It has been so cold in SF lately which has me dreaming about warmer temperatures, beaches, and warm summer days, but since I can’t have that, I will settle for a good ole bowl of soup. Soups are warm, comforting, and easy to make. Recently, I’ve been obsessed with Southeast Asian curries, especially Thai and Burmese curries. It’s actually embarrassing how often I’ve had some sort of curry soup in last few weeks, so I thought why not make myself some instead of spending all that money eating out. The curry I came up with this week is a Thai red curry with salmon with a homemade red curry paste :).
Why is red curry red?
So when you go to Thai restaurants there’s always a variety of color curries like red, green, and yellow. I always use to wonder how they got the color. I thought it was maybe some secret ingredient that was specific to Thai culture. But after taking a Thai cooking class and reading a ton of recipes, I learned the color comes from vegetables. For example, for this red curry, I made a homemade red curry paste with red bell peppers to give it that red color. You could have used any kind of red pepper to make this paste. The same concept also applies to yellow and green curries. For yellow curry, I would recommend yellow peppers or turmeric (fresh or powdered). And lastly for green curry, load that paste up with all the green veggies like cilantro, basil, and green bell peppers.
The secret to the best Thai curry
I was recently watching an episode of “The Chef Show” on Netflix, and Jazz from the LA restaurant Jitlada was one of the guests. She was making a Thai green curry, and she did something that I have never seen before. She boiled every meat and vegetable she put into the curry for 10 seconds before putting them into her curry. The reason she did this was because boiling each ingredient tones down the flavor profile of each, so the essence of the homemade curry paste really stands out. I tried her method for this Thai red curry recipe, and the results were fantastic! I felt like the flavors of all the ingredients sang more harmoniously, and dang this curry was goooodddd. Even impressed myself!
- Onion – Yellow onion adds some sweetness to the curry. A good substitute is red onion or white onion.
- Coconut milk – This ingredient adds some sweetness and creaminess to the dish. Make sure to use coconut milk and not coconut cream.
- Salmon – Salmon adds a healthy element to this dish. You can also use chicken for this recipe.
- Shiitake mushrooms – I used shiitake mushrooms because I still had some left over from my shiitake mushroom lettuce cup recipe. White and crimini mushrooms should work as well.
- Red bell peppers – Red bell peppers are used twice in this recipe. First to give the red curry paste its color, and also into the actually curry for some texture.
- Thai eggplant – This is a new ingredient for me, but I found some at a local market and thought I would add it in! It was definitely more of a last minute decision. Thai eggplants are smaller than purple eggplants, and they are green and round.
- Salt – Added to season the curry and the curry paste.
- Coconut sugar – Used to add some sweetness to the curry. This is slightly healthier than regular white or brown sugar.
- Fish sauce – This adds some umami to the dish. As mentioned previously, Viet Huong is THE BEST fish sauce brand. Highly recommend it.
- Thai basil – This ingredient is added at the end of the cooking process to add some more flavor to the final dish.
- Cilantro – Added for garnish. This is optional.
- Mint – Added for garnish. This is also optional.
- Garlic – Garlic is one of the basic ingredients for a standard Thai curry paste.
- Red chili flakes – Chili flakes are what I had on hand, so I added it to the curry paste to add some spiciness to it. A natural substitute would be red chili peppers. If you choose to use Thai chilis, be careful because they tend to pack a punch.
- Shallot – One of the basic ingredients for a standard Thai curry paste.
- Lemongrass – One of my favorite ingredients of all time. Lemongrass adds a slight sourness to the curry paste.
- Ginger – Ginger is one of the basic ingredients for a standard Thai curry paste.
- Pepper – Used to season the curry paste.
- Vegetable oil – Oil adds some liquid to the red curry paste, so it is easier to blend.
Making my Thai red curry with salmon
The first step to making this Thai red curry is to make the red curry paste. Combine all the ingredients for the paste into a blender and blitz until everything breaks down. You should get something the consistency of a smoothie. Set aside. Next, bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a soup pot. You can use any kind of larger pot so long as it fits all the ingredients you’re about to put into the curry. Once boiling, dump in the salmon, mushrooms, red bell peppers, and Thai eggplant, and cook for 10 seconds. Boiling everything will produce a cleaner flavor in the finished curry. Take everything out and set aside.
Now you’re ready to make the curry. Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pan. Add in the onions and cook for a minute to sweat them out. Then add in the red curry paste and coconut milk. Reduce the liquid for 3-5 minutes until it starts boiling. Next add in the salmon and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, red bell peppers, eggplant, salt, coconut sugar, and fish sauce. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the salmon is cooked through. Lastly, stir in the Thai basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Serve the curry with rice topped with cilantro and mint for garnish.
- Use store bought curry paste to reduce cook time. I love making my own curry paste, but it definitely does take time. To reduce the cook time for this recipe, use 2 tablespoons of store bought curry paste. I really like Thai kitchen red curry paste.
- Use a blender to make your red curry paste. Use a blender to make your red curry paste. I attempted to make this red curry paste with a food processor, and it did not work out. The reason is because a blender liquifies while a food processor finely chops. You want to liquify your ingredients.
- Alternative vegetables. There are so many vegetables you can add or substitute to this recipe. I chose mushrooms, red bell peppers, and Thai eggplants. Other veggies you can use are bamboo, carrots, baby corns, and broccoli.
- Tips to cook this dish efficiently/for weeknights. Some things you can do to cook this curry efficiently are: 1) Start cooking your rice before you start your curry and then keep it warm. 2) Make the red curry paste the night before and store it in the fridge. It should keep up to a week. 3) Make sure to transfer the salmon from your freezer to your fridge the night before, so you can start cooking right away the next day.
Did you make this Thai Red Curry with Salmon?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Thai Red Curry with Salmon
Thai Red Curry
- 1/4 yellow onion
- red curry paste (see recipe below)
- 1 can coconut milk 13.5 oz
- 1/2 lb salmon cut into 2 inch pieces
- 4 mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 4 Thai eggplants cut into chunks
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 Thai basil leaves
- Cilantro and mint for garnish
Red Curry Paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 shallot
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 ginger
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Make the red curry paste. Combine all the ingredients for the red curry paste into a blender and blend until everything is broken down. It should look almost like an orange smoothie. Set aside.
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a soup pot. Once boiling, dump in the salmon, mushrooms, red bell peppers, and Thai eggplant and cook for 10 seconds. Boiling the salmon and vegetables will produce a cleaner flavor in the finished curry. Take everything out and set aside.
- Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pan. Add in the onions and cook for about a minute.
- Add in the red curry paste and coconut milk. Reduce the liquid for 3-5 minutes until it starts boiling.
- Add in the salmon and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the mushrooms, red bell peppers, eggplant, salt, coconut sugar, and fish sauce. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the salmon is cooked through.
- Lastly, add in the Thai basil leaves and stir. Turn off the heat.
- Serve over a bed of rice with cilantro and mint for garnish.