Here’s presenting Kaeng Phanaeng, a beautiful Thai curry that also goes by the name of Panang Curry. This curry has a smooth and creamy gravy, redolent of coconut and peanuts, and of course the typical ingredients like lemongrass and Kaffir lime. This is a vegetarian version of the curry, made using assorted vegetables and paneer (cottage cheese).
Difference between Thai Panang Curry and Red Curry
Thai Panang Curry can be called a close cousin of the more popular Red Curry. However, there are a few subtle differences.
The Panang Curry includes peanuts, which aren’t typically used in Red Curry. The peanuts, along with coconut milk, lend a silky smooth texture, a beautiful nutty taste and a creamy consistency to the curry. For this reason, this curry is also referred to as Thai Peanut Curry.
Red Curry has a fiery red colour to it, as the name suggests. The Panang Curry, however, has a more orange colour.
A closer look at my Thai Panang Curry
In traditional Thai kitchens, Panang Curry is usually made with meat like chicken or beef. Like I was saying earlier, though, this is a vegetarian version, made using vegetables like carrot, beans, babycorn and capsicum. I have also used paneer (cottage cheese) to add some protein in.
The paste for Panang Curry is typically made using soaked dry red chillies, along with ingredients like galangal, Kaffir lime, cumin seeds, lemongrass and coriander seeds. Sriracha sauce or Thai red curry paste is sometimes used too, as a shortcut, instead of making the paste from scratch. I have used my home-made Sriracha sauce here. While I have used some authentic ingredients, I have used Indian ginger in place of galangal here, as I wasn’t able to find the latter.
Many online recipes for Thai Panang Curry call for peanut butter, but I have made it from scratch using roasted peanuts. I find the flavour much better with roasted peanuts, and I have much more control of what exactly goes into the curry.
How I make Khaeng Phanaeng or Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry
When Priya of Pickled Route recently wrote about how she made a paneer satay with a peanut and coconut milk sauce, it had me inspired. I knew my family and I would love the peanut-coconut milk combination, and I just had to try it out.
I read up several online recipes for Thai Peanut Curry i.e. Panang Curry, and made it recently, adapted from this one by Hot Thai Kitchen and this one by The Spruce Eats. It turned out so finger-licking delicious that I have made it a few times already. It is a very easy dish to make, provided you have all the ingredients ready, and tastes absolutely brilliant with some steamed rice.
I have shared below the way I made Khaeng Phanaeng or Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry. I’m sharing this recipe in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, where the theme is ‘Asian Foodie Delights’. The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. I’m the hostess of the blog hop this week, and I thought it would be nice to have everyone exploring the plethora of gorgeous Asian dishes from the countries around us.
Ingredients (serves 4):
To grind to a paste:
- 1 lemongrass root or about 4 strands
- 1 tablespoon fresh coriander stems
- 5-6 Kaffir lime leaves
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 1 teaspoon soya sauce
- 1 green chilly
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 shallots or 1/2 of a small onion
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 200 grams paneer
- About 1/4 cup of broccoli florets
- 1 medium-sized carrot
- 8-10 beans
- About 1/2 cup chopped capsicum, in red, green and yellow
- 4 pieces of babycorn
- 1/2 cup peanuts, roasted
- 250 ml thick coconut milk
- About 1 cup water or as needed
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
1. We will start by roasting the peanuts. Take the peanuts in a heavy-bottomed pan. Dry roast on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till they are nice and crisp. Take care to ensure that the peanuts do not burn. Transfer to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.
2. Next, we will prep the veggies required for the curry. Peel the carrot and chop into bite-sized pieces. Chop the broccoli into small florets. Remove strings from the beans and chop into 1-inch pieces. Remove seeds and cores from the capsicum and chop into large-ish pieces. Chop up the babycorn into roundels. Keep aside.
3. Chop the paneer into squares. Keep ready.
4. Now, we will grind the paste required for the curry. Cut up the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves roughly and add to a small mixer jar. Peel the onion, ginger and garlic, chop roughly, and add these in too. Chop the green chilli and coriander stems too and add these in as well. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, jaggery powder, Sriracha sauce and soya sauce. Also add in the roasted and cooled peanuts, along with 2-3 tablespoons water. Grind everything together to a smooth paste. Keep this paste aside.
5. Take the veggies we prepared earlier (carrot, beans, broccoli, capsicum and babycorn) in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in about 1/4 cup water and place on gas. Turn the flame down to medium.
6. Let the veggies cook, covered, on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till they are done but not overly mushy.
7. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the paste we prepared earlier, to the pan. Wash out the mixer jar using about 1/4 cup water and add this to the pan too. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for a minute.
8. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the coconut milk to the pan. Also add about 1/2 cup water or as needed to adjust consistency. Taste and adjust salt or seasonings as required. Simmer for a minute.
9. Add the paneer cubes to the pan. Cook everything together on medium flame for about 2 minutes, by which time the mixture would have thickened up slightly. Switch off gas at this stage.
10. Mix in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander. Your Thai Panang Curry is ready. Serve hot or warm with steamed rice.
Tips & Tricks
1. You can use tofu in place of the paneer I have used here, for a vegan version of Thai Panang Curry.
2. You may dry roast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds before using them in the paste. I don’t.
3. I have used thick coconut milk from the Real Thai brand here. You may make your own at home if you so prefer. You may use more or less quantity, as per personal taste preferences.
4. I prefer using only certain veggies in this curry – carrots, broccoli, beans, babycorn and capsicum. You may use any vegetables of your choice.
5. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice, salt, jaggery powder, Sriracha sauce, green chillies and soya sauce as per personal taste preferences.
6. Use as much water as required to adjust the consistency of the curry. It should be creamy and smooth, but not overly thick. Neither should it be too watery.
7. Like I was saying earlier, soaked dry red chillies are traditionally used to make the paste for this Thai Panang Curry. I have used Sriracha sauce here, as a sort of shortcut. You may use Thai red curry paste instead, too. If you can find ready-to-use Thai Panang Curry paste, you could use that instead, too.
8. Typically shrimp paste is used in this curry. I have avoided that, considering we are vegetarians.
9. You may use either the root of lemongrass or strands – both are available in specialty food stores in Bangalore. The root is more intense in flavour than the strands, and needs to be used in a relatively lesser quantity.
10. The Kaffir lime leaves can be substituted with grated zest from regular Indian lemons.
11. I have used regular Indian ginger here, since I had no galangal. If you can get your hands on galangal, do go ahead and use it instead.
12. Some use raw peanuts to make the paste for this curry. However, roasted peanuts add a much better flavour, and I would personally recommend it.
13. Peanut butter can be used in place of the roasted peanuts. Personally, though, I prefer using roasted peanuts.
14. The veggies should be cooked but not overly mushy. They should retain a bit of a crunch.
15. If you are using store-bought Thai Panang Curry paste or Red Curry paste, you might want to check the ingredients to find out it suits your dietary requirements.
16. Some recipes suggest the use of tamarind paste or tamari to sour the Thai Panang Curry. I prefer using lemon juice instead.
17. You can serve this Thai Panang Curry with steamed rice, any variety you prefer. Thai jasmine rice and sticky rice go very well with it, but Sona Masoori or Basmati work beautifully as well.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!