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Have you ever ever snuggled up on the couch and excitedly popped open a takeout container only to be terrifically disappointed by a bland, lifeless pile of noodles?
If so, this exotic, sweet and spicy homemade Thai red coconut curry has your name all over it.
It’s a Sunday evening, and you’ve got Thai food on the brain.
Instead of dialing the nearest delivery spot, turn the kitchen into your very own Far East cafe. Keep a few simple ingredients on hand, like fresh ginger, curry paste, and coconut milk, and you’ll be amazed at the quick, flavorful creations you can whip up any night of the week, from Pad Thai to curries.
Most grocery stores have bountiful ethnic sections where you can find many of these items in a pinch. But if you happen to have a local Asian market in your town, the amount of authentic ingredients you can find to stock your pantry is astounding.
For me, this dish is all about the coconut milk. I crave its luxuriously silky texture and tropical aroma almost every day.
You can certainly substitute the lite version to cut calories, but it’s the higher fat content that gives this curry its rich, almost buttery mouthfeel.
Shoot, I’m hungry again!
While there are a few steps to this recipe (like browning the chicken, simmering the sauce, and boiling the noodles), it’s a surprisingly quick meal to throw together. One swirl of the coconut-covered noodles between your chopsticks and you’ll wonder how you got such deep, complex flavors in such a short amount of time.
Let’s get into the secrets to making it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the word “aromatics” (culinarily speaking), here’s your ten-second lesson:
Aromatics are the herbs, spices, and veggies that typically serve as the flavorful base of a dish. They’re often cooked in some sort of fat (butter, oil, and the like) to deepen and caramelize their flavors and enhance their pungency.
In Asian cuisine, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, scallions, and chilies are all wonderful signature aromatics. They create that first tasty sparkle that gives the food its flair, while elements like fresh lime juice, sugar, and briny fish sauce are often added towards the end, for balance and an umami bite. Somewhere along the way, jarred red curry paste brings everything together.
If you can find makrut lime leaves, tear and toss a few into the mix. They add a distinctive, robust punch of citrus that I mimic with lime zest when I don’t have them on hand.
The technique for this dish is simple, and once you’ve mastered it, you can swap in all kinds of other goodies to customize your curry to your heart’s desire.
You may have stumbled upon similar curry recipes where all of the ingredients are mixed in raw, and at one time. Personally, I strongly believe that layering flavors is what makes the difference in the end. It’s worth the extra time, though we do have time-saving hacks for recipes like this in the slow cooker if you’re really in a hurry.
I suggest doing all of your chopping at the beginning, for three reasons:
- Having everything laid out and ready to saute means that once the heat is cranked and the pan is hot, it’s go time.
- While you’re slicing and dicing, your noodle water can come to a boil.
- The absolute best time to treat yourself to a snack and a glass of wine is while you’re doing your meticulous prep. Go on, have some goat cheese. You deserve it.
Here’s an easy breakdown of the process to make this flawless curry: brown the chicken, take it out, cook the aromatics in the residual fat, add the curry paste, whisk in the coconut milk, and welcome back the chicken.
Drink more wine while the flavors get to know each other for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, your cooked rice noodles are getting a finishing glaze of nutty toasted sesame oil, oniony scallions, and garlic.
Yum. Can you smell that?
Adjust your sauce’s seasonings via an acidic citrus (lime), salt (fish sauce), and something sweet (brown sugar), give it one last taste, and pat yourself on the back.
For the finishing garnishes, this is another opportunity to go nuts. Literally. I like the texture of toasted, crushed peanuts but almonds or even macadamias would give you a solid crunch. You also can’t go wrong with a combination of sesame seeds and chives.
If you end up with additional sauce, use it either as a blanket on a chilly winter night, or throw it over some brown rice and top it with sauteed greens like bok choy for a quick, healthy lunch of unexpectedly delicious leftovers.
Whether you’re spicing things up for a dinner party or keeping this curry all to yourself, one bite of this luscious masterpiece and you’ll rarely reach for a takeout container again.
