Panang curry soup is perhaps not the most authentic Thai dish. Traditionally, Panang curry is more of a thick and creamy sauce that accompanies chicken, beef and duck. It is one of the more common Thai curries and is unique in its use of Indian spices and its mild, sweet flavor. For that reason, it’s typically popular with westerners because it’s not as spicy as other types of Thai curry dishes.
And even though it’s not typically in soup form, I did find it served as a soup on a few occasions when I was in Thailand.
Personally, I loved it both as a soup and in its more typical creamy, coconut curry form. It was not as sweet as a Massaman curry but it had a unique flavor that was somewhere between an Indian curry and a more typical Thai curry.
I will include a recipe for both Panang curry soup and the more traditional version here. The only difference is that the soup version is well, soupier, as it contains more bone broth. Otherwise, the ingredients are identical.
I actually learned to make it in Thailand!
I took a Thai cooking class from the Lanta Thai Cookery School when I was staying on Koh Lanta and one of the dishes we learned to make was a Panang curry.
Here I am at my cooking station preparing chopping some veggies…
God how I miss that tan.
And the beaches. And the massages on the beach. And the sunsets on the beach (and just about everything else about my travels in Thailand).
And of course, the food. And it was great to have an opportunity to learn from an actual Thai chef how to make real, authentic Thai food, especially a Panang curry.
We even learned to make Panang curry paste from scratch, a rather in-depth, time-intensive process. But don’t worry, I’m not going to include that in the recipe below.
We’re just going to use a pre-prepared Panang curry paste instead.
Yeah, it’s kinda cheating and yeah, it won’t be quite as good as a freshly prepared curry paste, but do you really want to use a mortar and pestle, smashing the chilies, spices and herbs into a paste for an hour? Not to mention that you’ll have to go find each of the 12-15 individual ingredients, many of which are not easy to find in American supermarkets. Because that’s what you have to do make a real curry paste.
I didn’t think so.
Besides, making a Panang curry soup is pretty dang easy when you have a pre-prepared paste.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to find some decent brands. Maesri makes a broad range of Thai curry pastes, including Panang.
If you have an Asian supermarket nearby, they’ll probably carry Maesri. If not, you can find it on Amazon here.
I also found another company called Mae Ploy at my local Asian supermarket.
Personally, I liked both brands but Mae Ploy had a tad more flavor which I think was because it contained shrimp paste, a somewhat essential ingredient in most Thai curries. However, Mae Ploy came in a much larger container and gave me a lot more paste than I needed. Maesri comes in 4 ounce containers, which is probably better if you’re making this for the first time.
Also, if you’re looking for a vegetarian version, then obviously, go with Maesri.
Just make sure whatever brand you use does NOT contain MSG or other chemical flavor enhancers.
Since real broths and soups are kind my thang, when I came home to the US, I learned to make Panang curry soup as well as the more traditional version.
First things first, prepare the garnishes.
Slice the kaffir lime leaves into fine strips. Then remove the seeds and fleshy part from the serrano chili. If you can’t find a serrano chili, it’s OK to use another mild red chili pepper.
Julienne (cut into long, fine strips) the chili and put the strips in some water to keep them fresh.
That’s really all you need to prepare as Panang curry typically doesn’t contain other vegetables. Once you have that ready to go, everything else comes together fairly quickly and easily.
Panang curry is has a unique flavor that's somewhere between an Indian curry and a more typical Thai curry. Included below is a recipe for both Panang curry soup and the more traditional version which is more of a thick sauce.
Note: if the coconut cream isn't separated from the coconut milk when you open the can, it's OK to just use coconut oil here.
1.Panang coconut curry typically does not include other veggies. I won't report you to the Thai cooking police if you want to add veggies. Green beans, peas, Thai eggplant, carrots or basically, anything you want to add is OK by me.
2. For a simple variation, substitute duck, beef or pork for the chicken.
3. Serrano chilies are fairly mild as this dish is traditionally not super spicy. If you want to make it spicy, substitute Thai bird's eye chilies.
4. The traditional version is typically served with a side of jasmine rice. You could certainly add some rice to the soup version as well.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.