This curry is cooked much longer than most because of the density of the short ribs. The longer cooking time allows the flavors to solidly marry and perfume the ingredients. The curry can be served with steamed Jasmine rice if desired, but the potatoes make it hearty enough to do without. You can substitute chicken thighs, firm tofu or lamb shanks, adjust cooking time accordingly. If for any reason you omit the fish sauce and shrimp paste, use additional salt to taste. Serves 6
1. In a large bowl toss the short ribs with 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce to coat evenly. Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. Remove 1 hour before cooking to bring up to room temperature.
2. For the curry paste, it’s best to use a food processor. Add the 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, ginger and galangal root, lemon grass, cumin, coriander, optional shrimp paste, garlic, 3 serrano peppers, 2 kaffir lime leaves, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Process until smooth and reserve until ready to use within the hour, otherwise refrigerate.
3. In a small nonstick pan heat the curry paste until it is fragrant and bubbling. Cool and add to the beef short ribs. Toss to coat evenly. Reserve.
4. Heat a Dutch oven or other deep covered pan over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the sugar and cook until sugar is caramelized and thickly bubbling. Add 3 tablespoons of fish sauce and reduce until juices are a thick syrup. Turn off heat and reserve.
5. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then the ribs. Sear the short ribs well until golden on all sides. Do not let the pan burn. If the heat is too high, reduce so the ribs evenly brown. Transfer with tongs to the onion pan. Add 1 can of coconut milk to the pan to deglaze and use a rubber spatula to scrape into the pan with the ribs and the onions. Be sure to get all the crispy bits on the bottom of the pan. They are full of flavor.
6. Add the second can of coconut milk to the ribs, as well as the reserved chili pepper and kaffir lime leaf and potatoes.
7. Add the large sprig of Thai basil and enough water to cover everything in the pot by an inch of liquid.
8. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover and place in the oven to braise for 1½ to 2 hours until the ribs meat is meltingly tender. Remove from the oven. Pull out basil sprig and kaffir leaf.
9. Squeeze 1 lime over the top. Stir well. Cut the second lime into 6 wedges to serve on the side.
10. Season to taste with additional fish sauce if the curry needs more salt. Fish sauce can also be served on the side so guests can adjust their own seasoning.
11. Spoon into bowls and top with coarsely torn cilantro, basil and mint leaves and tomatoes and nuts if desired.