over 2 hours
30 mins to 1 hour
Making your own Thai red curry paste takes time, but you'll be astonished at the difference. Leftover paste will keep in the fridge for about three weeks.
If using tamarind paste, a couple of hours before you want to make the curry (or preferably the night before), place the tamarind pulp into a small bowl. Add hot or boiling water to cover (if the pulp is very dry, use boiling water). Soak the tamarind until it's very soft and pliable, for a few hours or preferably overnight.
To obtain the pulp, remove the tamarind seeds and any tough fibres with your fingers. Discard. Place the pulp into a sieve set over a bowl and press the pulp through the sieve.
For the curry paste, soak the chillies in five tablespoons of hot water for 1-2 hours. (You could also put them in a microwave oven for 2-3 minutes and then let them soak for about an hour.)
Put the soaked chillies, together with their soaking liquid, into the bowl of a food processor, along with all the remaining paste ingredients in the order listed. Blend until you have a smooth paste. You may need to add a bit more water. This recipe will make about ten tablespoons of paste, so freeze or refrigerate what you don't use.
For the curry, cut the chicken breasts crossways into 3mm/1/8in thick slices.
Heat the oil in a wide, preferably non-stick, pan set over a medium-high heat.
Carefully open the can of coconut milk without disturbing it too much. Remove four tablespoons of the thick coconut cream that will have settled at the top and place in a small bowl. Stir the remaining contents of the can well and set aside.
When the pan is hot, add the coconut cream and stir. Add the curry paste and stir again. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until the oil separates and the paste is lightly browned.
Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken, bamboo shoots, reserved coconut milk, lime leaves (or lemon zest), fish sauce, tamarind paste (or lemon juice) and the palm sugar (or brown sugar).
Stir together well and bring to a simmer. The chicken should turn white and cook through by the time the first bubbles begin to appear. Simmer on a low heat for a further minute or two.
Just before serving, sprinkle the basil leaves over the curry, stir gently and remove from the heat. Serve with jasmine rice.