[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

When it comes to convenient pantry staples to have on hand for a quick meal, a can of good Thai curry paste ranks up there with bacon and kimchi. (That's especially true if you can find the Mae Ploy brand). Grab a can of coconut milk and whatever happens to be in the fridge, and twenty minutes later you have a stunningly spicy dinner waiting for you. Of course, while a mix-and-match approach works fine, it helps to have a general plan.

A few months ago, I experimented with green curry paste and lake trout. This time, I wanted to see what I could do with a can of red curry paste. In particular, I wanted to highlight some vegetables, so I went with zucchini, carrots, and loads of green peas. To help bulk things out, I also added in some shrimp.

Even though the ingredients may have changed, much of the technique is the same. The paste is sautéed with the thick cream of the coconut milk, and then the vegetables are coated in the mixture before the rest of the coconut milk is added in. While extremely flavorful, the curry doesn't really pop until it gets that requisite hit of funk, sweetness, and acidity from fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice. While basil is always a great herb to add (especially Thai basil), I went with a mix of cilantro and mint here, which lent a fresh profile to each bite.

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Red Curry with Shrimp, Zucchini, and Carrot »

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is the editor of Serious Eats: Chicago. He loves tacos and spicy food. You can follow him as @nickdk on Twitter.

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