Thai Red Curry Soup with Belgian Ale Sauce

Cooking with Beer by | Oct 2017 | Issue #129
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Not all Thai red curry pastes are created equal. Much like Mexican mole, the recipes are regional, designed by available resources and traditions.

Spices like coriander, cumin, and peppercorns create the flavor base. The use of different chilies affects the heat level, while the infusion of shrimp paste adds an element of funk and umami. Galangal, a root similar to ginger, offers pine and citrus notes, while lemongrass and Kaffir lime zest bring a citrus kick, combining in a unique curry paste that is the foundation for many dishes. With its salt, spice, citrus, and umami flavors, this important blend contributes depth to traditional Thai cuisine.

Thai Red Curry Paste
A Basic Red Curry Paste (Prig Gang Kua) and a Red Curry Paste (Kruang Gaeng Ped) show how similar recipes can offer vastly differing flavors based on a few unique ingredients that can be highlighted in the final dish. When using the paste in beer cuisine, for example, the esters and phenols in a Belgian-style ale enhance the Red Curry Paste ingredients.

Basic Red Curry Paste (Prig Gang Kua) Ingredients
1 tbsp coriander seed, whole
1 tbsp cumin seed, whole
1 tbsp cilantro roots
3–5 dried whole chilies
5 tsp galangal
1/4 cup garlic, peeled
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced thin
1 tsp peppercorns, mixed
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup shallots, peeled and diced
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp Kaffir lime zest
Makes: 12 ounces

Red Curry Paste (Kruang Gaeng Ped) Ingredients
15 red chilies, dried
10 black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander, whole
1 tbsp cumin, whole
2 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves, whole
3 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 lemongrass, chopped
1 tbsp galangal, peeled and minced
4 tbsp coriander roots
2 tbsp Kaffir lime zest
2 tsp shrimp paste
2 tbsp neutral vegetable oil
Makes: 16 ounces

Traditional Directions
A traditional Thai red curry paste starts in a mortar and pestle. The technique makes a powder of the lightly toasted spices (to help release their essential oils) resulting in a more distinctive spice element in the paste.

Add the spices and dried chilies to the mortar, pounding into a fine powder. Then, add the next most dry ingredients, continuing to create a fine mixture. Finish the paste with the wettest ingredients, such as the onions, shallots, and oil. Transfer the finished paste to a sealable jar and keep refrigerated for up to a week, or divide into small individual-use bags, removing as much air as possible, and freeze for up to six months.

Modern Directions
First, toast the spices in a dry pan until fragrant. Allow them to cool. Then, grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to a fine powder. Next, add the spices and all of the remaining ingredients to a food processor, pulsing several times. Finally, turn on the processor to pulverize all of the ingredients into a fine paste. See above for storing directions.

Recipe Variations
• For a vegan Red Curry Paste, remove the shrimp paste and add white miso.
• Cilantro roots are available at some Asian markets, but cilantro stems can be substituted.
• Usually, the smaller the dried chili, the more pungent. For less heat, use larger dried chilies, such as ancho, New Mexican, or other Hispanic-style peppers. Remove as many of the seeds as possible to further reduce the heat level.

Thai Red Curry Braised Lamb
Similar to Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, this recipe incorporates the Thai Red Curry Paste along with coconut milk and a Belgian Strong Pale Ale in a savory broth served over lamb and rice noodles.

Serves: 8 – 12 guests

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2–5 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste, depending on heat level
3 yellow onions, large, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated fine
2 tbsp garlic, peeled and grated fine
2 eggplant, cut into cubes
2 heirloom or roma tomatoes, cubed
2 tbsp white miso
2 quart Vietnamese-Inspired Beef Broth, from issue #87
2 quart beef broth or bone broth, infused with star anise, charred ginger, and onions
750 ml Delirium Tremens or another Belgian Strong Pale Ale
5 cup coconut milk
4–5 pound leg of lamb, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher for help)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 bunch Chinese long beans or green beans
1 package rice noodles, medium to large thickness
1 bunch Thai basil or other basil variety
1 bunch mint
2 limes, cut into quarters
1 bottle Sriracha hot sauce

Preheat oven to 300°F. Add oil to a Dutch oven or larger oven-proof pot over medium heat. Next, add Thai Red Curry Paste according to your heat preference. Sauté the paste until it becomes very aromatic and starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add onions, ginger, and garlic, while stirring for 5 minutes until wilted. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and cook for 5 – 7 minutes. Add the miso, then deglaze the pot with the broth, beer, and coconut milk, stirring well. Gently place the whole deboned leg of lamb into the pot. Cover and bake for 4 hours.

After the lamb is cooked, transfer the meat to a bowl to cool. Add the beans to the braising liquid to finish cooking. Pull the lamb apart into bite-sized shreds, then return the meat to the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt or soy sauce if needed.

Cook the rice noodles following the manufacturer’s directions. To plate, divide the noodles among individual bowls, then ladle the braised lamb over them. Garnish with basil, mint, and a wedge of lime. Serve alongside your favorite Asian-style hot sauce.

Recipe Variations
• Substitute basmati, jasmine, or sushi rice for rice noodles.
• For a vegetarian version, omit the lamb and swap the beef broth for a roasted vegetable stock infused with miso.

Beer Pairing Suggestions
Try pairing this Pho-style dish with a Gose infused with Asian-inspired ingredients (Danish brewery To Øl’s Lemongrass Gose, for example) or complementary flavors. Alternately, channel a Vietnamese iced coffee or Thai iced tea by topping a roasty Stout with a splash of sweetened condensed milk.