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I made some Thai red curry a few days ago. It turned out pretty well. The only problem is that it was fairly runny. I thickened it up with a slurry which helped a bit. I doubt a roux would have any more thickening power. I'm sure there's got to be a better way. Thanks in advance!

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This depends on the type of thai curry. Jungle Curry, for instance, thicken nicely with some rice flour. (I just grind up a bit of rice, works like a charm). – Arafangion Jan 21 '11 at 11:08
up vote 11 down vote accepted

First, start your Thai coconut curry sauce in a separate pot (i.e. the coconut milk and later the seasonings; no meat , no vegetables, etc.). Make sure to shake the can of coconut milk before opening to ensure it is not separated. Add 1/2 the can to the pot. Bring to boil, reduce temperature and allow the mixture to reduce to almost a paste like texture. This will allow the coconut flavors to intensify, and give you a thicker starting point.

The key is to reduce some of your sauce before cooking everything else; if you attempt to reduce your entire sauce with the vegetables, they will overcook because the process takes too long. Once reduced, add the other 1/2 of the coconut mixture. You end up with a very silky, smooth coconut sauce. Afterwards add your curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, Thai basil etc.

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I had to switch to this answer since it gives a lot of great detail. I'll have to try this next time. Thanks! – Michael Mior Sep 17 '10 at 13:30

When you open a can of coconut milk, it usually has separated, with the thick stuff at the top, and more watery business at the bottom. Don't shake or stir it! Start your curry with just the thick stuff, and then thin it as needed with the remainder. I would definitely not add a starch-based thickener. That isn't traditional in Thai curries and will inevitably make them a little gloopy.

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Isn't there alot of flavor in the water that has separated from the coconut? – Tree77 Sep 16 '10 at 17:43
Yes, and I'm not saying don't use it; I'm saying use just as much as you need to get the desired texture in your dish, rather than overdilute and then have to use a thickener. – Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 16 '10 at 21:36

Some things I might try:

Cornflour or Arrowroot - Normal thickening agents might help

Half and Half - Replacing half of the coconut milk with coconut cream.

Reducing it down more - this will have the bonus of concentrating the flavour even more.

Using less coconut milk overall?

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Thanks for the suggestions :) I could use less coconut milk, but I found there was about the right amount of liquid, it was just too thin. I'll give this is a shot next time! – Michael Mior Sep 15 '10 at 16:00
+1 for reducing it more, though that risks overcooking the veg-- you could turn off the heat on the main pot, use a ladle to scoop much of the sauce into a small saucepan, reduce the sauce in the small saucepan, and add it back in once it's thickened. – In the Booley House Sep 15 '10 at 16:01
I find you have to be careful with reducing coconut milk; it can take on an unpleasantly gelatinous texture. – Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 15 '10 at 16:55

I've only found this using low quality coconut milk. Trying a different brand or adding a thick coconut cream (or even coconut butter should fix it). There can be a massive difference in what you get quality wise so it's worth experimenting.

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Thanks for the tip. I don't have a lot of experience using coconut milk so that's good to know :) – Michael Mior Sep 17 '10 at 13:27
'Chef's Choice' is the best Coconut Milk brand I found so far that is itself thicker. That made my own curries as a whole thicker. – cellepo Jan 10 '15 at 23:40

I tend to use those solid blocks of dried coconut milk cream. You add warm water yourself to make a paste as thick as you like. It thickens as it cooks too so best to make it a touch runnier than you want it to end up. Unlike the tinned stuff it rarely separates.

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Great tip! I've never seen that before, but I'll have to keep an eye out next time I hit the market. – Michael Mior Mar 24 '11 at 23:03… - Recipe III involves this stuff. I & II are also good. Examples:… - British. This one:… is generally available in Chinese/Asian supermarkets worldwide. – 5arx Mar 24 '11 at 23:52

A runny curry means you haven't cooked it long enough and/or you have used coconut milk with a low percentage of solids. Authentic curries never contain any type of starch (flour).

So, buy coconut milk (or cream) with the highest percentage of solids that you can find. Next, use more paste. If you are happy with the spice level and you still need more paste you can add bell peppers to the paste. Match colours of course. This will make the paste a little more watery but it'll still work very well.

Last of all, use a better curry method to cook it.

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