Thai Red Curry with Ground Beef, Tomatoes and Pineapple is a delicious and less common twist on Thai Red Curry, using canned tomatoes and ground beef to make life easier. Affiliate links have been used to link to items being discussed in this post.
I think sometimes when you are learning the cuisine of another culture there is a hesitation to step off the tried and true path. Like what if by adding peanuts to that Spanish stew you have offended the very notion of what makes Spanish cuisine Spanish. And depending on how much has been written about the cuisine, you may have no way of figuring out if the change is an offense–or if the change just changes the dish to something else.
I have a theory that the bigger the country, the easier it is to play with the cuisine. For example, take India. It is a huge country, with a wide range of influences. So I find it easier to confidently play with Indian dishes–chances are there is already an example in some Indian state somewhere of someone trying whatever my idea is. I feel similarly about Mexico, maybe because we have our own Tex Mex and Southwestern cuisines here in this country already, demonstrating the possible Mexican fusion dishes. But I have always had more trouble straying from the beaten path with South East Asian cuisine. Which is why it took encountering canned tomatoes in a Thai red curry dish in a cookbook for me to have that duh-lightbulb moment of why haven’t I ever used canned or chopped tomatoes in a Thai curry? I use them in Indian curries and Mexican stews all the time. In fact, I cannot think of any cuisine outside of South East Asia where I would not be comfortable adding canned tomatoes or a base of chopped tomatoes.
Or, I should say, would not have been comfortable adding canned tomatoes. Because after making this incredibly fantastic dish, I will be a lot braver about canned tomatoes and South East Asian food. Tomatoes are a game changer–they add a sweet, acidic, umami flavor that means you can add less palm sugar and less fish sauce to the dish, thus making it healthier. They are also a game changer because if you love Thai curries the way I do, it is always fun to find a new way to use the curry paste (especially if you make and freeze it in bulk, like I do), and particularly one that completely changes the flavor of a dish so it is not the same old red curry (not that I don’t love traditional red curry, but you know what I mean, variety being the spice of life, etc.). The whole family agreed this was a fantastic way to enjoy the flavors of Thai red curry.
So what cookbook did I find this great idea in? Saiphin Moore’s Rosa’s Thai Café: The Cookbook. The name of the cookbook might ring a bell for my long term readers, as my Thai Stir Fried Vermicelli, adapted from Thailand: The Cookbook was ultimately adapted from Saiphin Moore. And ever since making that vermicelli recipe, I have had Rosa’s Thai Cafe on my wish list–and finally received it last fall for my birthday. Saiphin Moore is from northern Thailand but now lives in London, where she has restaurants. So it is always possible her cooking has been influenced by her experiences in England. At any rate, I got the idea for my Thai Red Curry with Ground Beef, Tomatoes and Pineapple from her Stir Fried Ground Chicken with Red Curry–which made use of canned tomatoes. Her dish did not have coconut milk, but honestly once I saw the “ground chicken” and canned tomatoes, I closed the book and ran with it. So it is more of an “inspired by” than an “adapted from.”
You may notice that I use parval (pointed gourd) in this recipe. Parval is another vegetable I discovered recently at the Indian grocer. We liked it but did not love it the way we loved the tindora. So if you cannot find parval, I recommend using Thai eggplants, Japanese eggplants or even just zucchini in its place.
Inspired by Saiphin Moore. If you are using commercial curry paste, this dish will be pretty spicy; if you would like to make it homemade (always my preference) here is a link to a homemade red Thai curry paste recipe. Some fresh basil or cilantro at the end will make this even better, but if you do not have either, the dish will still be great without it.
- 2 T virgin coconut oil
- 1/4 cup red curry paste
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 8 Parval (pointed gourd), seeds scraped out and cut into bite-size pieces
- 200 g (2 packages) bunapi and/or beech mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- tiny pinch salt
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 T palm sugar, to taste
- 1 14-oz can whole fat coconut milk
- 1 T fish sauce, to taste
- 3 handfuls fresh or frozen pineapple
- 1 handful finely sliced basil, preferably Thai optional
- 1 handful chopped cilantro, optional (use either cilantro or basil, not both) optional
Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy pot or deep pan over medium high heat. When it is melted and hot, add the curry paste. Stir the curry paste into the coconut oil and fry for a few minutes, until the paste is quite fragrant and beginning to separate from the oil.
Add the onions and prepped parval and stir into the curry paste. Stir and let the veggies fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms with a tiny pinch of salt. Stir and let the veggies fry together. When they have released most of their water and are starting to caramelize, add the ground beef.
Mix the ground beef into the vegetables. Cook, stirring, until the meat is mostly browned.
Add the canned tomatoes with the 2 tablespoons palm sugar. Stir and let the tomatoes simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the coconut milk and 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Stir to incorporate the coconut milk. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the curry simmer for 5 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the pineapple and let the dish simmer another 5 minutes.
Taste for more palm sugar (sweet) and fish sauce (salty/umami). The tomatoes should provide enough acid.
Garnish with fresh basil or cilantro if using (highly recommended!) and serve hot over jasmine rice.
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