Have 45 Minutes? That’s All You Need for This Yellow Curry and Beef Recipe

A recipe for quick yellow curry with beef, excerpted from the cookbook Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant

For years I thought of beef curry as a dish that required simmering chunks of stew beef for hours until tender. But for a weeknight, I wondered if there was a way to do it quickly and without a pressure cooker. Then I remembered my days working at a quick-service Thai restaurant, where we churned out pots of fork-tender beef curry in 45 minutes. The secret was using thinly sliced beef and choosing a flavorful but not-too-tough cut so it would not take a long time to tenderize. The restaurant used flank, which was great but a little lean for my liking. I found chuck top blade to be the perfect choice in terms of flavor and fat content, and it only takes about 20 minutes of simmering to become fork-tender.

Quick Yellow Curry with Beef

Gaeng Garee Neua | แกงกะหรี่เนื้อ

Serves 4
Cooking Time: 45 minutes


Yellow curry paste

  • 0.7 ounce (20 g) mild dried red chilies, cut in ½-inch (1.2 cm) chunks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) coriander seeds, toasted 1½ teaspoons (7 ml) cumin seeds, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) white peppercorns 1 teaspoon (5 ml) table salt
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom half only, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) chopped galangal
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) chopped turmeric, or ½ teaspoon (2 ml) ground turmeric
  • 6 cloves (30 g) garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup (70 g) chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) fermented shrimp paste (optional)

Curry and beef

  • 1½ pounds (675 g) chuck top blade steak (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) table salt
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons (75 to 90 ml) yellow curry paste, store-bought or homemade, divided
  • 2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk, divided
  • 1½ tablespoons (18 g) finely chopped palm sugar, packed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) fish sauce 1 tablespoon (15 ml) tamarind paste, store-bought (optional)
  • 10.5 ounces (300 g) waxy potatoes, such as new or red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • ½ medium (120 g) yellow onion, julienned
  • ¾ cup (100 g) halved cherry tomatoes Jasmine rice, for serving


For the curry paste

Using a coffee grinder, grind the dried chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and salt into a fine powder.

If using a heavy-duty mortar and pestle, add the lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and fresh turmeric, and pound into a fine paste. Add the garlic and shallots, and pound into a fine paste. Add the ground chili mixture and pound until well combined. Add the curry powder, ground turmeric, and shrimp paste; pound to mix.

If using an immersion blender, place the lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and turmeric in a narrow container, such as a glass measuring cup.

Then top it off with the garlic, shallots, and shrimp paste (it is easier to blend with the moister ingredients on top). Use the immersion blender to blend everything until fine. You will need to lift and reposition the blender several times, stopping to scrape the bottom and bringing it to the top halfway through. Once the mixture is fine, add the ground chili mixture, curry powder, and ground turmeric, and blend to mix.

Use right away, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or divide into two portions and freeze for up to a few months.

For the curry with beef

Slice the steak into 1/8-inch (3 mm) pieces, removing any silver skin on the exterior (the little strip of connective tissue running through the middle of the steak is fine to leave).

Place the beef in a medium pot and add just enough water to sub- merge it. Add the salt and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) curry paste and stir to mix; bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until fork-tender. The timing will vary if you use a different cut of meat. Skim off any scum that floats to the top.

While the beef cooks, make the curry sauce. In a medium pot, bring ¾ cup (185 ml) coconut milk to a boil over medium-high heat, then add the remaining curry paste and stir to mix well. Turn the heat down to medium and stir frequently until the mixture is very thick and the coconut oil separates from the paste, about 5 minutes (the oil may not separate depending on the coconut milk you’re using; this is okay).

Add the remaining coconut milk, sugar, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fish sauce, and the tamarind paste to the curry. Stir to mix, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the potatoes and onions, and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat while you wait for the beef to be done; the potatoes should not be fully cooked at this point.

Once the beef is tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer only the beef into the curry. Then add only as much of the beef cooking liquid as needed to keep everything barely submerged. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce, tamarind, or sugar as needed.

Turn the heat to medium and simmer the curry for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Stir in the tomatoes, turn off the heat, and allow the tomatoes to soften in the residual heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with jasmine rice.

Cooking Beef Out of the Curry: Why not just simmer the beef in the curry itself, you ask? The technique used in this recipe is one that’s commonly used in Thai cuisine when cooking with beef, for a couple of reasons. When you simmer the beef, you will notice a lot of brown scum in and on top of the liquid, which would discolor the otherwise beautiful curry sauce. As well, many Thai people don’t like the strong beef flavor that would be in the curry if it were all cooked together, especially because beef in Thailand can be quite gamey. And, in our weeknight-friendly case, it also saves time so that we can make the rest of the sauce while the beef is doing its thing.

Do-ahead: The whole curry can be made up to 3 days in advance and reheated. If reheating, be sure to not overcook the potatoes—or add them when serving.

Notes: If you can’t find chuck top blade, you can choose other cuts of beef that are flavorful but not too tough. Most inexpensive steaks sold for marinating and grilling fit this bill, and if possible, choose one that is not too lean. If you have time to cook, you can choose any stewing beef and increase the cooking time accordingly.

If you don’t have tamarind paste, no need to buy or make it just for this recipe. We just need a little bit of acid to brighten up the sauce, so a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce or a squeeze of lime at the end will also do.

Sabai Cover

Excerpted from Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant. Copyright © 2023 Pailin Chongchitnant. Photographs by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Next: A Simple Recipe for Old-School Pad Gaprao

Originally Published in Best Health Canada