Today I’m cooking up one of my favorite Thai dishes, Easy Vegetable Shrimp Thai Green Curry. What I like best about Thai food is the combination of the fragrant and savory flavors with a bit of sweet and spicy. Maybe you are familiar with some of the most famous dishes are Pad Thai, a fried noodle dish, and Tom Yum, a hot and sour soup. In addition to these, Thai cuisine is also well known for a quite a few different curry dishes that are all distinct in their flavor and ingredients. But my all-time favorite is the green curry and that is what we are cooking up today.
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Serve up Thai Green Curry with seafood or veggies
Vegetables appear front and center in today’s recipe for shrimp thai green curry. Thanks in large part to the tons of vegetables included in the recipe, but I also added in a bit of seafood. As part of the Mediterranean pattern of diet, seafood is front and center and recommended to be included in the diet 2-3 times a week. When selecting fish or seafood, I recommend selecting a fatty fish, a source of the essential fatty acid, Omega-3.
This dish works well using mackerel or salmon in place of the shrimp. I recommend cooking the fish separately, either baked or seared in a pan, and then served on top of the rice and vegetable green curry. Or if you want to keep it all plant-based you can eliminate the seafood and either add more veggies or add in some baked tofu.
My history with Thai food
My first memory of experiencing Thai food was in of all places, Lubbock, Texas. There were a couple restaurants owned by the same family offering up Thai cuisine. What I remember enjoying most about the food were the interesting combination of flavors and freshness of the food. The flavors were different than other varieties of Asian food I had eaten and I was immediately smitten with the cuisine.
What I like about Shrimp Thai Green Curry is the combination of the sweet and spicy. Since the base of most of these dishes is coconut milk, there is definitely a sweetness to the broth which works to well with the spiciness of chili peppers.
Since that time, I have always wanted to attempt making my own homemade curry, but haven’t until now. But now after living in Peru for more than six months, I am finding that I crave Thai food and while it’s here, it’s often hard to find or much more expensive than I’d care to spend on my food.
The ingredients for Shrimp Thai Green Curry
The emphasis in Thai cooking is on using fresh herbs and spices and so I really encourage you to use fresh as much as possible. Some of the flavors most commonly found in Thai cooking are basil, garlic, galangal (a root related to ginger but with a different flavor), cilantro, lemon grass, shallots, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, fish sauce and chilies.
Rice forms the base of just about ALL Thai meals similar to other Asian cuisines. It is so important in the culture that the greeting in Thailand used to say “What’s up?” is “gin khao reu yung?” and translates to “Have you eaten rice yet?”
The rice I have typically eaten is white and often sticky, but I have taken some leeway in this recipe and serve the curry with a bit of brown rice and quinoa
Coconuts are another common ingredient found in Thai cooking. In curries, it usually appears in the form of coconut milk. The addition of the coconut milk adds a creamy, sweet flavor to the dish which pairs really nicely with the spiciness of the dish. For the BEST flavor, use the full-fat version of coconut milk rather than a low-fat variety.
What I did in the recipe is substitute part of the full fat coconut milk with water to reduce the calories. The dish loses a bit of its creaminess and richness but to me the flavors are still really present and it’s an adjustment I am willing to take in order to save some calories.
Also, be sure that you are buying coconut milk in the can not the drink version. They are totally different products.
Finding Thai Chilies and Thai Basil
The chilies most commonly used in Thai food are Bird Chilies, which are the hottest. But they also use a red chili called prhik chi fa which are about the size of your finger, less hot and either yellow, red or green. I am not sure whether or not you will find these chilies specifically. But I recommend substituting cayenne peppers, and if you are unable to locate those, then serrano or jalapeno peppers will work fine.
Thai cooking commonly includes three different varieties of basil. You can often find Thai basil in some stores in the United States, but if you need a substitute, I recommend using Italian/sweet basil which is more commonly found. The Thai basil gives a pungent anise flavor to the dish that will be missing when using regular basil. In testing this recipe, I was unable to locate the Thai Basil and so I used the more common Italian/Sweet Basil. I could still taste the flavor the basil adds but it is definitely a bit different.
Condiments are quite the thing when it comes to Thai food and often a variety are served with each meal. But the ones that I am most familiar with and recommend trying out are Nam prik, which can vary greatly in how it is made, and chilies in rice vinegar. Nam prik is really the name given to the entire category of Thai chili pastes/sauces that are used in much Thai cooking. The recipe below is one that is based on one I discovered here in Lima, Peru at a restaurant I’ve eaten at a couple times.
How to make Nam Prik
- 1 tsp ginger, chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 fresh Thai chillies (bird’s eye chillies) or substitute cayenne, serrano or jalapeno,
- 1 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- Whole lime, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Chop up the chilies, ginger and garlic into tiny pieces. Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine. You can adjust the lime juice and vinegar and add more or less to your desired tastes. Allow it to sit for a bit to allow flavors to meld.
How to make Hot Chilies in Rice Vinegar
- 6 fresh Thai chillies (bird’s eye chillies) or substitute cayenne, serrano or jalapeno, chopped finely
- 2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
- Salt, if desired
Mix all the ingredients together. Allow it to sit for flavors to meld.
I didn’t even attempt to make my own Thai green curry paste. I chose to buy a prepared green curry paste for a more authentic flavor. Also, it was one less item to prepare. You can likely find a good Thai green curry paste in your grocery store or local Asian Market.
Easy Vegetable Shrimp Thai Green Curry
- ½ cup brown rice
- ½ cup red black or tri-color quinoa
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T fresh ginger grated
- 1 small white onion diced
- 2 medium carrots sliced
- 2 cup fresh green beans trimmed to 1” pieces
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 cup canned coconut milk full fat
- ½ cup water
- 2 T Thai green curry paste
- 2 cups spinach leaves thinly sliced
- ½ cup basil leaves whole
- 1½ tsp rice vinegar
- 1½ reduced sodium soy sauce
- Garnish: Hot chiles in rice vinegar or Nam prik diced fresh or dried chiles (red pepper flakes) or sriracha
Rice and Quinoa
- Place ½ cup rice in 1½ cup of water and bring to a boil. When it boils reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Rinse the ½ cup of quinoa and set aside. When the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir in the quinoa. If needed add a bit more water (start with 2 T). Cover and allow it to continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes.
- When the rice and quinoa are cooked, turn off and leave it covered.
- While the rice is cooking, gather and prep all ingredients for the dish. Dice the onions into about ¼” – ½” pieces and the carrots sliced in rounds or half-rounds. For the ginger, use the large side of a grater and then chop it with a knife to get it a bit more minced.
- Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for an additional 60 seconds., stirring frequently.
- Next, add the carrot and green beans and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- When the vegetables begin to soften, add the shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Add the 2 T of curry paste and cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the coconut milk to the pan and ½ cup of water. Bring it to a gentle boil, reduce heat, cover and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes to soften the vegetables further. You want the vegetables cooked but still a bit crisp.
- When the vegetables are cooked, stir in the fresh spinach, basil, soy sauce and rice vinegar and cook, just long enough to allow the greens to wilt.
- Serve up ¾ cup of pilaf in a bowl and top with 1¼ cup of curry. Garnish with your choice of condiments.
What did you think of today’s recipe for Easy Vegetable Shrimp Thai Green Curry? Did you make it and try it out? Tell me all about it in the comments below!! And if you liked it, be sure to leave me a 5-Star Rating on the recipe card.