When Sak Pollert collaborates on a Thai dish to be served at Rice, his restaurant in the Logan Circle/Shaw neighborhood, the chili pastes and curry pastes are made from scratch, with lemon grass, kaffir lime zest, galangal and more.
But when he cooks at home, expediency is key. So the soft-spoken native of northern Thailand, 44, keeps small cans of Maesri brand curry paste on hand and uses ingredients most of us can find at the market. Pollert is comfortable at the cutting board thanks to his mother, "an amazing cook who could make curry, stir-fry, grilled anything" -- even on a farm without electricity, he says.
This dish combines color, crunch, sweetness and heat, and it came together effortlessly last week in the half-renovated kitchen in his Northwest Washington home. As you can tell from the accompanying photo, Pollert arranged the components artfully, but it tastes just as good in a jumble on the plate.
The curry mixture can be served over steamed jasmine rice instead of pasta, he says, and goes well with a glass of Riesling or pinot grigio. As we cleaned up, the practical Pollert said that he refrigerates the leftover curry paste in a small plastic container for 2 to 3 weeks; he heats any remaining coconut milk with sugar and a pinch of salt as a dessert sauce over rice or ice cream.
- 8 ounces fresh or frozen sugar snap peas (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 8 ounces baby-cut carrots (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups regular or low-fat coconut milk, as needed
- 4 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, preferably Maesri brand
- 12 ounces fresh egg linguine
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of visible fat
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 Thai basil leaves
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.
String the snap peas and cut the carrots lengthwise into quarters; combine in a medium bowl.
Heat 1/2 cup of the coconut milk over medium heat in a large skillet. When it begins to bubble, add the green curry paste, stirring to combine. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes to darken in color.
Add the pasta to the boiling water; keep an attentive eye on it so it does not boil over.
Meanwhile, cut the chicken breast halves crosswise into very thin, almost translucent slices. When the curry mixture becomes fragrant, add the chicken to the skillet and stir to coat evenly. Increase the heat to medium-high; add 1/2 cup coconut milk, sugar, salt to taste and then the vegetables, stirring to combine and coat the vegetables and chicken evenly. Cover and cook for 10 minutes; the sauce will bubble at the edges and the chicken should be cooked through.
While the curry is cooking, drain the pasta in a large colander and rinse it under cool running water. Divide the pasta among individual plates or bowls, making low mounds. Uncover and taste the curry; if it is too spicy, add up to 1/4 cup coconut milk, stirring to combine and heat through. Just before serving, add most of the Thai basil leaves, stirring just until slightly wilted. Arrange the vegetables on the pasta, then the chicken in the center, if desired, or just divide the curry-vegetable-chicken mixture evenly on top of the pasta. Garnish with the remaining leaves and serve immediately.
From Washington restaurateur-entrepreneur Sak Pollert.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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