Thick canned coconut milk tames the fire in this curry. The brand I buy (Chao Koh) develops a thick, creamy layer on top if you don’t shake the can before opening it.
Yields 32 to 40 meatballs.
Thai curry paste
Asian fish sauce
/2 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. coarse salt
/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Lb. ground beef, medium lean (80 or 85%)
Tbs. vegetable oil; more if necessary
Cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Tbs. red curry paste (I like Krung Gaeng Ped brand); more to taste
Cup canned coconut milk (refrigerate the can, don’t shake it, and use the thick cream at the top)
Tbs. chunky peanut butter
Tsp. fish sauce (nam pla) or to taste
-1/2 Tbs. sugar or to taste
Tsp. chopped fresh mint or basil leaves for garnish
Put the flour on a plate. Put the beef in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and mix well. Shape the beef into small, firm balls about 1 inch in diameter; you’ll get 32 to 40. Roll the meatballs in the flour, dusting off the excess.
Line a plate with paper towels. In a wok or frying pan, heat the oil on high until it’s hot. Fry the garlic until browned, about 1 minute; remove and set aside. Add the meatballs and sear them on high heat, stirring and tilting the pan, until they’re browned evenly and cooked through, about 5 minutes; do this in batches, if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to the paper towel-lined plate to drain.
If no oil remains in the pan, add 2 tsp. and fry the red curry paste so it releases its aromas, about 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Add the reserved garlic and the solidified coconut milk and then stir in the peanut butter. Cook and stir to get a smooth, uniform consistency, about 1 minute. Taste and add fish sauce, sugar, or more curry paste to taste; the sauce shouldn’t be too sweet.
Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and simmer over low heat until they’re hot, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the mint or basil sprinkled on top.