For exciting flavors, intriguing dishes, and powerfully hot blends of chilis, herbs, and spices, simply look to Thailand for inspiration.
For those of you who have never experienced the freshly exciting, hot taste of a thai curry dish, you may not be aware that there are actually six main distinctive flavors and types of curry, each with a unique blend of various spices and ingredients, each integral to a masterful collaboration of flavor and substance.
In order to make authentic Thai dishes in your own kitchen, or to determine your preference for flavor and levels of heat when ordering in a Thai restaurant, it is a great advantage to be aware of the subtle yet complex differences between the different curries. Also a point to consider, curries rich with fiery chilis are also high in Vitamin C, and help to increase metabolism, among other health benefits. It can be inferred that the hotter a dish is, the healthier it may be.
Green curry and red curry are easily the most popular curries, utilizing chili peppers, garlic, lemon grass, and coconut milk, among other essential herbs and spices, depending upon the region or brand. Chefs may also have their own particular variations. Green curry is made with fresh, young green chilis, and is significantly hotter than other curries. Red curry is made with bigger red chilis, which are not as hot as their green counterpart, but still packing significant heat. Green curry tends to lean toward a sweeter flavor, while red explores the savory side.
Yellow curry is highly aromatic and brightly colored due to roasted spices and an infusion of turmeric, and is typically paired with fish or poultry. The curry has a rich, bold taste, sweet with subtle hints of spices, and is effectively hot without being overpowering. Yellow curry hails from southern Thailand and is usually made with the addition of yellow peppers.
Masaman curry is by far the sweetest of all the curries, and is an excellent pairing with shrimp or chicken. A rich authentic flavor, usually with hints of tangy tamarind, this mildly hot curry is actually Indian-influenced, and is a popular favorite. A good introduction to curry if you are wary of trying something overly hot.
Panang Curry shares many of the same ingredients and is very similar in flavor to Red Curry, save for a slightly sweeter taste, and is slightly less fiery on the tongue. It is extremely flavorful when made with vegetarian dishes or stir-fries.
But certainly no less flavorful than the others is Prik Khing Curry, which is essentially a curry made mainly from chilis and garlic, with a respectable host of other favorite spices and ingredients.
Most Thai restaurants will have a wide assortment of curries and dishes to choose from, with all of the curries represented. For you own kitchen you should be able to find most if not all of the respective curry pastes in the ethnic food aisle of your supermarket, with instructions and perhaps a recipe or two on how to transform the paste in a marvelous curry.