If creamy, sweet and nutty Thai curries send your taste buds sailing down the River Kwai, then there's only one option – panang curry. This hallmark dish is a popular pick for Thai food fans and you'll find awesomely authentic examples at joints like Be' Tong Thai.
Origins of the dish
Panang curry originates from Thailand's central region, but its popularity quickly spread as people moved to find work elsewhere. The earliest records date back to 1890, and call it phanaeng. But these days, you'll now find it dished up at street market stalls all over Thailand – accompanied by a steaming bowl of sticky rice.
Supposedly, the dish takes its name from the Thai word for cross, as in sitting cross-legged on the floor. Originally, Thai cooks would grill chicken by crossing the chicken's legs and hanging it upright. They'd baste it continuously with a fresh, spicy paste to impart flavour, then add coconut cream before serving it up to hungry shoppers and traders.
Thai food with zip
Of course, it's that very paste which gives panang curry its unique flavour – a punchy and zesty blend of red chilli, kaffir lime zest, galangal, spices, garlic, shrimp paste and roasted peanuts.
Today, most Thai chefs will cook the paste with strips of meat – often beef or chicken, but sometimes vegetables or tofu for a vegetarian-friendly option. Then, they'll simmer it with coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves to create a rich curry that'll set your taste buds tingling. It might be lesser known than the Thai red or green curries, but it deserves just as much love.
If you want to taste panang curry as it's meant to be made, head to Be'Tong in Brisbane. Regulars are head over heels in love with the velvety panang curry, which has plenty of capsicum and carrot in the sauce along with the trademark peanuts.Rather than be limited to just chicken or pork, choose your own star of the show. Opt for vegetables, duck or lamb alongside the standard staples – or for seafood fans who can't decide between squid, prawn or scallop, get all three by choosing combination seafood. Whatever you pick, you're guaranteed you won't be leaving this place hungry.
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