Panaeng is a slightly sweet, thick Thai curry that is not as spicy as others. It is characterized by the presence of peanuts in the curry paste, and optionally, in the finished product. One can happily substitute beef, other meats, or even vegetables for chicken, although cooking times should be adjusted to account for the change.
This recipe has earned me quite a reputation amongst my friends and family, who often request it and usually fight over seconds when I make it. One friend told me that this was the best thing anyone has ever cooked for him, and other proposed marriage to me after eating this dish. (My friends are lovely, dramatic people.) It is quite time consuming to make a curry paste from scratch, but there is nothing time-sensitive in doing so, so it can be a several-hour joy that can be spread across the day and savoured as the different ingredients are prepared and release their wonderful, diverse bouquet of aromas in your kitchen.
Curry paste can be prepared in advance and will keep in the fridge for several days, but does lose some of its flavour and can dry up. It is best tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to maintain freshness.
Once the paste is prepared, the curry itself is quite easy to make. It is most frequently served with jasmine rice, but I prefer to eat it with fresh rice noodles (ho fen, as one might use in preparing Pad See Eew), which provides a deliciously slurpy – if not somewhat messy – base for the rich and luxurious curry sauce.