I have learned that, though frightening, high quality fish sauce is your friend. And it's been reinforced that I should just do what I want instead of following a recipe.
I used these recipes from Thai Table becuase I like her style and she's living in America trying to make authentic food so her substitution recommendations are great. The only problem is that she doesn't make it clear that "simmer until it's reduced" means "cook the panang for another 1/2 hour after you think it's done". Some of the recipes can be made easily with available stuff but then some people live in backwaters that don't believe in having lemongrass or galangal in their stores so you'll have to order those. www.grocerythai.com will ship fresh produce (including kaffir lime leaves and fruits). They also have candies, kitchen accessories, flours and rices.
I'm amazed and awed by how well dinner turned out last night.