One of the most delicious things I’ve had since eating gf/vegan is Thai curry. I seriously have no idea why I didn’t think I’d like it before. I mean, yeah, I don’t like coconut, but apparently now I do. Tastes change! And sometimes for the better.
Every year I volunteer as a chef’s helper for a local organization’s yearly auction/fund raiser. They get a bunch of local chefs (and wineries) to cook – each have their own tables, giving samples to the attendees. A handful of volunteers help out with cooking, serving, cleaning, etc. I had the pleasure of working with a lovely Thai lady who caters, teaches, and leads guided trips to Thailand. She had taught me a lot about cooking of her region, and let me take home her family recipes. One of them was her aunt’s recipe for Phuket red curry paste. I’ve modified it slightly, but overall, it remains authentic.
- 3 California chili pods, cut and soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
- 20 Thai red dried chilies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
- 4 fresh Thai red chilies, rough chop
- 10 cloves garlic
- 2 t turmeric
- 1″ piece of ginger, grated or beaten
- 1/2 T black pepper
- 1 C minced lemongrass (about 2-3 stalks)
- 1/2 t salt
- 2 large shallots
Place all ingredients in a mortar, and pound with the pestle for about 30 minutes. If you don’t have the patience, you can place everything in the food processor and puree until smooth, adding about 2-4 T oil to help smooth it out (to take the place of the natural oils released during the pounding with the pestle). Use as you would any other curry paste, perhaps in the curry recipe I’m about to write up next….
- 1/4 small white cabbage, chopped
- 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
- 1/2 zucchini, cut into half-moons
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
- 4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 C sliced bamboo shoots
- 3-4 T red curry paste
- 2 T sugar (palm sugar works well here)
- 1 can coconut milk (full fat or reduced fat, your choice; the full fat is obviously more creamy)
- 1 package firm tofu
- Thai basil for garnish
For the tofu, dry the block and cut into 12 pieces. In a nonstick skillet, heat about 1 T oil, and fan out the tofu pieces, so they do not touch. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 10 minutes on med/med-hi heat. It will sputter a lot. Gently lift the cover off, and flip the tofu. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. Then remove the cover to finish cooking and get to the desired level of toastedness. Remove the tofu to a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
In the same skillet, heat a touch more oil (perhaps coconut oil, if you’re so inclined) and throw in the first 5 items. Cook until softened and starting to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add in the curry paste and let cook another 5 minutes, to bring out the flavors and start to toast the chilies. Finally, add the bamboo shoots, sugar, and the coconut milk, stir to combine, and heat through (to dissolve the sugar). Don’t bring to a boil. Toss in the tofu, and serve over rice, garnishing with the basil.
There are a lot of different ways to make curry – some say, separate the fat from the water of the coconut milk and use some of the fat to cook the vegetables in, then add the water, and additional cream to get to whatever consistency… But I didn’t find this made that much of a difference in final flavor and just added more complexity to the steps. So I do this just the basic, easier way. I’m still looking for the *perfect* curry recipe, and will share once I find it, but this one is darn close!