Tonight we made a version of Matsaman curry (my favorite curry). Usually it's made with onion, potatoes, and pork or chicken. This time we used what we had on hand, which happened to be an eggplant, some carrots, and some chicken thighs.
On a good week, I try to plan at least three meals and shop for all the ingredients on Sunday. This was not one of those weeks. I managed to get to the store, but I had no plan. So I bought some random veggies that looked good and that I knew we liked: eggplant, carrots, asparagus, cabbage, and some kale. I bought some boneless chicken thighs because they are relatively cheap, and the ingredients for my current favorite snack, cottage cheese and pineapple. Between the basic veggies I bought and our Costco stash of salmon burgers, Ling Ling Potstickers, and chicken apple sausages I knew we could figure out some simple meals this week.
So while this particular version of curry is definitely not traditional, it's still a delicious, home-cooked meal.
I love how she uses the coconut milk in this dish. You add the thick, creamy part of the coconut milk first, which rises to the top of the can, and then you pour in the remaining coconut water later on in the cooking process. For this to work, you can't use light coconut milk, you can't shake the can before you open it, and you have to make sure that you buy one without guar gum, which I think is a stabilizer that keeps it from separating. We like Aroy-D the best, but Mae Ploy is good too, which is what we used this time. We also like Mae Ploy curry paste, as seen below.
Matsaman Curry with Chicken Thighs, Eggplant, and Carrots
adapted from Niddy Lindsley
Notes: If you wanted to be more traditional, use 2 medium potatoes and 1 medium onion, diced, instead of the eggplant and carrots. If you click on the link to her original recipe, you'll see a few more ingredients on her list that we didn't use. We just didn't have them on hand, but if you do (or have time to go buy them) by all means, use them. Your dish will be that much more authentic and delicious.
2-4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2-3 tablespoons Matsaman curry paste
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, and chopped
1 can coconut milk (15-19 ounces)
1 cup water (or more as needed)
1 medium-large eggplant, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, diced or cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
basil (Thai or regular) for garnish
While you get your other ingredients ready, place the diced eggplant into a strainer, place the strainer on a plate, and sprinkle some salt over the eggplant. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour. This helps extract bitterness.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the curry paste. Cook until fragrant, 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.
Add the chicken, and a little more oil if the pot looks too dry. Cook until browned for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the creamy part of the coconut milk and simmer 4-5 minutes, until you can see the red oil start to separate and float to the top.
Add the eggplant, carrots, peanuts, and the rest of the coconut milk (the watery part). Add more water to cover if needed. Stir to combine and simmer for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. The red oil will separate to the top again.
Add the sugar, fish sauce (pictured below), and lime juice. Taste and add more fish sauce or lime juice as needed. If it's not spicy enough for you, add more curry paste.
Serve over rice. Garnish with the basil.