This is my new favorite dish — a Thai Fish Curry with Coconut Milk. A dish that most definitely deserves a spot in your weekday cooking repertoire. In fact, I’ve made it twice in the past week. It’s light and fresh, and a snap to prepare.
This Thai fish curry is a one pot (or wok) meal that comes together in a flash. There’s minimal prep (especially if you make the paste — rehydrated red chile, shallot, and scallion — in advance, but that only takes a minute or two). You can use any type of white fish. I used rockfish (aka striped bass) because it’s local. Shellfish, such as shrimp, clams, and/or mussels would work just as well.
Slightly spicy (just a tad, add more or less dried chiles as you see fit), a little bit salty (from the fish sauce), vaguely sweet (from the coconut milk), and incredibly fragrant (from the [kaffir] lime leaves), this fish curry hits all the right notes. Oh man, those lime leaves really make the dish pop. And I love just about anything with fish sauce (it will become your new best friend in the kitchen, if it’s not already).
All ingredients should be readily accessible, with the exception of the kaffir lime leaves, which can be difficult to track down. That being said, the lime leaves are a major flavor component of this dish and should not be skipped. The leaves are intensely aromatic. They have a distinct lime-y and
I got my kaffir lime leaves at Whole Foods, but just about any Asian market should carry them. Of note, lime leaves freeze well.
FYI for any pottery addicts out there, these bowls are from one of my favorite potters Vivian Johnson. Vivian is in her 90s and is still going strong. Love, love, love her work.
The shopping list: fish, coconut milk (full-fat), green onions, shallot, dried red chile, lime leaves, fish sauce, herbs to garnish (cilantro, Thai basil).
Skin, debone (or have your fishmonger do so), and cube the fish…
Serve with (brown) rice…
Thai Fish Curry with Coconut Milk
Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet
serves 2 to 4
1 pound white fish (such as sea bass, halibut, haddock, cod, monkfish, etc.), skinned and deboned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 Thai dried chiles, soaked in warm water until softened, drained (reserve soaking liquid)
5 scallions, greens and whites separated (greens thinly sliced; whites roughly chopped)
2 small shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons oil (grapeseed, peanut, canola)
1 can coconut milk, divided into 1/2 cup thicker and 1/2 cup thinner milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3-5 kaffir lime leaves
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (cilantro, Thai basil)
Cut the fish into 1/2″ cubes. Pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the chile-scallion-shallot paste: Place the soaked chiles, shallots, the white parts of the scallions, a pinch of salt, and a little bit of the soaking liquid in a blender (or mortar and pestle). Pulse or pound until fairly smooth.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil. When oil is hot, add the fish and stir fry a few minutes, until cooked about two-thirds of the way through. Set aside.
Set the wok back over the heat and add 1/2 cup of the thicker coconut milk. Lower the temperature to medium-high and cook, about 5 minutes, until the oil separates.
Stir in the chile-scallion-shallot paste and cook 1 minute. Add the remaining half cup of thinner coconut milk, along with the fish sauce. Bring to a simmer, add the fish and lime leaves. Add some sliced scallions. Taste and season with more fish sauce as needed. Cook another minute or two until the fish is warmed/cooked through. Garnish with the rest of the scallions and fresh herbs.
Serve immediately with rice.