This Thai Coconut Red Prawn Curry Recipe is full of flavor and highlights the traditional food culture of Thailand in the spices used and the vibrant experience that comes with eating a traditional Thai curry.
Thai food culture is something truly unique, and in many ways encompasses the very vibrant history and traditions of the Thai people. Walking the busy streets of Bangkok the energy that pulses through the city is intoxicating, and the flavors and scents of spicy curries, soups, and other types of street food seem to follow you wherever you go as people line the streets perched on stools with a bowl of piping hot curry in one hand and a glass of lemongrass tea in the other — this is what Thai food culture is all about
Thai Food Culture
In Thai food culture, lemongrass is infused into just about everything, and fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and of course spices are the highlight of the meal. In contrast to western food culture, protein is used in moderate amounts, while rice and noodles are meant for the soul purpose of soaking up the deliciousness that is the flavorful broth or sauce.
Flavoring food is at the foundation of the Thai food culture, and it’s something that very few other cultures do quite as well. Just watching the process of a Thai curry recipe being made on the streets in Thailand is a glimpse into the wonderfully flavorful and vibrant culture that warms this country.
Even on a stifling hot, humid days you will find people on little stools at small street vendors eating up a piping hot bowl of pad thai, or a spicy thai prawn curry, always filled with coconut milk, fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and a little Thai humor to make the whole experience all the better.
Connecting Across Food Cultures
But, since flying to Southeast Asia to get some authentic Thai food may not be in the cards for you anytime soon, I thought that I would bring some of Thailand right into your home in the form of this delicious Thai Red Prawn Curry Recipe, which I learned to make while traveling in Thailand.
This is what I love so much about food and why whenever I travel, exploring and learning from the various food cultures we experience is always a main goal of mine. Because while continents and oceans may separate us, while our cultures and languages may be different — food is something that can transcend across countries and cultures and connect us in ways that may have never been possible otherwise.
The Best Thai Curry Is All In The Ingredients
While Thai food may seem complex, it actually is so much simpler to make than you would think, and once you know what the foundational ingredients are (many of which you probably already have on hand) you are going to feel so much more confident adventuring into the wonderful world of Thai cooking at home.
Now that doesn’t mean that your red prawn curry will necessarily be able to rival the Thai grandmother who has been making her families recipe for generations, but you can be sure that you will learn something from the experience of making Thai coconut red prawn curry at home, and you probably won’t look at spices that same way again.
Thai Red Curry Ingredients
For this coconut curry shrimp recipe, the most important piece is the quality of your ingredients. Make sure that you are cooking with the freshest ingredients you can find, opt for higher quality spices, and always make sure to use sustainably sourced shrimp.
When it comes to make a Thai shrimp curry there are a few main ingredients that you may or may not be used to cooking with:
Lemongrass is a key Thai curry ingredient that gives Thai food so much of its unique flavor and is essential when making curry, and most Thai dishes for that matter. You can often find dried lemongrass at your local supermarket, and fresh lemongrass at an Asian supermarket — you can also easily grow it as an herb in your garden if you want to really get the best quality lemongrass for your Thai dishes.
Ginger is another staple Thai ingredient that is used in almost every dish, and essential for making curry. The slightly sweet and spicy flavor adds a much needed kick to any thai curry dish and should absolutely be used fresh, as opposed to the dried store bough spice options.
While you most likely are familiar with lime, you may not be as used to using it in spicy dishes like this coconut curry shrimp. Lime is a staple ingredient in Thailand and found in most curry dishes as it abundantly grows in Thailand and adds a balance to in acidity to the many hot spices used in Thai cooking.
While many people think of “curry” as being its own spice, it actually is a pulverized combination of many spices and vegetables like cumin, coriander, chiles, shallot, and some of the ingredients mentioned above.
Sustainability In The Shrimp Industry
There are many issues when it comes to sustainability in the shrimp industry, and something that you may not be aware of is that most of the shrimp you buy in the supermarket comes from Southeast Asian shrimp fisheries (most of which are in Thailand) that have horrible labor conditions, and are very environmentally unfriendly.
Once caught, the shrimp are then frozen and shipped across the world, which as you can imagine requires a significant amount of energy. There is very little that is healthy, ethical, or sustainable about the entire process — although there are some organizations that are working really hard to try and change that.
If you are interested in where you can buy the most sustainably sourced shrimp, and what to look for check out this resource from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch.
The Best Store-Bought Thai Red Curry Paste
Traditionally this coconut curry shrimp would be made with a homemade Thai red curry recipe that is made using a specific combination of herbs/spices, and then ground together using a mortar and pestle…alternatively you can also you a food processor, which makes a perfectly delicious curry paste as well.
While I will be sharing my recipe for three different homemade Thai curry pastes with you soon, for now the best store bought option that I swear by is the Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste. I find that this Thai red curry tastes almost as good as my homemade Thai curry paste, and is a great option to have on hand.
Coconut Thai Red Prawn Curry Recipe
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 minced garlic clove
1 lemongrass stalk
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 cup light coconut milk
2 teaspoons coconut sugar
1 tb fish sauce
1 bottle clam juice
1 pound wild caught gulf shrimp
1 lime (Juice and zest)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
Add the onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and curry paste to the skillet, and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add coconut milk, fish sauce, clam juice, and coconut sugar.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Add shrimp, cover and simmer for roughly 6-8 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through.
Remove lemongrass stalk and stir in lime juice.
Pour curry into individual bowls, and top each individual bowl with a sprinkle of cilantro and lime zest.
Serve as is, with jasmine rice, or Asian vermicelli noodles and enjoy the incredible taste of Thailand right in your home.