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Recipe  •  8 April 2022

 

Beef Panaeng | geng panaeng neua

A panaeng curry is perhaps one of the most popular in the Thai repertoire.

Salty, sweet and redolent of Thai basil, with a background taste of peanuts, the curry is enriched with plenty of coconut cream – and can be improved by roasting one or two of the shallots before adding them to the paste.

This is one of the few curries normally made with beef, although chicken or pork can replace it. Usually the meat is braised before it is added to the curry, because meat in Thailand is so tough that it needs prolonged cooking. Therefore, I think the best cut of beef to use is one that is full-flavoured, has good texture and is able to sustain prolonged cooking – such as shank, rib or brisket. Alternatively, finely sliced meat can be added to the curry after it has been seasoned, to cook quickly.

The peanuts must be thoroughly cooked and cooled before being added to the paste: if they are insufficiently cooked, they will make the curry gritty. I prefer to boil them, as this gives the curry a subtle bitterness. Others may prefer to roast them, which will make the curry toasty and rich.

  • 200 g (6 oz) beef brisket or cheek, sinew removed
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 3 cups coconut cream
  • 11⁄2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • extra 3 cups coconut milk – optional (see method)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 3 long red or green chillies, cut in half and deseeded
  • large handful of Thai basil leaves

paste

  • 4 tablespoons peanuts
  • 7 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked and drained
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon scraped and chopped coriander root
  • 11⁄2 tablespoons chopped galangal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons chopped red shallot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1⁄2 nutmeg, coarsely pounded and briefly roasted

1. First, make the paste. Boil the peanuts for at least 30 minutes until very soft, drain and cool. Pound or blend the paste*, adding peanuts last.

2. Blanch the meat from a cold-water start (to soften its flavour) and rinse.

3. Bring coconut milk to the boil, add beef, then turn down the heat and braise gently until tender – about 2 hours. Allow to cool in the liquid, then remove and slice.

4. Crack the coconut cream by simmering over a medium heat, then fry 4 tablespoons of the paste in the coconut cream for 10 minutes. Season first with palm sugar and then, after a minute or so, the fish sauce. Moisten with the 3 cups coconut milk or the same amount of the beef-braising liquid (the latter makes the curry very meaty – it is a matter of preference). Add the sliced beef, simmer briefly to heat through, and finish with the remaining ingredients.

*David Thompson suggests using a blender rather than a food processor if you don't want to try the authentic pestle-and-mortar method - learn more in his book, Thai Food.

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