our apartment smelling exquisite, we sat down for our proper curry. It’s always nice when the world slows down, especially in New York. And it makes a curry that much more delicious.

Below is the recipe I followed, with some modifications. Incidentally, I was concerned about throwing in so many cloves….but they melted down and gave the dish a yummy zingy taste.

Lamb Curry with Turnips & Carrots
1/3 cup ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp cloves
2 large onions, diced
5 or 6 garlic cloves, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
2 lb lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 green chiles, slit lengthwise
one turnip, cubed
two carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cup beef stock
two tomatoes, chopped
1 bag (10 oz) of spinach, chopped
1.5 tsp ground spices (equal parts of cloves, nutmeg, mace and green cardamom)
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill leaves

Heat the ghee in a pan, and add cumin seeds and cloves. When they start to pop, add the onion and sauté for a long while until a nice golden color. Mix in garlic and ginger.  Add chili powder, turmeric and salt; stir until aromatic. Add the lamb and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring constantly, until the sides begin to brown. Add green chiles, turnips and carrots and stir.  Pour in beef stock. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1.5 hours or so. Add the tomatoes, and cook for another half-hour or so until all melds together. Stir in ground spices, then add spinach, stirring until it wilts. Add fresh dill. Serve with basmati rice. Delicious!

My New Favorite Cocktail

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It’s been a delicious summer…weekends filled with play and sunshine, trips to the beach and the mountains, and of course, the odd cocktail or ten.

That brings us to my new favorite recipe, a fruity libation known as the Pink & Green. It’s a cleaner cousin of the Kir Royale, the classic French cocktail that consists of champagne topped with crème de cassis. To make a Pink & Green (photo above), squeeze the juice of half a lime into a wine glass, and add a healthy splash of cassis. Pour seltzer over the lime and cassis, and top with a lime wedge. Serve with or without rocks. Delicious!

What does this have to do with curry? Not much, although it does borrow a few elements of Thai cuisine, namely mixing sour with sweet. (Cassis, a gorgeous red liquer made from blackcurrants, is quite sweet.) And it’s perfect to drink with a curry meal. Enjoy!

Perfect Summertime Thai Chicken Salad

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Rarely has a meal I’ve made become a recipe on so quickly, but the lunch I prepared today was just too delicious. Plus it’s a heat wave here in Manhattan. It’s a good day to stay indoors and blog!

I was inspired to make this dish after ordering it in Washington, D.C., back in May. It’s an American take on traditional Thai larb — and a bit of a throwback to the classic wedge salads of the 1960s.

This quick-to-prepare dish contains relatively easy-to-find ingredients. And truly, in a heat wave, it’s cool crunchiness with tangy saltiness make it the perfect summertime lunch (not to be confused with my perfect summertime BBQ…I am usually not so immodest about my recipes, but those are two really good ones.)

Perfect Summertime Thai Chicken Salad

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper – julienned, then diced
2 scallions, chopped finely
iceberg lettuce, cut in wedges

For dressing:
juice of two limes (about 1/4 cup worth)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp agave (or honey or sugar)
2 green chile peppers, diced

To start, add a bit of oil to skillet and sauté chicken. Season with salt and pepper; when nearly cooked, add a dash of fish sauce to keep meat tender. Place in mixing bowl and allow to cool. Slice onions, scallions and red pepper; combine all in salad bowl. Add the cooked ground chicken. Pour dressing over all, and mix thoroughly. Serve with iceberg wedges on plate or bowl.

Some more photos of the process below. Enjoy!

Mixing together the key ingredients…


Prepping the dressing…


A closeup of the finished product. Yum!


Making Paste From Powder…

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I recently picked up all the ingredients to make a favorite Thai curry, Spicy Southern Curry with Swordfish. But when I arrived home and opened my freezer, I realized that — quelle horreur! — I was out of my homemade red curry paste.

Since it’s impossible to make this dish without curry paste, I was in a quandary. (Whipping up  fresh curry paste was out of the question – my recipe calls for 11 ingredients and lots of mashing in the mortar & pestle – about a 2-hour process, and it was already 8 p.m.)

