1/2 can good-quality coconut milk
2 tbsp. fresh lemongrass, finely chopped (can also be purchased frozen at Asian food stores)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger)
1 to 3 red chilies, depending on how hot you like your curry (de-seeded if less heat is desired), or 1/3 to 3/4 tsp. dry chili flakes
3/4 tbsp. tamarind paste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 heaping tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. shrimp paste (available by the jar at Asian food stores), or add 1 tbsp. more fish sauce
1 lb. chicken pieces
2 whole star anise (available at Asian food stores), optional
Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, optional
Place all sauce ingredients in a food processor. Process well to form a thick curry paste. If you don’t have a food processor, simply chop onion and herbs finely and combine with the coconut milk, spices, and other ingredients. These herbs and spices can also be ground together with a pestle and mortar.
Do a taste test for salt and spice, adding more fish sauce if not salty enough. If not spicy enough, add more fresh chili or chili sauce. If too sour, add a little more brown sugar.
Place sauce in a wok or pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces plus the whole star anise, if using, and stir well. Continue stirring occasionally as you bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer. Do not cover, as you want the sauce to reduce and become thicker.
Allow the curry to simmer, stirring occasionally, for up to 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked and tender. The sauce will reduce so that it is almost like a coating on the meat (plus there will be a little sauce leftover in the pan).
Serve directly from the wok with any extra sauce poured over. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, if desired. Serve with Thai jasmine-scented rice or easy Thai coconut rice. This dish can also be served with flat bread.