Thai salmon curry

Salmon curry is so simple you can make it in 30 minutes or less. Just be sure to use fresh Thai basil for the best taste.

A Palatable Pastime
Cook the salmon with skin on to add extra flavor in this Thai curry dish.

I have been making curries for some years now since my family really enjoys Thai food. And as exotic as it tastes, it really is quite simple to make at home.

It is pretty simple to make if you buy your curry paste, although that can be made from scratch as well if you have all the ingredients available in your area. But most stores now carry a full line of curry pastes in bottles in the grocer aisle where the packaged Asian food is shelved, such as soy sauce.

I like to use Thai basil in mine, which has a bit of a peppery character compared to sweet basil, but the regular type is fine. I know if you don’t grown your own (which is difficult during cooler months anyway) that Thai basil can be near impossible to find unless you grocer has an expansive international produce section. And even for the sweet basil, it is common to find that ordinary grocers are totally out, or what they have is less than fresh. That being said, one might wonder if dried basil is a viable option to substitute. And while dried basil can be fine for things such as spicing tomato sauces and soups, part of its almost mint-like character is lost in the drying process. So don’t. It doesn’t work. But, occasionally you might see tubes of basil paste available in the produce section now. And while it is paste, and won’t have that leafy character, the flavor is OK, if you want to add a little bit to the sauce. Just be aware that it goes a long way and discolors the sauce as well.

Using fish in a curry really has its benefits. It is one of the easiest ways to prepare fish. Just place the fillets in the sauce and let them steam in the sauce for 7-10 minutes, and you’re set. I used to remove the skin from the fish and cut it into little bites, but at some point I realized that was just a ridiculous waste of time. Not too many people like fish skin, but the fact is, when salmon cooks, the fish skin actually adds good flavor to the sauce. And once it is cooked, the skin will separate from the fish easily on your plate.

I like to serve this curry with jasmine rice which I make in an electric steamer in about 20 minutes or less. The steamers cook the rice perfectly and is much less sticky.

The green beans for this I steam, because I like them bright and crisp and with a little crunch left in them. You can make them however you like, including oven roasted, or cooked in a pan. Canned and frozen green beans probably won’t be as satisfying so just use fresh.

The chiles I use are Thai birds or Thai dragons, but you can use a common variety of India hot if you can find them. It’s just to add some bite, so use what you prefer, red ones if you can (they are sweeter). And be careful with peppers you are unfamiliar with.

Thai salmon curry

2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 (14 fl. ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar or palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 pound fresh salmon fillets
3 scallions, sliced into 3-inch pieces
1/4 cup chiffonade sliced fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1-2 minced Thai bird chiles
steamed jasmine rice (optional)
steamed green beans (optional)
3-4 lime wedges (optional)

1. In a deep skillet, heat the peanut oil and add the pepper strips; cook 1 minute.

2. Stir in the coconut milk, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, curry paste, and lime juice.

3. Place fillets skin side down in the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add scallions to pan and cook 2-5 minutes more or until fish is cooked to your liking.

5. Stir in the basil, cilantro and chilies just before serving.

6. Serve fish with curry sauce, rice on the side, green beans on the  side, garnished with a little extra basil and/or cilantro if you  have a little more, plus extra chiles if you like, and a lime wedge to squeeze over the fish.

Related post on A Palatable Pastime: Thai-style long bean stir fry

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