SPICY MINT CURRY
1/2 cup dried red chile peppers, stems and seeds removed
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups grated fresh coconut
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup peanut oil, divided
1/3 cup sliced almonds
5 stalks lemon grass, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
5 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger root
3 (1 1/2-in) pieces fresh turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped
Water, as needed
3 tablespoons whole star anise pods
2 (2-in) sticks cinnamon
2 tbsp whole cloves
2 tbsp whole cardamom pods
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, stems reserved
1/2 cup water
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed
2 tsp kosher salt
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
1 lime, juiced
Pinch of kosher salt to taste
Soak dried chilies in a bowl with 1/2 cup boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
Toast coconut in a heavy pan on low heat until dark golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Toast coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in the pan until aromatic, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Puree 2 tablespoons peanut oil, toasted coconut, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a blender or food processor. Mix in chilies, almonds, lemon grass, garlic, shallots, ginger, and turmeric; blend to form a smooth curry paste. Add 2 tablespoons water if needed to create a smoother paste.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil in the skillet and stir in star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, and mint stems; stir and toast on medium-low heat until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Discard spices and retain oil in the pan.
Heat curry paste in the same skillet with the flavored oil over medium heat until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water, chicken, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt; cook and stir until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes.
Stir in coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and the sauce is thick, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in reserved chopped mint leaves and lime juice. Season with kosher salt to taste. Cook until the mint begins to wilt, 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and let the curry rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.