I got a job at a local Thai-Lao restaurant and eventually became their #2 chef. I had a lot of interest in Thai & Lao food & culture, but what I learnt in the restaurant trade was a bit unsettling. People happily paid $8-10 for a few pieces of chicken. We had to maintain strict portion control : this many meat pcs, carrot pcs, mushrooms, pepper chunks per order all neatly set out in foil pie pans. When orders came rushing, red, green, black or blue, every pie pan got a schmear of curry paste that basically was a slightly doctored up version of a bagged paste, MAESRI, from Thailand in big tubs.
Hot oil, a sizzle of garlic & the owner's patented sofrito [nothing much but I promised never to reveal!], in goes the stuff on a high flame, stir around, one ladle base stock, one of coconut milk, then salt, sugar [because American palates, like the Bangkok style, likes a sweet hint] fish sauce, and you are done. The usual garnish.
Here's the kicker:about 7 + Tbof oil per order(!) to economize on the coconut milk. More sodium & sugar than you might guess.
That place remains incredibly popular!!
My point is this: as far as most Thai foods go, you can make them far tastier, healthier & cheaper at home. MUCH cheaper.
One small can of curry paste costing $ 0.69 will make 3-4 pans [of 19inch diameter--that's a huge resto size saute or frying pan].
Per pan, you use 2 [14oz] cans of CHAOKOH brand coconut milk : $1-1.19 ea.
saute as much chopped garlic as you want in a little hot oil w/o browning; add one sm.onion diced. Stir a bit, then add your curry paste, and stir it around until it becomes fragrant.
You need not buy fish sauce if you will not cook often. Buy a can of anchovies or tube of anchovy paste [use also in spaghetti sauce]. Add some now, not if it is fish sauce.
You add the creamy layer from 1 can of coconut & cook the curry base for a tiny bit, until it amalgamates & bubbles. If you have uncooked chicken breast etc. add now. Or, you can use cooked chicken, pork, duck, beef.
I make it semi-vegetarian, adding mushrooms, tofu chunks, bamboo shoots, zucchini, blanched carrots, chard ribs and a can of "fried gluten." you will find this in oriental groceries.
Add your thin milk that is left in the one can and bring to simmer. Add aromatics like chopped lemongrass & Thai lime leaves, add the 2nd can of milk, brink to simmer. Finish with a few Thai basil leaves if you like. Adjust seasonings to taste.
15 minutes from start to finish & you can feed 3-4 with rice.
I absolutely shun the word Kaffir lime. That term came from South Africa, given to this plant taken there by Malay slaves. Kaffir is derived from the Arab for Infidel, Unbeliever. It has a very pejorative meaning. In S. Africa, Kaffir became a word used by the whites to refer to things associated with darker skinned people in an insulting way: like the N WORD in the USA. So, kaffir lime literally means, N---ger Lime.
Citrus hystrix, Thai lime, needs to be shorn of its unfortunate historical epithet.
More on cooking Thai at home: http://forums.egullet.org..._840&#entry1742524
<message edited by pimple2 on Thu, 06/10/10 2:25 AM>