The recipe for the chicken curry you’ve seen above is my adaptation of Prachak’s recipe for chicken red curry with hearts of banana (these are the tender cores of banana tree trunks—not to be confused with banana blossoms or young green bananas).
I needed to make some changes to the recipe because of the unavailability of 3 ingredients in my area: banana hearts, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon basil.
I see banana hearts sometimes at my regular South Asian grocery store, but most of the time, they’re nowhere to be found. I’m thinking that’s the case with most of you as well. With the main star of the show absent, I was left with two most promising understudies: canned hearts of palm in brine and white asparagus—the thick kind. I opted for the latter, because I don’t like the “can smell” and no matter how many times I rinse the hearts of palm, I can still detect it; YMMV. So I decided to go with white asparagus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in season when I made this dish, so all I had were some slender stalks. They were tender, mild, and delicious, though—definitely a good option; they’re just too slender for you to cut them crosswise into thin slices like you would fresh banana hearts.
Red Curry of Chicken and White Asparagus, Inspired by Pinto by Chak
Author: SheSimmers.com – Adapted from The Journey of Pinto by Prachak Chomram (Pann Books, 2015)
Recipe type: Main
- One 3- to 3.5-pound chicken, preferably free-range
- ¼ cup prepared red curry paste (use half if heat is an issue)
- 1 cup coconut cream (the thick part that rises to the top of the can)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn and bruised (I couldn’t find them, so I didn’t use them.)
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar (Prachak’s recipe calls for granulated sugar.)
- 3 cups coconut milk
- One full-length banana heart (cut it crosswise into thin slices, soak them in acidulated water to minimize oxidation, drain well, and use a chopstick to remove the stringy resin as shown in the video I’ve linked to in the post) OR 1 pound white asparagus (trim off the tough ends and cut into 1-inch sticks)
- Fish sauce, to taste
- A handful of lemon basil leaves (or ½ cup packed Thai basil leaves and 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves)
- Cut the chicken through the bones into small chunks twice the normal bite size; set aside.
- In a large wok or Dutch oven, fry the curry paste with the coconut cream over medium heat until fragrant (it’s okay if the cream doesn’t split; if you use canned coconut cream, it probably won’t). Add the chicken, salt, kaffir lime leaves, and sugar; continue to cook, stirring often, until the chicken is fully cooked, about 20 minutes (if the mixture gets too dry (likely the case if your wok is shallow and wide), add some of the 3 cups coconut milk to keep the sauce from scorching).
- Add the (remaining) coconut milk and cook the chicken until it’s tender but still firm, about 15 minutes longer. Add the banana heart slices and more water, if necessary to keep everything barely submerged, and cook 10 minutes longer (2 minutes, if you use asparagus).
- Taste for seasoning; add fish sauce to taste.
- Take off the heat and stir in the lemon basil.
Read full recipe at She Simmers