Until now, coconut or anything coconut-flavored had never entered my kitchen... unless my old roommate did so without telling me! :) Anyway - I tend to avoid coconut like the plague, but when KK and I were on our honeymoon in Thailand, we had the opportunity to make the most amazing curries! "When in Rome," right? Or Thailand! Based on a recommendation from KK's cousin and his girlfriend, we went to a half-day cooking course at Siam Rice Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai. It was most certainly one of the honeymoon highlights. The course took us to the local food market where we learned about the common ingredients used in Thai cooking - lemon grass, holy basil, Thai basil, turmeric, Thai eggplant, and satoh beans. After the market, we met with the head chef and owner of Siam Rice, Nancy; she was cheerful, knowledgeable, and put us to work right away! KK and I each cooked several dishes: a soup, noodle dish, stir fry vegetables, curry paste and, of course, a curry. After using a mortar and pestle to grind our curry pastes by hand, KK and I ended up with a Panang curry, and a red curry with pumpkin. Since our Thai curry-making was such a success back in November, KK decided we might as well give coconut cooking a try at home!
This recipe required a good deal of hands-on time, so I recommend having everything prepped in advance - chopped, minced, and measured! We didn't have coconut milk, so KK did a little research and decided that we should use half coconut water and half evaporated milk (or heavy cream). The substitution probably decreased the intensity of the coconut flavor, so it worked perfectly for us!
One Pot Thai Chicken Pasta
Adapted from Heat the Oven to 350
Time: 40 minutes
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces pasta, bowties or spirals
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1 can water chestnuts
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Cook chicken until it is lightly browned but not fully cooked, about five minutes. Set chicken aside.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil the same skillet (less dishes to wash), and add chopped onion, red pepper flakes, coriander and a dash of salt. Cook until onions soften, about 3-4 minutes; stir frequently to avoid burning. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
3. Sprinkle pasta evenly into the skillet, and pour the broth and coconut milk over it. At medium heat, cover skillet and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the red peppers and water chestnuts. Recover and continue to simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the pasta begins to soften, about 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the sugar snap peas and chicken and any accumulated juice from the chicken. Cover and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes longer.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.