Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Thai curries can be a lifesaver on busy days. Or at the very least a timesaver. I usually have jars of homemade Thai curry pastes -- red and green -- sitting around in my freezer, and I pull one out for those nights when I don't have much time to fuss around with a fancy recipe, but want something extraordinarily delicious anyway.
If you invest some time in making the paste and freezing it beforehand, it takes just moments to chop up some veggies, pull out a can of coconut milk, and whip up a lipsmacking curry that makes for a very special meal when served with nothing more than simple boiled rice.
While it's easy enough to just buy the curry paste from any Asian grocery store (it keeps forever in the refrigerator), I make my own for two reasons: I like making things from scratch, and-- importantly-- most store-bought versions are not vegetarian.
The paste recipe does require some special ingredients from the Asian store: lemon grass, for instance, and galangal, a ginger-like rhizome with a unique flavor. You can substitute this with ginger, at a pinch. Once you have assembled the ingredients, you will have enough paste to make the curry many times over.
I substitute the shrimp paste that's usually found in Thai green curry paste recipes with some Worcestershire sauce (make sure you get the vegan kind because there are non-vegetarian versions out there) or just Tamari, as I did this time. If removing the shrimp paste makes a difference, I haven't noticed it.
I made this Thai-style curry for Harini or Sunshinemom's Food in Colors: Green event. True to its name, the curry has a lovely, pale-green hue complemented by the dark green basil and the zucchini.
So here you go, first with the paste and then with the curry. Enjoy!
Thai Green Curry Paste
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
3 stalks of lemon grass. Discard the tough outer leaves and use the lower part of the stalks. Chop.
1-inch piece of galangal, grated (can substitute with ginger)
Zest of one lime
4-5 hot green chillies, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
20-25 peppercorns, powdered
1 tsp coriander seeds, powdered
5-6 cloves, powdered
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
Grind all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. If needed, add some more oil. Put in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in refrigerator or in the freezer, if you intend to hold on to it for a while.
Thai-style Green Curry
3 yellow potatoes, diced and then boiled until just tender (you can leave out the potatoes and use any mix of vegetables in the curry including green beans, bell peppers, carrots...)
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, sliced finely
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 small hot green chilies, finely minced
1 package silken extra firm tofu, cut into 1/3 inch cubes (make sure you get the SILKEN extra firm -- I used Nasoya brand--because the texture makes all the difference. Soft or even firm tofu won't hold their shape in the curry and regular extra firm tofu is too textured for my liking. The silken extra firm tofu also does a great job of sucking in the wonderful flavors of this curry.)
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
2-3 heaping tbsp green curry paste (recipe above)
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
8-10 basil leaves, rolled up and cut into ribbons
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and stir for a few minutes until translucent but not brown.
Add the ginger and green chillies and stir for a minute.
Add the green curry paste and fry, stirring constantly, until the paste becomes fragrant and begins to express the oil.
Add the potatoes and stir for a few seconds
Add the zucchini and stir again until the vegetable starts to tenderize
Add half the coconut milk and salt to taste. Let the curry simmer on low heat until the zucchini is just tender with a slight bite.
Add the remaining coconut milk, tofu, sugar and salt and just warm through before turning off the heat.
Add the basil and stir in.
Serve hot with plain boiled rice. A squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice tastes great with this.
Here's a recipe for Thai Red Curry Paste, and more Thai-inspired recipes.