Red Curry Chicken with Asian Basil and Fragrant Kaffir Lime Leaves

Gaeng Kai


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 6

    servings as part of a multi-dish meal

Appears in

Southeast Asian Flavors: Adventures in Cooking the Foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Singapore

Southeast Asian Flavors

By Robert Danhi

Published 2008

  • About

Leaves of Asian basil punctuate this dish with anise-like flavor. Glistening oils float on its surface, revealing the essential technique of “frying” the curry paste in separated (“cracked”) coconut milk, the only way to truly unlock the flavors hidden in the paste. For a one-dish (plus rice) meal, add vegetables to the simmering curry, such as bamboo shoots, peppers, or tender snow peas. The sauce can be made ahead, and served with roast duck or seared beef in place of chicken.


  • 1 can (about 14 oz.) Coconut milk, stirred well (divided use)
  • ¼ cup Red curry paste (add 1 more tablespoon if paste was made in blender) or store bought
  • 1 cup Water or light stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Fish sauce (nahm pla)
  • 1 Tbsp. Light brown palm sugar
  • 1 lb. (454 g.) Boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size strips, about ½ inch (1.3 cm.) thick
  • 6 Kaffir lime leaves, bruised lightly
  • ¼ cup Asian basil leaves


  1. Heat 1 cup of coconut milk in a wok or 4 qt. (4 L.) saucepan over medium heat. Boil, stirring often until it thickens and oil begins to separate out of the milk, about 5 minutes. Add curry paste; cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes to develop the flavors.
  2. Add remaining coconut milk, water, fish sauce, palm sugar, chicken, and kaffir lime leaves and cook; stirring often until chicken is cooked through and tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in basil and cook for 5 seconds.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional palm sugar, fish sauce and/or salt.