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March 23, 2010

Red curry paste (Recipe: salmon choo chee)

Spicy salmon choo chee, a restaurant favorite that's easy to make at home.

Until I ate my way through New Orleans a bunch of years ago, I lived in fear of spicy food.

It's hard to imagine now.

Without jambalaya, Szechuan tofu and fiery lamb vindaloo, my life would be empty.

My pantry would be empty, too. The spice rack holds an entire shelf of ground and whole dried peppers. In the fridge, you can always find Sriracha and harissa, and in the cupboard, red curry paste and green curry paste, chili paste with garlic and hot bean paste, and sauces with names like Hotter Than Hell, Pain Is Good, and Scorned Woman.

Red curry paste is one of the convenience foods I keep on hand, for quick curries and great vegetable dips. It's easy to make your own, but there are great products available at Asian markets and online.

What is red curry paste?
A thick, medium-hot paste made of fresh or dried red chilies, dried spices, plus fresh lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallot, kaffir lime, cilantro roots, and sometimes shrimp paste, all ground together.

Red curry paste and choo chee paste

How/where to store it?
Unopened: in the cupboard. Opened: in the refrigerator, for a year or more. Homemade: must be refrigerated.

More facts about red curry paste, and ingredient photos, on The Perfect Pantry:
Red curry paste (Recipe: mussel stew)

Salmon choo chee

Salmon choo chee

Ted and I had the most amazing salmon choo chee at a restaurant in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and while the taste memory was still in my head, I had to replicate the dish. On a visit to an Asian supermarket with my friend Lilly, who writes the blog Consuming Lilly, I found choo chee paste in a can, and I compared the ingredients to red curry paste. Almost identical. If you can't find coconut cream, you can use coconut milk; boil it down a bit to thicken it. Make some steamed rice, to temper the heat of this salmon. Serves 6.

Ingredients

2 tsp canola oil
1-1/2 lb salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 oz choo chee paste or red curry paste (this will be very spicy; use 2 oz for a less fiery dish)
14-oz can coconut cream
1 Tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
4 oz can pineapple cubes in natural juice (no added sugar)
1-1/2 cups snap peas
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips lengthwise
2 Tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions

In a wok or nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the salmon pieces, and let them sit for 20-30 seconds, to brown on one side. Toss gently, and brown on the other side. (The salmon will not be fully cooked at this point.) Remove salmon with a spider (skimmer) to a plate, and cover lightly with foil.

Add the curry paste to the wok and stir for 15 seconds to warm the paste. Add the coconut cream, fish sauce and lime juice, and stir to combine. Cook in the wok for 1 minute, until the sauce has come together. Add the pineapple, peas and red pepper, and cook for 2 minutes until the peas and pepper are just cooked through but still crunchy. Return the salmon to the wok, with the cilantro. Stir gently, cook for 1 minute, and serve hot with steamed rice.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Green chicken curry with eggplant
Pineapple shrimp curry
Potato and broccoli samosas
Thai chicken curry
Green shrimp or fish curry

Other recipes that use red curry paste:
Thai red curry, from Rasa Malaysia
Red curry fried rice with seared pineapple, from Herbivoracious
Long beans with tofu in red curry sauce, from My Feasts
Thai red curry with root vegetables, from Sassy Radish
Red curry sweet potato croquettes, from A Crafty Lass

Comments

I can just feel the heat coming off the homepage!

I would be lying if I said I knew how you felt. In fact, I envy you! I want so much to enjoy spicy food but it is too painful. The stinging along my gums, the burning of my lips, the soreness on my tongue. I cant handle it = (
I love the other flavors of typically spicy food, but if I add the chilies, etc, I can no longer taste anything.

I think the part that bothers me most is I usually have a very high tolerance for pain.

My mouth is watering reading and looking at the photo! I would like to try this with tofu instead of the fish. Your photos are gorgeous!

