Whenever I meet someone and they ask, “You know what I just love from your restaurant?”, nine times out of ten, I know they are going to say, Red Curry Beef. I’m not surprised. The combination of meat and vegetables, coated with the creamy velvety sauce is outstanding. The first bite will have you addicted to the spicy, coconuty flavor crammed with herbs and spices. And you just have to have more… and more!
It has long been one of the most popular items on our menu, and now I’m going to show you how to recreate it at home. This is an authentic Thai curry, rich with coconut milk and with significant heat from the curry paste. Packed with meat and veggies, and served over rice, it’s a complete meal.
Homemade Curry Paste
I’m including my recipe for homemade red curry paste, and if you’ve never made curry paste before you will be blown away by the complex and amazing flavor. And pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to make. It relies on South Asian standards like lemongrass, chilis, galangal, and Kaffir lime leaves. It gets its heat from small dried chilis de arbol, which get soaked with dried shrimp in hot water to soften. Use less of the chilis if you want a more mild curry. Taste it once it’s blended; you can always add more. (If you want to use a commercial curry paste to make this recipe even faster, I like the ones from Maesri. They have the most authentic flavor and really, if you’re craving a quick dinner, this is it.)
If you’re thinking, this is quite a list of ingredients, I agree. But I will say that it’s kind of necessary. Each ingredient gives a little something that brings the most intense and heady flavor to the final dish. If you love Thai carryout, then this will send you to the moon, because the flavors of a Thai Red Curry Beef are so much more vibrant when made from scratch.
Thankfully, the curry paste can be made ahead of time, and kept in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternately, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray, and then store in a ziplock bag in the freezer. That way you will always have incredible Thai red curry flavor ready to go. Try it in my Sweet Potato Curry Soup!
Making the Thai Red Curry Beef
Once the paste is ready, the Thai red curry beef is a snap to make. First stir the paste into the coconut milk to make the sauce. If you are concerned about the heat level, add less and taste first. We like it spicy so we use the whole 5 tablespoons. But, it should be a little more spicy than you think you’d like because it does get diluted in the sauce.
Nevertheless, it will still be delicious tamed down to your spice preference, if you decide to use less of the paste. Now its time to prep all the meat and veggies. This is a quick braise, so everything should be ready to get tossed into the pan to sear and then simmered slowly to blend the flavors.
As for the beef, at the restaurant we use skirt steak almost exclusively in all of our beef dishes. It has a robust flavor and I love the texture. With a large Latin customer base in Miami, we find it a good fit for our food. However, it can be difficult to find in the supermarkets, so in this recipe, we are using sirloin. You can also use whatever looks good at the market or what you prefer.
Stir Fry Time!
Now that all the ingredients are prepped, it’s time to turn them into this delectable Thai Red Curry Beef! Start by searing the beef on each side, just to give it a nice color, as it will finish cooking in the curry sauce. Then put the meat in a bowl (you don’t want to lose any of those yummy juices) and start sautéing the veggies. Next add the sauce and simmer until the eggplant is soft. Finish by adding the beef back to the pot, letting it cook through in the sauce, and then wilting the spinach at the last minute.
These vegetables used in the recipe are my personal favorite. I love the color and textural combination. But you are more than welcome to get creative with your choices. Some suggestions include zucchini, cauliflower, bok choy, snow peas, or potatoes both savory and sweet. If you’re a vegetarian, you can switch the beef to tofu or a meat alternative or just double up on the veggies.
By this point your kitchen is going to be smelling incredible, and it’s time to eat! Serve it with some perfectly cooked rice. Thai Red Curry Beef is a traditional favorite, and I know you’re going to love it too. Leave a comment and rate the recipe down below, and don’t forget to tag us @funkyasiankitchen in your colorful bowls of curry insta pics.
