Appetite For Instruction: Chicken Jungle Curry

Demonstrated by Chef Neville Panthaky of Bengal Coast

For us North Texans, it doesn't get more exotic than the Bay of Bengal. OK, Marfa's kinda different, too. But half a world away, the triangular inlet of the Indian Ocean evokes images of burning red sunsets, sari-wrapped beauties and pristine beaches flowing from dense tropical forests. Enticing, with an undercurrent of danger (there be tigers in them there woods), the area is also home to some of the world's richest culinary traditions.

In case you slept through geography that day (like we did), the Bay is bordered by India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. At Bengal Coast on Cedar Springs, the diverse yet complimentary cuisines of these countries are united on a single menu. Open since December of '07, this out-of-the-ordinary restaurant may be the only place in Dallas where you can begin your meal with Tom Yum soup, proceed to an entrée of Vindaloo with Paneer and Vegetables, and wash it all down with a Lychee Basil Mojito.

Executive Chef Neville Panthaky, Bengal Coast's CIA-trained kitchen whiz, loves introducing his guests to these complex, spice-centric flavors. Especially when they approach the meal with an open mind. Zen-like, he muses, "The challenge, in itself, is the reward." You could say the same for cooking up his Chicken Jungle Curry at home. Chef Panthaky chose this spicy Thai dish for its ease of preparation and exotic ingredients.

You'll have to take a trip to an Asian grocery to source galangal and lime leaves, but that's part of the adventure. Once you get back to the kitchen, it's smooth sailing.

Step 1: Assemble the following ingredients for the sauce:
½ cup lemongrass, sliced
1/4 cup ginger, chopped
¼ cup galangal, sliced (this traditional Southeast Asian ingredient is a root that resembles ginger; ask for it by name)
2 tbsp. lime leaves, sliced
3 tbsp. garlic, chopped
¾ cup red curry paste
1 tbsp. Thai Bird chilies, chopped
2 red onions, puréed

Step 2: In a large skillet, heat ½ cup canola oil until smoking. Add the lemongrass, ginger and galangal. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add lime leaf and garlic. When mixture is fragrant, add red curry paste, chilies and onion; cook for 5 minutes.

...But as far as the flames, don't try this at home.

Step 3: Add ½ cup sugar, 2 quarts coconut milk and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Simmer 20 minutes, then strain. Discard solids and reserve the sauce.

Step 4: In a fresh skillet, sauté 2 pounds sliced chicken breast until cooked through. Add 1 sliced red bell pepper, ½ cup sliced shitake mushrooms, ½ cup diced pineapple, 1 diced zucchini and 1 diced tomato and cook until vegetables are tender.

Step 5: Add curry sauce and simmer until flavors have had a chance to marry. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.

Step 6: Garnish with Thai basil, and serve with a side of steamed rice. And a map. (Pop quiz for dessert!)

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