I'd love to try this, but I know I would need the smaller amount of curry paste; I am a wimp when it comes to spicy foods. Fun to know that Chu Chee curry paste is the same as Red Curry Paste. Red Curry is my favorite of all the Thai curries at my neighborhood Thai restaurant.

I really love thai dishes...especially those with red curry paste and coconut! I can handle most spices but there are some out there that just hurt. Maybe I need to eat my way through New Orleans as well. Or Thailand. I'll take either.

Yum - I love heat too - looks delicious!

I'm with Kalyn - I've never been to either of the foreign lands of Thailand or New Orleans - I'd love to take a culinary tour of either!

Love your clean, fresh look and, as always, your clean, fresh recipes!

The Salmon Choo chee looks delicious!. The pictures look very inviting!

I am saving this recipes because I know I'll love making it,and I am sure it will taste delicious!

Have a great evening.

For someone like me who is not so familiar with Asian spicing, cans like this are a Godsend. What I've found is that for some versions, if you can cook them out a bit longer than suggested, the taste really improves.

Funny, we've just had Rogan Josh from a jar tonight, saucing homemade lamb kofta balls.

TW, I admit this dish is hot-hot-hot, but it doesn't have to be!

Erin, I used to be someone who avoided any hit of spicy food. The gentle heat of New Orleans food turned me on to spicy, and over time, I built up a tolerance by eating more and more. Maybe it's an addiction now!

Deb, the sauce is the thing here, so it would be delicious with tofu. Again, make it spicy or less spicy.

Kalyn, I'd start with just a teaspoonful for this recipe. Taste the sauce; if it doesn't seem spicy enough, add a tiny bit more, until you find the level that's right for you.

Joanne, I'll come along for an eating adventure in either place.

Natashya, yippee, another heat lover!

Donna, thanks on both counts. I'm loving the new look, but most important is that it works well for the readers who do me the honor of visiting.

Mari, I do hope you'll try this. It's just delicious.

Neil, it's true that the cooking of the curry paste before adding the coconut cream really heightens the flavor -- not the heat, but the depth of flavor. Still, for those who don't live near an Asian market, it's nice to know that you can make your own curry paste. I just usually don't do it!

I love those little curry pastes, they add so much oomph to a recipe!!!

This sounds wonderful, Lydia! We keep a number of spicy Asian sauces, oils and pastes in our fridge. And you're totally making me miss New Orleans. You really have to work to find a bad meal in that city.

Gorgeous dish! Red curry paste is like the condiment of the gods, in my book. I love the names of the hot sauces. A couple of colorful names I've come across are "Colon Cleanser" and "Nuckin' Futs Hotsauce".

Noble Pig, I love having a few ingredients in my pantry that can perk up a dish like curry paste can.

Terry, agreed, New Orleans is one of the great food towns in the world. I'm long overdue for a visit.

Cookin' Canuck, isn't the traditional of naming hot sauces fun? The hottest one in my collection is Dave's Insanity. We visited Trinidad years ago, and our host gave us some homemade hot sauce that was too hot to eat, but it was great as a sinus clearer!

That looks delicious! You just combined two of my favorite things: salmon and thai spice! Must-try!

And can you say where you ate in Boson?

Radhika, they're two of my favorite things, too. Next time I'm going to try to get a bit of a crust on the salmon, which is more like the dish we had in the restaurant.

Susan, House of Siam on Tremont Street in the South End.

Lydia - I agree, I can't do without spicy foods, they spice up my life and palate. YUMMY.

I'm usually leery of putting fish in my wok because it's hard to tell when it's cooked. But any dish that involves a 14 oz. can of coconut cream should probably be tried at least once :)

This is delicious, I had to use shrimp sauce instead of fish sauce but it was still scrumptiously spicy.

I adore choo chee...but have had a really hard time finding a good one here in Seattle, so I finally put together my own recipe.

Duck Choo Chee http://wp.me/puWta-7Y

Will definitely give your recipe a try and see what tips I can pick up!

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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