Shoot, I’m hungry again. Send noods!Print
Craving a sweet and spicy Thai bowl you can curl up with at home? Piling this easy, creamy coconut curry over sesame-scented noodles will do the trick.
- 8 ounces thin rice noodles
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic, divided
- 2 fresh or dried bird’s eye chilies or small jalapenos
- 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
- 2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- 3 limes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup scallions, white and light green parts only, cut into thin slivers
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 4 sprigs fresh cilantro, torn
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
- Chili garlic sauce (optional)
- Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool water, and set aside in a separate bowl. Return the pot to the stove.
- In a deep, wide skillet or saucepot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sear until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
- Deseed the chilies and cut into slivers. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the lemongrass, ginger, 1 tablespoon of the garlic, and the chilies. Saute until very fragrant, about 2 minutes, then add the red curry paste and whisk to combine. Cook for about 1 minute, and then vigorously whisk in the coconut milk.
- Zest two of the limes and juice them, and cut the third one into wedges. Increase the heat to medium, return the chicken to the pot, stir to combine, and allow the red curry sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, lime zest, and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- In the pot where the noodles were cooked, heat the sesame oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the remaining tablespoon of garlic, scallions, and chili flakes. Saute until the scallions have softened, about 2 minutes, then add the noodles back to the pan.
- Toss the noodles with the sesame oil mixture and then divide among four bowls. Top each with even amounts of the red coconut curry chicken and then pour enough sauce into each bowl to cover the noodles. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, crushed peanuts, chili garlic sauce, and lime wedges.
Note that nutritional information below includes all of the sauce, which you likely will not use to make 4 servings. Chili garlic sauce is not included in this calculation.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Thai
Keywords: curry, Thai curry, chicken curry, lemongrass, coconut milk
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Chop and Prep Protein and Aromatics
Slice the chicken into chunks, chop the chilies and lemongrass, and mince the ginger and garlic.
A ginger grater and garlic press also come in handy for this.
Zest and juice two of the limes.
Boil water for cooking the rice noodles. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
Step 2 – Brown Chicken, Create Curry Base, and Cook Noodles
In a deep, wide skillet or saucepot, brown the chicken in the coconut oil.
When it is golden and cooked through, remove the meat with a slotted spoon, and set it aside.
Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Sautee until very fragrant, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.
Cook the thin rice noodles according to the package instructions, and then drain in a colander. Set aside, and reserve the pot for later use.
Step 3 – Whisk in Curry Paste and Coconut Milk
Whisk in the red curry paste.
Add the coconut milk, and stir it in.
Return the chicken to the pot.
Increase the heat, and simmer for ten minutes.
Step 4 – Prep Garnish and Noodles
While the sauce is simmering, prep your garnish. Remove the stems from the cilantro, and tear the leaves a bit. Chop or crush your peanuts, and cut the remaining lime into wedges.
Heat the sesame oil in the same pot that you cooked the noodles in, and saute the garlic, scallions, and chili flakes.
Add the noodles, and toss to coat.
Step 5 – Adjust Seasoning and Serve
Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, and zest and juice of the two limes.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce, 8 oz., available on Amazon
Divide the noodles among four bowls, and then top with chicken and curry sauce.
Garnish with cilantro, peanuts, chili garlic sauce (I adore this one), and lime wedges.
Does It Get Any Better Than Rich, Creamy Noodles?
Remember that taking things into your own pans means you can customize whatever soothes your soul and satisfies your stomach.
Going light on the carbs? Saute your favorite greens – kale, bok choy, or even chard – in place of the rice noodles. They’ll soak in the sesame notes like you won’t believe.
Want more aromatic Asian creations? With these slurpy noodle recipes, you’ll never pay a delivery fee again:
- Gluten-Free Veggie-Packed Pad Thai with Seared Tofu
- 15-Minute Sesame Noodles
- Spicy Curry Noodles with Tofu and Mushrooms
- Thai Noodle Bowls with Chicken
When it comes to decorating finished Thai dishes, how do you top yours? Chili oil, scallions, cilantro, oh my! Share your favorite garnishes in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on September 17, 2010. Last updated: August 22, 2021 at 11:08 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”