Panang (Phanaeng) curry beef is one of my favorite Thai dishes. A local restaurant makes it very hot at my request; although traditionally, it is not as spicy as red Thai curry. Regarding the preparation, it may seem counter-intuitive to drop the raw meat in the sauce and simmer it, instead of flash-frying it first, but this is the authentic way to prepare it. Either method works well.
This recipe, like many from Thailand, doesn’t require intense heat for cooking, so you can use any commercially-made wok on a kitchen stovetop, with great results. I prefer to use a 14-pound Lodge cast-iron wok on my ceramic glass stovetop, as it heats very evenly, and provides a lot of surface area to work with. It is one of my favorite kitchen tools. You can also use a deep, heavy skillet.
The dish is traditionally served without vegetables, but I gotta have some color working with that spicy mojo, so I always add red pepper and a contrasting green vegetable like pea-pods or green beans. Thinly-sliced serrano or Thai chilies also work well. The addition of crushed peanuts to the sauce is very traditional, influenced by Indian cuisine. You may omit them if you choose. An excellent source regarding the history of this dish can be found here. Miranti knows her stuff!
Control the heat by the amount of curry and cayenne you add. The preparation is very quick, so have everything ready and accessible before you start.
Here’s my version – Enjoy!
1 lb. flank steak, cut against the grain in 1/4″ thin strips
1 can coconut milk
4 tbs. Panang or red curry paste (the red curry is more spicy)
3 tbs. fish sauce, to taste
2-3 tbs. dark brown sugar, to taste
1 red bell or hot red chili, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
A handful of fresh pea-pods or green beans
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
dash of lime juice, about two tbs.
Cooked Thai jasmine rice
Hit both sides of the beef filet with a needle tenderizer. Slice into 1/4″ strips against the grain and trim away the excess fat. Preheat the wok over medium heat. Add one-half of the can of coconut milk and stir until the fat starts to separate out, about three minutes. Add the curry paste. Cook, stirring for an additional three minutes until fragrant. Add the beef. Stir to coat and cook until the exterior is no longer pink.
Add the rest of the coconut milk, the fish sauce, the brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Stir to incorporate and increase the heat on the wok. Bring to a rolling boil.
Next, add the red pepper, onion and pea-pods or green beans. Cook, stirring occasionally until reduced, about 10-15 minutes. The sauce should be very thick at this point and reduced by half.
Shut off the heat, stir in the basil and lime juice, the crushed peanuts, and serve immediately over jasmine rice.
NOTE: Traditionally, kaffir lime leaves are also called for. They are impossible to find in my area. They impart a very different flavor than basil, so if you can find them, give it a try by adding a few that are finely cut into strips.
When preparing the rice, do not add salt; the curry and fish sauce are loaded with it.