Love and Olive Oil

Thai Red Duck Curry

Red Thai Duck Curry

A long, long time ago in a place far, far away (a.k.a. back when we were in college), there was a Thai restaurant that we loved. Nestled in the corner of a strip mall next to a Ross and a JoAnn fabrics, it wasn’t exactly prime real estate. But that restaurant served some of the best Pad Thai I’d ever had.

And Taylor’s favorite, the red duck curry.

There was one evening in particular, Taylor decided to venture into HOT territory instead of his usual MEDIUM. The poor boy was sweating so badly after a few bites that he had to, as he puts it, go to the bathroom multiple times to squeegee himself off.

That still didn’t stop him from slurping the bowl dry.

It’s been six years since we moved and he still brings up that darn curry on a regular basis. We have yet to find anything comparable here in Nashville.

Red Thai Duck Curry

A few weeks ago we tried a recipe for Chicken Khao Soi, a thai-inspired soup that graced the cover of Bon Appetit. The homemade curry paste contained some interesting ingredients, including cilantro stems and dried New Mexico chiles. I’d never made from-scratch red curry paste before (the jarred version is a regular resident in our fridge), but the ingredients in this version were much more approachable than other recipes I’ve seen. This particular homemade curry paste has a richness and a complexity about it that blows the jarred stuff out of the water; in fact, we may never be able to go back. It’s that good.

While the elements of the soup itself were different (noodles vs rice, chicken and not duck), the broth had the same incredible depth of flavor as the soup Taylor so vividly remembered. After a few bites he knew we had something special.

After scouring the internet, we managed to find a blurry and barely legible screenshot of Cocodine’s menu, which told us that the curry-of-yore had cherry tomatoes, pineapple, and bamboo shoots along with the roasted duck. Wait, pineapple? Indeed. And don’t you skip it because it’s part of what makes this curry so fantastic.

This coming from a self-declared pineapple skeptic, so you’d better believe it.

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Thai Red Duck Curry

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For Curry Paste:
4 large dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded
1 to 2 dried Thai red chiles or other hot chile (optional, to taste)
2 medium shallots, halved
8 garlic cloves
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons red curry powder

For Soup:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds duck legs (about 4) or duck breasts (substitute chicken if desired)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or more to taste)
1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar (or to taste)
1 cup pineapple chunks, from about 1/4 fresh pineapple
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

bamboo shoots (optional)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
small handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
cilantro sprigs (optional)
bean sprouts (optional)
Lime wedges
Jasmine rice, for serving


Place chiles in a small heatproof dish. Cover with boiling water; let soak until softened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid.

In a food processor, purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 tablespoons of the chile soaking liquid. Add more liquid, a tablespoon at a time as needed, and pulse until mixture forms a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add chile mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add duck. Reduce heat and simmer until duck is tender and mostly cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer duck to a plate. Let cool slightly, then discard any skin and bones and shred remaining meat.

Return soup to heat. Add back shredded duck, along with the pineapple, tomato, and bell pepper; simmer for 10 minutes or until tomatoes are softened and peppers are tender. Stir in soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar, adding more to taste as needed. Divide soup among bowls and top with onion, herbs, bean sprouts, and lime wedges as desired. Serve with a generous portion of rice.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

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  1. We made this the other night with some duck my husband shot and oh my goodness it was so delicious! The hardest part of the paste was getting the peppers and now that we have a big bag of each I can see us making this often! After adding all the toppings and using our own paste it was a beautiful, impressive (and not difficult) dinner.

    We fed six adults with this recipe (and some side dishes) and still had some leftover. Next time I’m for sure adding more fish sauce and red chilies (we were a little conservative because of our company) and maybe only add 1 cup of broth as we wished it were a little less soupy. And maybe make the paste the night before to let the flavors marry? Can you tell I’m already planning the next time we make this?! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  2. What a gorgeous recipe! My husband also happens to always order the duck curry. Can’t wait to try this.

  3. I love curry! I am so intrigued with pineapple in it. Pinning this for later!!

  4. Oh wow, I love duck :) this looks so warm, inviting, and delicious!

  5. Wow…another stunning photo and spectacular recipe! LOVE Thai food and curry! I pinned this one on our Pinterest as well so I can come back and make it when I an less crazed (hopefully that’ll happen in the near century!).

    Separately, I had to chuckle…as I was looking down your page, there were several ads for Laura Werlin’s 2 cookbook Grilled Cheese Please! and Great Grilled Cheese (via Amazon). I just added both books onto Delicious Karma (a site I run that sells all-natural artisanal and gourmet foods and we also have some cookbooks). Funny!

  6. I love thai food in general, but you’re right, duck curry is awesome.

  7. I’m totally in love with your blog! You take the prettiest pictures :-)

  8. Red curry is one of my favorite things to eat. I always eat it in restaurants…have never made it, but you make it look so easy. Lovely.

  9. I LOVE curry, and this one looks exceptional! I’ve got to try this soon, yum!

  10. I adore red duck curry! I’m going to have to make this very, very soon. Thanks for posting this!

  11. You’re right — that curry paste doesn’t look as intimidating as I would have imagined! I should give it a try sometime soon. A few extra steps are often worth it!
    -Emily K.

  12. Wow. I’ve never done a duck curry. Fabulous!

  13. Yummm this looks great! I can’t wait to try it. I made the Chicken Khao Soi from Bon Appetit and we loved it.

  14. Wow the flavors are no doubt bold and beautiful here with the homemade curry! And love the squigee off comment :) I can imagine this was a wee bit spicy! Beautiful colors!

  15. What a gorgeous, colorful curry! It looks so scrumptious, Lindsay. My husband (a big curry fan) would love this!

  16. Yum, this looks sooo good! We l

  17. This looks so wonderful. I’m really into Thai curries at the moment, and often make a duck and pineapple version. I want to try yours though as you’ve convinced me it’s fabulous!

  18. I always think Thai locations are in the weirdest spot. I also think the weirder the spot the better the food.

  19. I typically used a store bought curry paste. Thanks for providing a homemade option! I’m definitely giving this a try.

  20. Well apparently you used to go to college where I live (and also went to school). Go Wildcats! And the duck curry at Cocodine’s is my fav item on the menu believe it or not. Small world, so weird. Can’t wait to try this recipe out!

  21. curries are amazing and this one looks like such a treat! I’ll have to tackle this :)

  22. my fear of cooking Thai at home has been confirmed in this post – soooo many ingredients!!! But I’ve gotta say the results do look amazing, maybe the extra effort is worth it :)

    gorgeous pics!

  23. I love Thai curries and lucky enough to live close to an awesome place. I had a red curry last week and usually flip flop between that and the emerald green curry, both made extra spicy for me :)

  24. Whoa, duck is new to me, but I love curry!! What an awesome recipe!

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