In desperation, I found a packet of Thai curry powder that my boyfriend had picked up at Kalyustyan’s, and at which I had once scoffed. (A curry powder?) Beggers can’t be choosers.  I followed the instructions, adding shrimp paste (which I had on hand) and a little water…see photos below.

thai red curry powder

curry powder, shrimp paste


Voila! A curry paste. As good as fresh? Of course not. But with lots of coconut milk splashed in, not to mention fish sauce, palm sugar and oyster sauce, this ended up being….better than expected. Try it if you are in pinch!

Chicken Larb Salad

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chicken larb

While in Washington, D.C., for a work trip, I found myself conveniently staying near Chinatown. Popping out for lunch, I decided to try out Asian Spice restaurant — not because it looked authentic (it didn’t) but because the outdoor patio was too enticing to turn down.

But I was pleasantly surprised by this dish (photo above) – a take on traditional Thai larb, served as a salad. Tasty, spicy, healthy….perfect for a light summertime meal.

I’ll update the blog when I’ve got the recipe down, but you could easily re-create this by sautéing ground chicken, then allowing to cool. In a bowl, mix together thinly sliced red onion, scallions and just a bit of red bell pepper. Add chicken to bowl. For the dressing, mix together lime juice, diced Thai chile peppers, and a bit of fish sauce. Pour onto chicken mixture (larb) and toss. Serve larb on plate, with iceberg wedges. Garnish with cilantro. Yum!

An Easy & Simple Curry!

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Patient readers of must forgive the recent lack of posts. I’ve been experimenting wildy with curries — most notably, I’ve tried recreating Texas Curry a half-dozen times — but the results have not been bloggable. *Sigh.

That said, on nights off from mad experimentation, I’ve stumbled across a surprisingly simple curry*, a version of which I first made at Thai cooking school at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. It’s tremendously easy and delicious.

So on this, the two-year anniversary of this very blog, I share this easy-to-make curry below. Experiment with chicken or shrimp, and with whatever veggies are in season. Serve with jasmine rice — and perhaps a delicious rosé or dry riesling. Enjoy!

*I suppose this is technically a Chinese-inspired dish, rather than a curry…but in my book it’s a curry.

Easy & Simple Curry

2 tbsp oil (I use coconut oil, but you can use any veggie oil)
5-6 cloves garlic (diced)
2-inch piece of ginger (diced)
1.5 tbsp roasted chile paste (I prefer Sambal Oelek)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3/4 tbsb palm sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk (feel free to use a bit more)
3/4 lb shrimp OR 2 chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into square bite-size pieces
big handful snow peas
2 birds-eye chiles, diced, for added spiciness (optional)
jasmine rice
(serves 2 people)

Heat the oil and add garlic, stirring for a minute or so, then ginger. Add chili paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce and palm sugar; stir well. Pour in coconut milk. Bring to boil. Drop in pieces of shrimp or chicken. Allow protein to cook for a few minutes, til nearly done. Add bell pepper. Stir and allow to steam. Add snowpeas and chiles (if desired). Serve over jasmine rice. Delicious!

At Long Last, A Korma Recipe

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korma with shrimp

I’ve been itching to make a korma for sometime, but wanted a recipe that didn’t call for heavy cream. (I’m not a big fan, plus the dining companion is lactose-intolerant.) A friend of a Facebook friend named Michelle Johnson posted this recipe, which calls for yogurt and just a splash of half-and-half. I tweaked a few ingredients and added a few — namely, bay leaves, cloves, cardamon and chili powder — but can’t take credit for the dish. It’s easy and delicious!

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp sunflower oil
15 almonds or cashews, toasted and crushed into powder
4 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
splash half and half
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
5 green cardamon pods (just use the seeds inside, crushed)
2 green chiles, chopped
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces, or 1 lb shrimp
cilantro for garnish

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper into a paste. Set aside. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large pan. Once it bubbles, sautee the diced onion; add the paste and ground almonds or cashews. Stir until fragrant. Add the tomatos, yogurt and half & half. (Adjust the amount depending on how creamy you like it.) Bring to a simmer. Add bay leaves, cloves, crushed cardamon seeds, and chiles. Add the chicken or shrimp and the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Serve chicken over rice and garnish with cilantro.