What Is Panang Curry And What Is It Made Of?

Along with yellow, red, green, and Massaman varieties, Panang curry is one of the five best-known Thai curries, according to Inquiring Chef, though there are hundreds of curry variations based on regions and family recipes. This curry originated in Penang, which is actually an island located off the west coast of Malaysia (via On the Gas), though it has much in common with Thai cuisine. If you've never tried Panang curry, you can make it at home. But because like many curry dishes, the list of ingredients can be pretty long, and you might find it easier to satisfy your Panang curiosity at your neighborhood Thai restaurant.

Panang curry shares many of the basic elements and flavors found in other curries (via Inquiring Chef). Its chief difference lies in one key ingredient: the peanut. Panang — also referred to as Penang — (via The Spruce Eats) along with red, green, yellow, and Massaman curries, as Inquiring Chef explains, starts out with a basic curry paste recipe, to which coconut milk or broth are added to make a curry sauce. These pastes generally start out with lemongrass, galangal (a relative of ginger), shrimp paste, coriander, and other aromatics. Other ingredients are added, explains this nifty curry ingredient wheel on Inquiring Chef, to achieve the different curry variations. Green curry, for instance, relies on the addition of fresh green chilis. For yellow curry, turmeric and dried curry powder impart its distinctive flavor and color.

Panang curry is about the peanuts

Because red curry looks a lot like Panang curry, it can be easy to confuse the two. In fact, since they share similar ingredients, some people consider Panang simply a variation on red curry, according to On the Gas. But Panang curry is all about the peanuts, and it is the only one of the five main curries to incorporate them. A recipe that yields 3/4 of a cup of Panang curry paste incorporates about three tablespoons of peanuts (via Epicurious). This ingredient imparts Panang curry with a nutty, mellow flavor and texture that is distinct from other curries.

In addition to the peanuts, Panang differs from red curry in that it contains less red chili pepper, so it isn't quite as spicy. Also, although some red curry recipes contain coconut cream or coconut milk, this ingredient in present in nearly all Panang curries, making it sweeter and creamier than red curry (via On the Gas).

American interest in Thai cuisine makes it easy to find recipes for Panang curry. This recipe from Epicurious contains 12 ingredients, but will reward you with deliciously complex flavor. If you're short on time, you can purchase pre-made curry paste from your local Asian market or online, as demonstrated in this recipe from Erren's Kitchen, for a sweet, nutty weeknight Panang dinner in a flash. Finally, some specialty stores sell jarred Panang sauce, and Trader Joe's even offers a microwavable Panang Vegetables with Jasmine Rice (via Kitchn).