Shoestring Meals - Red Curry Chicken (less than $5 per recipe and about $1 per meal)

12-05-2010, 02:49 AM
I love curries, especially Southeast Asian curries, but usually there are so many ingredients to buy that I find the recipes too intimidating (or impractical) to make at home. I've seen ready-made curry pastes in the asian groceries and some of the larger chain groceries, but I never know which brand to try so when I saw a canned curry/simmering sauce in my local asian market, I thought I'd give it a try.

The brand is Best Spoon Red Curry (Gaeng Ped). It was $1.39 for a 13.5 ounce can), and the ingredients listed were: Red chili, garlic, salt, onion, coconut milk, water. No preservative or MSG. It's meant to be used full-strength as a simmering sauce. And only 70 calories and 2g of carbs for the whole can.

It tastes like there's lemongrass in there too, but it's not listed on the can. I've noticed before with other canned products imported from Thailand that spices sometimes seem to be missing from the ingredient label. In the USA spices don't have to be listed specifically, but usually "spices" or "flavorings" is listed as an ingredient on the can. If you're allergic to any spices, that's something to be aware of.

In my crockpot I poured in the curry and a can of water and a bouillon cube (I think I probably could have just used the can of curry but I wanted to dilute it a bit). I put in 4 chicken thighs ($1.14 per pound - about 2 lbs), that I had cut each in 3 pieces (paralell to the bone), and a sliced onion (the can instructions were to "just add meat" simmering the chicken in the soup/sauce (it didn't call for a specific amount of meat).

The crock is sitting in my fridge now, and I'll start it tomorrow morning. Right before serving I'll add half a bag of frozen cauliflower or mixed veggies (between 79 and 99 cents for the whole bag at Aldi's), and I'll make some rice.

We should be able to get about 4 meals out of it.

It smells amazing (and I tasted the canned sauce before I cut up the chicken, it was pretty good - a little spicy for hubby's tastes which is why I diluted it with broth).

If we like it, I'll probably buy a jar of red curry paste, because it will be much cheaper in the long run to use the curry paste and canned coconut milk than to buy the canned sauce. On the other hand, if it's something I don't plan on making more than a couple times a year, then the canned isn't a bad way to go.

I've seen similar products in large chain grocery stores, but they were quite a bit more expensive than in the Asian groceries. Not that $2 a can is terrible. Still if you have a local Asian grocery store, you might want to check there first.

I couldn't wait to share. Because it smelled so good in the can, I'm pretty confident that the finished dish will turn out wonderful, but I'll let you know after it's truly passed the taste test.

Oh - and I forgot to say I added a tablespoon of chunky natural peanut butter.

12-05-2010, 11:49 AM
Oooh, I bet the leftovers would be really great wrapped in a pita. That's probably how I would make it actually, because rice is sadly one of my weaknesses. Or wrapped in a rice-paper wrap or lettuce leaf.... I think it's time to go make my dinner now.

If you can get ahold of a similar green curry paste, it goes very well with shrimp, and a little squeeze of lime.

12-05-2010, 12:07 PM
That sounds awesome.

Nola Celeste
12-05-2010, 01:00 PM
That sounds absolutely delicious! We're lucky enough to have an international supermarket a couple of miles away and I'm sure they have that brand; I'll keep my eyes peeled for it.

I'm a HUGE fan of curries of every description. Anyone who wants to enjoy more vegetables in his/her diet should really look to cuisines in which people have been eating vegetarian or nearly vegetarian for dozens of generations. (I'm not vegetarian, by the way, but that doesn't mean I can't borrow some wisdom from people who are.)

Another brand of prepared curry sauce to try is anything from Deep Foods ( They have a range of jarred spice pastes based on popular Indian dishes--biryani, rogan josh, Madras curry, and so forth--that are all deelish. Unlike the red curry you're describing, Deep's pastes are blended with oil, so I do have to count and measure a little more carefully, but they taste scrumptious.

A cool thing that Deep Foods does at that link above: if you bought one of their products, you can type in the UPC to get a selection of recipe ideas for that product.

Hope that red curry tastes as good as it smells; it's already making me re-think my own dinner plans. :)

12-05-2010, 04:09 PM
We just had lunch, and it was really good. Next time I would make a few changes though.

1. I'd remove the skin from the chicken thighs or use boneless/skinless thighs or breast (I do like dark meat though because it's more forgiving of overcooking than white meat, which in the crockpot is nice).

2. I'd eliminate the additional water/broth. The canned sauce would have provided adequate moisture on it's own. I'm so used to stove-top simmering that I tend to overestimate the amount of liquid needed.

3. I'd add a little more of the peanut butter - maybe increase it from one tablespoon to two (but only if I used skinless chicken).

katy trail
12-05-2010, 04:16 PM
totall agree! i LOVE curries! i like the red kind the best, but i've only tried the green a few times. both are really great. i love that anything tastes great. spinach, beans, chicken, brussel sprouts. if there's a food you don't like, but you like curry, it works great :)

adding dried chickpeas or lentils is also really great, adding lots of nutrition for almost no $.

12-05-2010, 04:47 PM
...adding dried chickpeas or lentils is also really great, adding lots of nutrition for almost no $.

Ooh, great point. For me, using chickpeas in the curry and then serving with rice would have been too carby (I would have had a hard time controlling portions), but I could have added the chickpeas and not made the rice.

I've used peas and/or lentils in Indian curries, but never Southeast Asian ones - just because it's untraditional I suppose... but, but I don't mind thinking and cooking outside the box. It would probably freeze really well too.

01-01-2011, 04:11 PM
Arrrgh! I got all excited because we love curries, but there is no asian market here, so I looked for it on amazon, then googled it. Lots of references to and recipes for it, but couldn't find anywhere to buy. I'll try to remember to see if my daughter in Denver could find it for me.


01-01-2011, 05:14 PM
If you have a super Walmart nearby, you may find it there in there ethnic food aisle. Our local Walmart carries them, but it may be because of the large local southeast asian community.

01-02-2011, 11:41 PM
Thanks, Kaplods! The super walmart is where we usually shop. We'll be walking there on Tuesday to buy some bananas, so I'll look and see. Crossing my fingers!

01-04-2011, 04:46 PM
I love the Kitchens of India curry sauces/pastes. They also make some pretty good heat and serve meals too Patak's also makes pretty good sauces (I love the Mango Curry sauce). I believe that you can find both Patak's and Kitchens of India stuff on Amazon.

01-04-2011, 05:12 PM
Colleen, I looked at walmart today and no luck. I'll have to see if maybe my daughter in Denver can find it, or look for it next time I go to a bigger town. LOL! I'm well on my way to a bucket list for foods. I wish we had more variety here.