There are two specific reasons I think you're going to love this stir-fried mushroom red curry with green beans as much as I do. The first is that you, too, often have a hankering for spicy and aromatic dishes like pad prik king, but want to save time (and money!) by cooking at home instead of eating out. The second is that you are always on the hunt for simple weeknight recipes that are quick and easy, helping you avoid the dreaded weekday meal rut. Does this sound about right? Then read on, hungry comrade!
Inspired by Thai pad prik king, this red curry mushroom dish will quickly become a staple in your weeknight dinner rotation.
I'm sure you'll be quick to agree that it can be incredibly satisfying to really slow down and take the time to faithfully recreate your favorite restaurant meals. But sometimes the name of the game is just getting dinner on the table quickly, right? Should that mean that you have to set aside your hankerings for another day, one with more time to spend on those precise recreations? No! And the secret to meals that are both craveable and effortless is a pantry full of flavorful, helpful ingredients. In this recipe, the shining star is pre-made red curry paste.
Like other pre-made sauces and blends, spice pastes are a perfect way to achieve complexity and depth with just one spoonful.
If you aren't familiar with it already, pad prik king is essentially a Thai stir-fry of a protein with green beans in a red curry-based sauce. The curry paste is usually boosted with palm sugar, makrut lime leaves, and fish sauce. It's savory and spicy, with a bright aromatic zip that comes from curry paste ingredients like galangal, lemongrass, and makrut lime.
I've tried a bunch of different brands over the years. Like any sauce or starter, I always pick a curry paste that smells drool-worthy straight from the jar. The better it smells, the less you'll have to fuss with it! Thai Kitchen brand seems to be the most common curry paste sold in your basic US store. If you like it, great! I personally find it to be ho-hum.
My three favorites are Homiah, Mekhala, and Mae Ploy. You may have seen Mae Ploy in some chain stores, like HMart. It's probably the most accessible in terms of brick-and-mortar availability. Homiah's red curry paste is my personal favorite. Homiah can be found in some specialty markets, or you can buy their spice kits directly from their website. All of their spice pastes are hypnotically delicious, with a brightness and freshness that you don't expect to find in something "store-bought." I find Mekhala to be a bit tangier than Homiah, thanks to a jolt of lime juice. Mekhala can also be purchased online, but check your local independent small markets, too. (FYI: Both Homiah and Mekhala are vegan, but Mae Ploy contains shrimp paste.)
Effortless weekday cooking starts with powerhouse ingredients and an easy-to-remember recipe.
Since I don't have time for special midweek grocery trips, the goal here was to pull from my pantry staples to create a recipe that hits the spot with minimal effort. It's really just a question of adding flavor at every opportunity. As mentioned above, if you are using a red curry paste that you really, really like, then you are already adding tons of aromatics in a single dollop. Delicious from the get-go, so any tweaking you do isn't necessary, just fun!
Think beyond red curry: try any of your favorite spice pastes or sauce starters.
Other pre-made spice pastes or sauce starters, such as tom yum, laksa, or sisig, are great options for adding new twists to this basic recipe. It's also easy to tweak each sauce to fit your liking. Add a pinch of sugar or drizzle of honey to tame heat, a splash of fish sauce or soy sauce for extra umami depth, or a shot of citrus or vinegar to wake up the dish with acidity.
Don't forget the oil: another easy opportunity for adding flavor complexity.
Here I use unrefined coconut oil to cook the mushrooms. You're going to use oil to sear the mushrooms no matter what, and by reaching for a more flavorful oil you're infusing an extra layer of aroma into the dish without extra prep. Obviously, this is not the time to be using your precious artisan oils--save those for finishing. But a basic unrefined oil, like toasted sesame, coconut, or extra-virgin olive oil, can add extra complexity to simple recipes like this one.
The basic structure of this mushroom red curry is easy to adapt to other ingredients.
Sear your mushrooms, bloom your curry paste, skillet-steam your green beans, and combine it all together. That's it, in a nutshell. This simple method can be used on any number of vegetables. For example, instead of green beans try snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli florets, or bok choy. For heartier vegetables like cauliflower, just increase the cook time and add water as-needed to keep the sauce from over-reducing.
Notes for Success:
Red curry paste can vary in spiciness, although it's usually in the "medium" realm. If you are very spice-averse, try to find a paste that is marketed as "mild." You can also use less than the suggested 3 to 4 tablespoons. If you do use less curry paste, you might want to boost the overall flavor of the dish with extra lime and something for extra savoriness. Fish sauce, soy sauce, or miso would be great umami boosts.
I suggest mixed mushrooms both for flavor variation and cost. Mushrooms like lion's mane, oyster, and king trumpet are all nutty, savory and meaty. They can also be a bit pricey. Mushrooms like button and portobello are more affordable, but they also tend to have a muddier flavor and a slippery, spongy texture. A mix of mostly oyster, lion's mane, and trumpet is my personal preference, but this sauce will stand up to all of them.
If you won't be serving the dish immediately, consider waiting to fold in the basil, or fold in half and save the rest until ready to serve. The residual heat that wilts the basil nicely will also turn it black fairly quickly. It will still taste great, but if you're aiming to impress or cooking for picky eaters, adding the basil just before serving will be a bit prettier.
It's a breeze to whip together, and makes an elegant end to any meal. A dusting of cocoa is a lovely, simple garnish, but this dessert also is a wonderful base for fresh fruit, shaved chocolate, and toasted nuts.
Recipe: Stir-Fried Mushroom Red Curry with Green Beans and Basil
- 2 to 4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, See Notes
- 1½ to 2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cleaned, tough stems removed, and sliced, See Notes
- 8 ounces green beans, halved diagonally, OR 8 ounces snap peas
- 3 to 4 tablespoons red curry paste, depending on heat preference, See Notes
- 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil
- The juice of ½ a lime, About 1 tablespoon
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Rice, to serve
- Step 1In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil until barely smoking. Working in batches, add an even layer of mushrooms and cook without disturbing until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl or plate. Repeat until all the mushrooms have been browned, adding more oil as needed. You may need as many as 4 batches, depending on the size of your pan. Let the pan cool briefly before continuing.
- Step 2In the same pan over medium heat, add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until aromatic and slightly browned, about 30 seconds. Add ½ cup of water and continue stirring, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Once your pan is scraped, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Add the green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Return the mushrooms and any accumulated juices to the pan and continue to stir until the mushrooms are tender and fully coated with the sauce, 2 to 3 minutes more. If your sauce is thickening too fast or beginning to scorch, add more water a few tablespoons at a time.
- Step 3Remove from heat and add the basil and lime juice. Stir until just beginning to wilt, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.