Red Curry Beef with Butternut Squash

Gaeng Peht Neua

I love this curry; it is the first one I tasted in Thailand, the first one I made with success back home in the United States, and the first Thai dish our daughter Camellia embraced and learned to cook.

You need only the Thai pantry essentials I was able to find in a Korean market in North Carolina even years ago: red curry paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, coconut milk, and jasmine rice. Thais love red curry with chicken and bamboo shoots as well, and call it gaeng daeng as well as gaeng peht; daeng meaning “red,” and peht meaning “chili-hot.” Acorn squash, kabocha pumpkin, or sweet potato chunks make delicious substitutes for butternut squash.


  • cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • ¾ pound boneless beef, such as tri-tip, flank steak, or rib-eye, thinly sliced crosswise into 2-inch strips
  • cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut in generous bite-sized chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar


In a medium saucepan or heavy skillet, bring about ¾ cup of the coconut milk to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it begins to thicken and becomes fragrant. Add the curry paste and cook 2 to 3 minutes, pressing and stirring to dissolve it into the coconut milk. Add the beef and cook another minute or two, tossing to coat it with the sauce.

Add the remaining ¾ cups of coconut milk, the chicken broth, butternut squash, fish sauce, and palm sugar, and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until the beef is cooked and the butternut squash is tender but still firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish, and serve hot or warm.