Panang Curry

By Vanna Praseutsack

Panang curry is a red Thai curry thick with coconut milk and stained a warm orange-red. It’s sweet, salty and spicy, and it’s a dish that Franklin’s Sweet Basil makes particularly well. While it’s also found in many Thai restaurants, in Vanna Praseutsack’s family, it’s what has enabled them to plant roots and fulfill the goal of owning a restaurant that they’d set long ago. The dish started with a 13-year-old girl. That was the age Praseutsack was when she came to the United States from Thailand. When she and her parents arrived, they “didn’t speak a lick of English. They didn’t really know anything about America. They didn’t really know anything about anything,” says Praseutsack’s daughter, Victoria Sithy. Cooking was their solace, their keepsake. Praseutsack’s mother passed down the traditions to her daughter. It evolved from them cooking for themselves to “making these meals to get out to neighbors. That was their way of making friends in the community. So they built connections in their neighborhood on the south side of Milwaukee just by bartering food and bartering resources, and then our neighbors would bring them food, and that’s just kind of how they connected with people without words.” That exchange became a larger message of “treating everyone like family, welcoming people, building that friendship off of just food alone,” Sithy says. Now, with Sweet Basil, Praseutsack, her husband and her kids are carrying on a family legacy. And the two dishes shared here are an important part of that. They are among Praseutsack’s favorite recipes from her childhood.


The curry is “one of those recipes you can make and feed a large group, and it’s warm and comforting, and you can make it with very simple, very cheap ingredients like potatoes and vegetables from the garden,” Sithy says.


Serves 4

2 cups of coconut milk

1 4-ounce Maesri Panang Curry Paste

2 cups of water

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 potato, diced

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup sliced, fresh bamboo shoots (canned bamboo works, too, if you can’t find fresh bamboo)

1/2 cup loose, fresh basil leaves

1-2 pounds protein of choice, diced (chicken, shrimp or tofu are the most popular)

crushed Thai chili peppers for spice, to taste (optional)


Heat a saucepan on low heat. Add oil to the pan and then add the 4 ounces of Panang curry paste. Let simmer for five minutes while stirring. Add in 2 cups of coconut milk, 2 cups of water, and stir. Add in the sugar, salt and peanut butter while constantly stirring. Adding more peanut butter may also thicken the sauce to your liking. Add the diced protein into the pan and cook to temperature. Add the chopped vegetables to your curry sauce and boil to temperature. Serve over cooked jasmine rice and enjoy!


Vanna Praseutsack shares cherished family recipes from her Thai & Lao heritage in her cooking. Since arriving in 1979, Milwaukee has been her beloved home and the place where she raised four children. For over a decade, Praseutsack has infused traditional Thai & Lao dishes, passed down through generations of her family, with meticulous care. She feels privileged to bring a taste of home to the Milwaukee community through her heartwarming, homemade cuisine.

Vanna Praseutsack

Sweet Basil

Vanna Praseutsack

Sweet Basil

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