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1– 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
- 5 tablespoons homemade or canned red curry paste (use less if you like less spice)
For the Beef:
- 3 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 pound sirloin trimmed, and cut into bite sized pieces (you can also use skirt steak or rib eye)
- 1 onion, cut in half lengthwise and cut into ¼ inch slices
- 6 oz wild mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, or any combination)
- 3 oz baby spinach
- 1 Chinese eggplant
- 1 red pepper
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 small handful Thai basil leaves (you can substitute Italian basil)
Red Curry Paste:
- 20 pieces dried red de arbol chiles
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced very fine galangal
- 8 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds or ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons cilantro stems chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp (you can substitute 1 tablespoon miso for vegetarians or leave it out)
- 1 stalk of lemongrass outer hard leaves removed, the bottom trimmed and the top half discarded, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 shallots minced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ cup oil
Make the Red Curry Paste:
- Cover dried chilis and the dried shrimp with 2 cups of hot water and let sit for 1 hour. Drain and reserve ¼ cup of the soaking liquid.
- If using whole coriander seeds, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes, moving the pan around to avoid burning the seeds. Add the cumin powder in the last couple of seconds to bring out the oils and flavor in the spices.
- Remove the center rib from the back of the kaffir lime leaves and set aside.
- Put the chilis and dried shrimp with ¼ cup soaking water, galangal, garlic, coriander seeds, lemongrass, cilantro stems, shallot, ground cumin, kaffir lime leaves, and ground white pepper into a blender.
- Turn the blender on low and then slowly add the oil through the center opening.
- Turn the blender on high and blend for 1 minute until smooth.
- Keeps 2 weeks in the fridge or frozen.
Make the Sauce:
- In a medium bowl mix the fish sauce, the red curry paste (reserve leftovers for another recipe or add more if you like your food spicier), light brown sugar, and coconut milk. Set aside.
Prep the Veggies:
- Shave off the hard stem on the back of the kaffir lime leaves. Stack and roll the leaves tightly like a cigar. Then very finely slice the leaves and set them aside.
- Cut the eggplant into thick rounds about 1 inch thick. Set aside.
- Cut the pepper in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Then cut the pepper into a large dice. Set aside.
- Wipe off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Remove and discard the woody stem if using shiitakes. Cut the mushrooms in half or into thick slices if they are very large
Cook the Curry:
- Heat a large pan over high heat. Add 1 ½ tablespoons oil and the beef, spreading it out on the pan in one layer.
- Sear the beef on one side, 30 seconds to 1 minute and then flip the meat and stir- fry for a couple more seconds. Set the meat aside in a bowl (the meat will finish cooking in the sauce).
- Add the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of oil plus the onions to the pan and continue to cook for 2-3 mins. until the onions have started to soften. Add the mushrooms, peppers, and eggplant. Stir to combine and continue cooking for a minute.
- Add the sauce, and the kaffir lime leaves to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium high heat. Lower the heat to medium, partially cover with a lid, and cook for 6-7 mins. until the sauce has reduced slightly and the eggplant is tender. Add the meat and the spinach and stir the mixture. Cook for one more minute to wilt the spinach and finish cooking the meat. Serve immediately.
*This dish has a good amount of heat which is offset by the sweetness of the sugar and richness of the coconut milk. You can adjust the heat by adding less of the red curry paste.
*If you are making the curry paste from scratch, take a small taste of the soaked chilies to get a sense of how hot they are before adding them to the paste. You can put in less if you find the heat overwhelming. Keep in mind that the flavor will be diluted in the paste and then again in the sauce.
*It is traditional to use cilantro roots in the curry paste but they can be extremely difficult to find in the US. However, if you can find cilantro with the roots, definitely use them instead. Make sure you wash the roots well to remove any clinging soil. Use 1 tablespoon of minced roots instead of the cilantro stems.
*You will only be using about ⅓ of the curry paste in the sauce. It is very difficult to make curry paste in a small amount when using the blender or food processor. Any extra paste can be frozen until you are ready to make more curry. It can also be used in marinades or as a flavoring in soups or stews.