Sandy Kamath, chef-owner of Supatras Thai in Yorba Linda, is a panang curry wizard. In a matter of minutes, she can whip up a steaming bowl of creamy-sweet, spicy heaven. The rich mouthfeel of coconut milk is judicially spiked with chilies, herbs and Asian roots, both ginger and galangal. Yes, and slices of tender beef. When she joined me in my home kitchen to shoot a how-to video, she explained that she uses a store-bought panang paste, a recipe shortcut that doesn’t sacrifice flavor or appearance.
Both her mother and grandmother spent over an hour to make the paste from scratch. They roasted lemongrass, ginger, galangal, garlic and kaffir leaves in oil, then mashed the mix into a paste. Her version saves a lot of time. She offered a spice-level perspective, acknowledging that guests differ in their desire for a fiery heat. Thai chilies (either green or red), often labeled Bird’s Eye chilies, are tiny heat-packed beauties that contribute a giant burst of pepper power. For those who prefer a milder approach, a small amount of Serrano chilies does the trick; their incendiary properties are about half that of Thai chilies (but more than jalapenos).
A well-marbled sirloin steak lent a lush meaty element to her curry, but she noted that a less tender cut could be used but would require a longer cook-time to become tender. The curry is versatile because a variety of other proteins can be substituted for beef. Vegetables, shrimp, chicken, pork or paneer (fresh non-melting cheese that is common is South Asia, especially India) can also star in this dish.
Local Fav: Blake’s Place BBQ in Placentia is a favorite. She loves their barbecued chicken, baby back ribs and tri-tips, as well as their baked beans and homemade french fries.
Collection: She collects white dishes of all shapes and sizes. Initially it was fueled by purchases Crate & Barrel. Then she had to have more and more, sourced from a wide variety of stores. Some are used at her restaurant, with the overflow stored in her home garage.
In Her Blood: She grew up in the restaurant industry. She was born in Bangkok and lived there until she came to the U.S. when she was 8. Soon after their arrival in America, her parents opened a 20-seat Thai restaurant in Glendale. She witnessed their long, hard work hours, yet after working in IT (information technology) at Kaiser Permanente, she opened her own restaurant in Yorba Linda.
Drink of Choice: Margarita, blended – or iced tea.
Secret Talent: Photography – especially landscapes and nature. It makes her appreciate what is in front of her. She loves the way it encourages her to slow down and think about light and angles.
Supatras’ Panang Curry with Beef
Yield: 1 serving
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon panang curry paste
Optional: red bell pepper puree for coloring
1 cup thinly sliced steak
1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
1 teaspoon palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1 to 2 sliced serrano chilies, see cook’s notes
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into slices, 1/2 yellow or orange (or both), cut into slices
7 to 8 small sprigs fresh Thai basil (reserve 2 sprigs for garnish)
1 kaffir lime leaf, stem discarded, minced
For serving: jasmine rice
Cook’s notes: Chef used Mae Anong Kang Panang Curry Paste and Shrimp Brand Fish Sauce purchased at an Asian supermarket. You can make a quick bell pepper puree by pureeing store-bought roasted bell peppers. For a milder version use serrano chilies, but if you want more spicy-heat, use Thai chilies (start with 1/2 or 1 and add more if needed to suit your taste).
- Heat oil in saucepan on medium heat. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until almost cooked through, but still a little pink in the center. Add panang curry paste and if using, bell pepper puree; toss to combine. Add broth, fish sauce and coconut milk; stir to combine and simmer 1 minute.
- Add sugar, chilies and bell peppers; stir to combine and simmer 5 to 7 minutes. Add Thai basil leaves; simmer 1 minute. Stir in minced kaffir leaf.
- Place a generous scoop of rice in shallow bowl. Ladle curry on top of rice. Garnish with a few drops of coconut milk and a sprig or 2 of Thai basil.
Supatras Thai, 21560 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, 714-693-2888
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”