Penang Beef Curry

With chopped lime leaves, Thai basil, and cilantro often used as garnish, Penang curry is commonly prepared with chicken or beef and accompanied by a bowl of sticky rice, highlighting its versatility to taste preferences. Though this specific curry is not as well known as Thai red, yellow, or green curries, it deserves just as much love for its aromatic and punchy flavors. This Thai-inspired Penang curry recipe created by Bank Atcharawan uses hanger steak that is braised in an aromatic chicken broth until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender before simmering in a well-spiced coconut curry sauce and served with rice.  Slideshows:  Curry Recipes 

Penang Beef Curry
Photo: © Con Poulos
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
4 to 6

Penang curry, also commonly referred to as phanaeng or panang, is a Thai curry named for the Malaysian island of Penang. According to its earliest records, this dish dates back to 1890, where it was known and referred to as phananeng. As the name suggests, this curry originates from Malaysia, a nation to the north of Thailand. With flavors from Myanmar and India combined with indigenous Thai ingredients, it's become a national favorite. It gained popularity in Thailand's central region as merchants and migrants moved around for work, exchanging culinary customs and ingredients. Nowadays, it is easy to find Penang curry in street markets throughout Thailand and restaurants all over the world — typically accompanied by a nice heaping bowl of sticky rice.

Despite being a variation of Thai red curry, Penang is considered to be a completely different dish. Though the two curry pastes have a lot of the same ingredients such as red chiles, lemongrass, and cumin in common, there are differences in their tastes and preparation. Red curry is referred to as the most versatile of the curries because its foundational ingredients lend themselves well to adaptation and alteration. Penang curry has more coconut milk and has fewer chiles, so is creamier, sweeter, and milder than its red counterpart. That being said, if you are looking to boost some of the spice in your Penang, simply add more curry paste. It is, of course, the same paste that gives Penang curry its distinctive flavor — a robust, vibrant blend of red chiles, lime, galangal, garlic, shallots, cumin, kapi (shrimp paste), which can be purchased at Asian various grocers (the Maesri curry paste is one of the best).


Braised Beef

  • 1 piece fresh ginger (2 inches peeled and thinly sliced)

  • 5 sprigs cilantro

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves

  • 1 star anise pod

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 ¾ teaspoon tablespoon black soy sauce ((see Note) or soy sauce with 1/4 molasses)

  • 2 teaspoons crushed rock sugar or turbinado sugar

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 pounds hanger steak (cut into 1-inch cubes)

Penang Curry

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 ½ tablespoons Penang or red curry paste (see Note)

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

  • 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice (freshly squeezed)

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • Kosher salt

  • Cilantro leaves (for garnish)

  • Steamed rice and lime wedges (for serving)


prepare the braised beef

  1. Wrap the ginger, cilantro stems, garlic, peppercorns, cloves and star anise in a cheesecloth bundle and tie with kitchen string. In a large saucepan, combine 3 quarts of water with the spice bundle, both soy sauces, rock sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the steak cubes and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Discard the spice bundle and reserve the spiced broth for another use.

meanwhile, make the curry

  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the curry paste and fry over moderately high heat, stirring, until the paste is fragrant and the oil is bright red, about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and bring just to a simmer.

  2. Add the steak cubes to the curry sauce and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Ladle the beef curry into bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed rice and lime wedges.

Make Ahead

The beef curry can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently before serving.


Black soy sauce and Penang curry paste are available at Asian markets or online at

Suggested Pairing

The spicy and fragrant Penang curry paste pairs well with a steely, citrusy Australian Riesling.

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