Thai Red Duck Curry
With a sauce made of coconut milk, dried and fresh chilies, galangal and lemongrass, among others, Thai red duck curry is slow cooked until the meat easily separates from the bone and the sauce is thick.While it is convenient to resort to ready-to-use red curry paste that one can easily get in most Asian stores, making spice paste from scratch gives this dish an incomparable flavor and aroma.
For the spice base
- 4 large dried red chilies
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 white peppercorns
- 4 cardamon seeds
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- 4 slices dried galangal soaked in warm water until softened
- 1 teaspoon grated kaffir lime zest
- 4 slices fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons sliced lemongrass stalks
- 2 shallots peeled and quartered
- 4 stalks cilantro roots rinsed well
- 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- 1 one-inch piece cinnamon bark
For the stew
- torn cilantro leaves
- Thai basil
- Using a large mortar and pestle (see notes after the recipe), grind together all the ingredients for the spice base until pasty. Set aside.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wide thick-bottomed pan.
- Spread the duck pieces in the hot oil and allow the undersides to brown.
- Flip the duck pieces over and brown the opposite sides.
- Stir up the duck and continue browning, with occasional stirring, until fat has been rendered.
- Scoop up the duck pieces and set aside.
- In the mixture of remaining oil and rendered fat, saute the spice base. Stir often until the solids separate from the fat.
- Return the duck to the pan.
- Pour in the coconut milk and broth.
- Stir in about two tablespoons of fish sauce.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer the duck until the meat is tender and easily separated from the bone, about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the age of the duck (see notes after the recipe).
- While the duck cooks, taste the broth occasionally and add more fish sauce, as needed.
- When the duck is done, stir in the coconut cream.
- Taste the sauce, add more fish sauce if needed, and allow the stew to come to a simmer.
- Scoop out the duck pieces and transfer to a serving bowl, ladle the sauce over them and sprinkle with Thai basil and cilantro before serving.
If the liquid dries out before the duck is tender, add more broth, no more than half a cup each time. You want the liquid to reduce and the flavors to concentrate, and you don’t want a soupy stew so add liquid only as needed. Thai red duck curry goes well with rice or flat bread.