Thai panang curry with kale and tofu

This is my famous Panang curry recipe with kale, which has a slightly different twist and lots of veggies – resulting in a huge pot of steaming, nutritious joy. Panang (or Penang) curry is usually thicker than red curry and often contains peanuts, which gives it additional flavor. You can serve it with brown rice or jasmine rice.

Ingredients for panang curry:

  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (see Substitutes for lower-fat options)
  • 1 small can striped bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 ounces dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in water
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 bunch kale, trimmed and shredded into pieces (including stalks)
  • 2 small fresh thai chilies to taste
  • 1 pack firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon fresh gingerroot, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped or whole per taste
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, slightly shredded
  • 1/2 fresh lime

Ingredients for red curry paste:

You can either buy a good vegetarian paste for the panang curry or make it yourself as listed below:

  • 20 dried small red thai chilies, stemmed and most of the seeds discarded
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns or 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh galangal root or fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime peel, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions for red curry paste:

  1. Break red chilies into large pieces and place them into a small bowl. Cover with warm water and set aside to soften them for about 20 minutes.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, dry-fry the coriander seeds until they darken a shade, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Place them on a saucer. Reuse the pan and toast the cumin seeds in the same way for 1-2 minutes. Then place the coriander, cumin, and pepper into a mini processor and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
  3. Trim the lemongrass and discard the root sections below the bulb. Cut off the top portion and leave the stalk at 6-inch lengths. Remove the dried leaves and then finely chop the stalk.
  4. Drain the chilies and combine them with lemongrass, ground spices, and remaining ingredients in the food processor. Grind to a fairly smooth puree, stop occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed, to get a smoother paste. Put into airtight container and store at room temperature until use (you can store the paste in the fridge for up to 1 month).

Directions for panang curry with kale:

  1. Shake the coconut milk can well and spoon half of it into wok or medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cool until it thickens and stir occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the red curry paste as per taste, and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking and stirring the paste so that it does not clump.
  2. Add the remaining coconut milk and fill the can half-full with water to rinse, adding this to the simmering panang curry as well. Once the curry mixture starts thickening, add soy sauce, sugar, and ginger, and stir to combine. Then add vegetable stock and continue to cook for 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the bamboo stripes and water chestnuts, keep simmering at medium heat.
  4. Cut the soaked shitake mushrooms into quarters and leave tough stalks behind to soak some more. Add shitakes, thai chilies, and frozen peas to saucepan. Poor 1/2 cup of the shitake soaking water into the pot to add flavor. Stir and continue to simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Add the green onions and the kale. Let it cook with bubbles for 2-3 minutes, then reduce to low heat.
  6. Add the tofu and peanuts, reduce to low heat and stir gently, then close the wok. Let the panang curry soak on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Switch off the heat and add the cilantro leaves. Squeeze the lime into the curry and stir one last time, then serve the panang curry.
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