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Beef Panang


I sometimes just wander in the Asian section of the store for awhile to see what they have. There is a surprisingly good amount of Thai ingredients here for Bermuda standards. I was specifically looking for dried lime leaves that day. I wanted to put them in a coconut soup (coming soon.) From behind, I hear "Can I help you?" It was a little Thai girl that I had never seen working at this store in the past. This surprised me because I know the butchers very well, have talked with the cheese guy for a half hour before, and have even gone drinking with Mark, the produce guy. "You usually have dried lime leaves here" I said. This led into a conversation of what Thai dishes I had made in the past and what she cooks for her roommates. "Come back Wednesday, and I will bring you some fresh lime leaves from my backyard!"

I wanted to be sure to highlight the lime leaves in whatever I was making. The three dishes that came to mind were the coconut soup, Green Curry, and Panang. We choose Panang because we have made green curry so many times before, and also because soup is for Mondays. I wish I could go to another website when it comes to Thai food, just to get some variety, but Pim delivers time and thai-m again (I'm funny, no?) Last time when we made massaman, we followed her recipe exactly, but today we had to alter a few things so I will write it out at the bottom.

Panang recipes often call for dried chiles but we could not get any today. We used about 25 fresh ones.

We wanted it spicy, so we saved the seeds from about half the chiles and put them in with the other spices. Use gloves, Mandi likes the burn on her fingers, but you probably won't. Also you have to be really careful not to touch your eyes.

Mandi and I were kind of gagging at this point because those chile seeds really give off a crazy aroma that fills the kitchen. Be careful!!!!!!  Also, do you like my new spice grinder?  I do!

We used brisket for this meal, but it was a mistake. It was still really delicious, but wasn't as tender as we hoped. I should have known this because I know how long it takes for brisket to really break down, but the butcher assured me that it would be great in only a few hours so I (dumbly) listened. The only reason I was asking him, was that I have trouble seeing a brisket "in the wild" and not buying it. The point of this anecdote is to tell you to use sirloin.

Cilantro stems because we cannot find the roots, and I don't think you can either!

Here they are! The lime leaves! The aroma... the very thing that has been missing in all of my Thai meals. Now I am going to have to stalk out the grocery store and ask this girl for lime leaves every time I make Thai.

We used 1/3 of these in the paste, most of the rest we put in at the very end as we shut off the heat, and the remaining few were sprinkled on top of the plates.

Remember how to use lemongrass?

Here comes a bunch of paste making pictures. Start with chiles and salt.


Cilantro stems.

Peanuts, garlic, spices, and shallots.

In the past we have had bad experiences with shrimp paste. Today we made sure to just use a little and it actually blended perfectly and made the dish great.

It seems weird to fry the paste in coconut milk, but that's what you do!

We sort of slowly built this, adding a little bit of coconut milk at a time.

Add some brown sugar if you don't have palm sugar. The parts of the lemongrass that aren't as nice to eat go in now to give off some more flavor. Also the dried galangal.

This is about a half hour through cooking. The sauce has thickened and darkened, but there is still a lot of time left.

Removing the lemongrass and galangal.

Lime leaves go in at the last minute.

Most Thai curries are very soupy, but panang is a dry curry with only enough sauce to cover the meat.

This was really great, but could have been better with 2 tweaks: A less cooking intensive meat like sirloin, and because of that, less cooking time. We cooked it for 2 and a half hours and the sauce became slightly too concentrated. Only slightly though! If we cooked it for only an hour and a half and the meat was more tender, it would have been amazing.

We mostly got inspiration from Pim's recipe, but also a little from this site.  Most of the changes we made were because of missing or different ingredients we had available.

Paste - Adapted from Pim
25 fresh Thai chiles
5 medium shallots diced
5 cloves of garlic diced
1 tbsp peanuts toasted
1 tbsp lemongrass diced (the good parts)
1/2 tbsp lime zest
2 tablespoons coriander stems
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Thai shrimp paste

---toast and grind:
1 tbsp whole cumin
1 tbsp whole coriander
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tbsp chile seeds

We just keep dicing and mashing together to make the paste. If you have any sort of mortar and pestle, you can use that. A blender or food processor is the fastest way but Mandi doesn't let me use those newfangled contraptions.

Next, take a little bit of coconut milk and get it hot in the bottom of the pan. Add your paste. All of it. Fry it up for a bit then add the beef. Add some more coconut milk slowly and keep stirring. After about 15 minutes, we had added about a can and a half of the coconut milk. Add a few teaspoons of brown sugar and the dried galangal and tough parts of the lemongrass. Simmer gently uncovered for about an hour and a half until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick. Skim some fat if necessary. Add the lime leaves and remove from heat. Serve with plain jasmine rice and some more lime leaves on top.


I think that the average person might not wanna add the seeds to the chilies. This curry was fiery hot. We loved it but if you arent into a small forest fire on a plate, leave out the seeds and just do the peppers...

also it would be much easier to make the paste in a blender... i just like doing it by hand so feel free to blend if you are so inclined.

the flavor of this curry was so amazing. it's really exciting to me as we start to understand the different types of thai and indian curries; the small nuances that make each kind different. such exciting new tastes and smells! are you guys into curries? do you already know about the differences in types of curries? im just curious kinda where people stand on this? because it's a world that is pretty new and exciting to me.

It always impresses me that you cook so creatively. What is galagna and palm sugar? I never heard of either of these.


Fresh Galangal kinda looks like an extra large ginger root. To me, is pretty similar to ginger in taste, but don't say that to someone from Thailand or they will freak out. Wikipedia says "galangal has a citrus, earthy aroma, with hints of pine and soap in the flavor" doesn't that sound like ginger to you? it later goes on to say "Though it resembles the ginger that it is related to, there is little similarity in taste." Anyway, the only way we can find it is dried. we once tried to use the dried stuff in a curry paste and it came out very woody and stringy, so now we only use it the same way you would use a bay leaf, letting it sit in the pot while cooking only to remove it later.

Palm sugar is made from the sap of certain types of palm trees. The only way I can find it here is this big container for 30 bucks so I usually just use brown sugar as a substitute. I have read that it is an ok sub. maybe I should tap some palms here in Bermuda??

Do we have palm trees in Bermuda? I'm still looking for the rumored sugarcane.

I love it when people share things with others. Your little story about the Thai girl telling you to come back is something i don't experience quite often. Maybe people are nicer in Bermuda...i dunno coz i've been here all my life!

I must say I admire you for chopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, etc. all of that fresh, hot chilies! Did your fingers burn at all?!!!

Love love love your step-by-step photos! I haven't tried out your recipe but will definitely need to do that this weekend since just by the look of all that ingredients, I can already tell it's an awesome dish to make!

Thanks for posting and for sharing!

I made this last weekend and it was the best thing I've eaten all month. I'm a wuss so I made a pepperless version that was exactly like a wonderfully sweet thai/lime flavored korma. Even that strange korma texture that looks like the sauce is going bad. We put 3 peppers in my boyfriends pan (I guess we're both wusses) and he proclaimed it perfect.

Thanks for the recipe!

No peanuts?!

This was unbelievably spicy...I would put in only about 5 or 6 chilies...also, I would wear rubber gloves to mix it because those chilies will really sting your eyes big time if you rub them after touching the chilies. Beware!!

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