Chiang Mai Spicy Curry (Panang Meat or Tofu Curry)

[NOTE: This recipe can be made vegetarian!]

Living in the Bay Area allows me to indulge in a large lot of Asian dining options – the diversity here is immense and incredible. Part of that, however, leads to people like me to be utterly confused about the true origin of certain dishes. For example, one of my all-time favorite Asian eateries is called ‘Mingalaba‘ in downtown Burlingame, California. I find every and any excuse to drag my friends and family there for a meal :). However, go figure, they are a ‘Burmese-Mandarin’ restaurant. Now shoot, last time I checked, those are two very different cuisines with incredibly different ingredients and spices.

My favorite two dishes there are their ‘Tea Leaf Salad’ – it’s incredible and one of these days I will try and recreate it. Once I perfect it, I PROMISE to post the recipe. 🙂 The other is their ‘Ong Noh Kaw Soi’, or their Coconut Chicken Soup.

This Panang Meat Curry recipe, my friends, is my attempt, to recreate what they have at Mingalaba.

For those of you that are of Thai background, you might wonder why I ate this typical Thai curry at a Burmese and Mandarin style restaurant. To be honest, I can’t answer your question and am at a complete loss. The further research I do on this curry , the more I am lead to a Thai and Malay heritage for the dish. Perhaps over the ages, cultures merged from a culinary perspective, or there were a lot of similarities – I don’t know.

But either way, here is my rendition of one of my favorite curry soups of all time – it’s creamy, spicy, crunchy (with the right garnishes), and extremely satisfying. It is traditionally served over fresh hot noodles, however this is a low-carb version without (but feel free to serve this soup over freshly cooked noodles (spaghetti, linguine, chinese noodles, or any other long, slender noodle that you fancy or have in your pantry). Also, you can make this curry vegetarian if you wish by using firm tofu instead of the meat, and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

And lastly, if you are in a rush (like I often am), don’t fret! Pick up a fresh rotisserie chicken from the market and add the cooked chicken at the very end! This will cut your cooking time down from 30 minutes to about 8-10 minutes TOTAL! It’s an incredible ONE-POT weeknight meal, yet fancy enough to serve to guests.

Enjoy! 🙂

PS – If any of you wonderful readers of mine can shed any light on the heritage of this curry or your experience at home with it, would love to hear your thoughts! 🙂

Yields: 6-8 generous servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons panang curry paste [Note: this yields a pretty spicy curry – if you want a milder flavor, cut back on this paste]
3/4 lb boneless chicken, cut into big bite-sized chunks (Variation: can also use 3/4 lb boneless beef such as tri-tip or flank steak sliced thinly. To cut down cooking time, use cooked rotisserie chicken. VEGETARIANS: Use firm tofu instead!)
2 15 oz. cans of unsweetened coconut milk (can use light coconut milk for a lower-calorie result)
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric or 2 teaspoons curry powder
3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Garnish ideas:
cooked noodles
chopped shallot
chopped red onion
chopped fresh cilantro
thinly sliced green onion or chives
lime wedges
fried onions
a dollop of sour cream
boiled eggs, sliced


Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and panang curry paste at the same time, mashing and stirring it constantly to soften it in the oil (I prefer using a wooden stick in order to avoid damaging my pan). Do this for about 1 minute. [Note: Use a splatter screen or be VERY careful! The hot oil and ingredients can jump up out of the pan and stain your clothes or worse, burn you!].

Add the chicken (or beef or tofu) and brown for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing using tongs. Allow them to brown evenly and incorporate well into curry paste and garlic mix.

Add the coconut milk, chicken (or vegetable) broth, turmeric (or curry powder), soy sauce, sugar and salt, stirring well. Bring to a gentle boil and adjust heat, maintaining a simmer. Cook about 10-15 minutes until meat is cooked through.

Stir in lime juice, remove from heat and serve HOT! Garnish with some (or all!) of the ideas I’ve given. Or get creative and garnish with whatever you enjoy 🙂

2 thoughts on “Chiang Mai Spicy Curry (Panang Meat or Tofu Curry)

  1. Pingback: Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles with Ground Chicken and Vegetables) | Priyanka's Kitchen

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