I’ve made coconut curry many times and it never quite tastes like the curries I’ve had in Thai restaurants–even the basil they use tastes different. But tonight I came close. I decided to break away from my usual coconut curry and add pineapple, juiced included, and nappa cabbage just because I’d never cooked with it before. Otherwise, I used everything I normally use in coconut curry (see my earlier post for a rough recipe). The results: not bad, almost like the pineapple curry I ate at my favorite Thai restaurant, still not as flavorful as I wanted, but at least it had a broth consistency this time (my sauce often becomes took thick).
Lessons I learned about nappa cabbage: it overcooks EXTREMELY easily. Add it at the very end, or it will turn into sad, saggy leaves you can barely taste. Also, it has a very mild flavor. I recommend adding it to dishes for a little crunch (assuming it doesn’t overcook) or for color, but its flavor is too weak to be the center of a dish.
Regarding the pineapple, something about it really works with coconut. Perhaps its tangy sweetness contrasted against the creamy nuttiness of the coconut. Whatever the case, pineapple makes a great addition to a coconut dish. And I discovered that, if you’re like me and like your curry on the soupy side, the juice helps prevent the sauce from becoming too thick while also providing a little extra flavor. I try to avoid adding just plain water to a dish if I want to be thinner; otherwise the flavor gets too watered down. You don’t want that. Add broth, meat juice, fruit juice–anything with some flavor–if you can.