Seafood in Coconut Red Curry
This spicy and robust dry curry, combining both fresh and dried red chilies, lends itself to oily firm-fleshed fish such as sea bass or salmon, as well as shellfish. A generous amount of kaffir lime leaves contributes a distinctive citrusy floral note.
For the red curry paste:
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 Tbs. peeled and chopped fresh galangal
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 lemongrass stalk, tender midsection only, chopped
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro stems
- 2 red Fresno chilies, seeded and chopped
- 3 dried red chilies, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, spines removed
- 1/2 tsp. shrimp paste
- 1 Tbs. unsweetened flaked coconut
- 1 1/2 cups coconut cream
- 4 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 Tbs. chopped palm sugar
- 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 lb. sea bass fillets
- 1/2 lb. sea scallops
- 1/2 lb. medium shrimp
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 fresh cilantro sprigs
To make the curry paste, in a mini food processor or a mortar, combine the shallots, galangal, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro stems, fresh and soaked dried chilies, lime leaves, shrimp paste and coconut. Process or grind with a pestle until a smooth paste forms. Add 1 to 2 Tbs. water if needed to facilitate the grinding.
In a Dutch oven or a large fry pan over medium heat, bring the coconut cream to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and return the mixture to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the curry paste. Cook until the mixture thickens and the coconut oil separates from the cream, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, 7 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Just before serving, cut the sea bass into pieces 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Cut the scallops into quarters. Peel the shrimp, leaving the tail segments intact, then devein. Stir the sea bass, scallops and shrimp into the coconut curry. Simmer very gently over medium-low heat until the seafood is opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes; do not allow the liquid to come to a full boil. Stir in the lime leaves and transfer the curry to a warmed bowl. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Asian Cooking, by Farina Kingsley, Thy Tran (Oxmoor House, 2009).