This is a winner! A strong and somewhat spicy dish to serve with rice.
Because I usually associate curries with India, I have a hard time seeing the words “beef” and “curry” next to each other because Hindis don’t eat cows and beef curry seems inauthentic. But, this is a Thai dish, so they go together perfectly!
This is one of those recipes that I’ve had in a cookbook for years and just never got around to making it. The book, “Thai Food and Cooking,” by Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson, is an outstanding Thai cookbook with a wide variety of authentic recipes (never mind their Western-sounding names).
Not only is this a delicious dish, I learned something that never occurred to me before: adding ground peanuts as a flavor enhancer and thickener. That’s the key to this recipe.
What you’ll need:
- 2.5 cups coconut milk (or coconut cream)
- 3T Thai curry paste (store bought or from scratch)
- 3T fish sauce
- 2T palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 or 2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed and bruised (tying it in a knot keeps it together while cooking—see photo)
- 1 lb lean beef (round steak, for example), cut into medium-thin strips
- 3 oz (0.75 cups) roasted peanuts ground in a food processor
- 2 fresh Thai chilies (remove the seeds to lose some of the heat, if you wish)
- 5 lime leaves, torn (more of an optional ingredient, a squirt of lime juice works, too)
- Salt and pepper
- Thai basil leaves, as a garnish
What to do:
Add half the coconut milk to a heavy pan and place over medium heat. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, stirring constantly until the oil separates.
Add the curry paste, mix well and continue to cook for 3 more minutes until it smells delicious and is completely blended. Next, add the fish sauce, sugar and lemongrass, and bring back to a boil, stirring the entire time.
Continue to cook at a medium boil until the mixture darkens. Gradually stir in the remaining coconut milk and bring back to a boil.
Add the beef and ground peanuts. Stir constantly and cook. Here’s a decision point: you can cook the mixture until the amount of liquid boils off to the consistency you want for the sauce. The original recipe says to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, but that will drastically overcook the meat and make it tough. It’s up to you how long to cook the meat. No matter what you do, it will still be delicious.
When the mixture has reached the consistency to your liking, stir in the sliced chilies and lime leaves (if using).
Garnish with optional Thai basil leaves before serving. Goes well with Jasmin rice.