Thursday, December 01, 2005

A for Effort

panang comparison
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a little bit obsessed with panang curries. Every time I eat at our local Thai place, I order the panang shrimp and every time I leave our local Thai place, I am convinced that if I try hard enough, I can duplicate the flavor at home. And every time I try to duplicate the flavor, I fail miserably.

This week, I chalked another one up in the failure column. On Tuesday, I discovered a package of Thai Kitchen panang curry paste at the grocery store (not my usual store...and the product isn't available online either.) My hopes weren't high, but I figured I'd give it a shot. Imagine how psyched I'd be to discover a really good mix. I mean, I like cooking from scratch, but who doesn't love a really good mix?

Unfortunately, this wasn't a really good mix. The difference in taste between my Thai Kitchen panang curry (on the left) and the restaurant's panang curry (right) is accurately reflected in the picture above. I love the restaurant version because it's aromatic, sweet to start and a little savory in the middle with slow, lasting heat. It just has a ton of flavor.

The at-home version...not so much. The photo looks washed out, but it's not a lighting trick - the actual meal was that pale. It tasted pale, as well - bland, despite my adding significantly more curry paste and fish sauce than recommended, with little scent. The only thing I got right was the heat, and that's because I added a little of the evil dried habanero to the sauce as it simmered.

Ah well, some things just aren't meant to be too easy, I suppose.

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