Fall calls for making a transition in cooking. Going from lighter foods to more hearty and healthy meals. The barbeque gets exchanged for the oven, slow-cooker and stove top. After a long break I recently got the urge to make curries again.
There is supposedly an art to making curry, however it’s really pretty easy to make a wonderful curry from scratch. Once you follow a basic recipe you can tweak it to your own liking. A little bit more of this and a little less of that. A few years ago I made Red, Green and Yellow curry pastes – the base for all Thai curries. Then I ended up freezing them in 3 Tablespoon increments and thawing to use when the urge struck. I find 3 Tablespoons is enough for a medium spice.
Of the three, yellow is my favorite. Yellow curry paste differs from the others not only in color but also ingredients. It has ginger instead of the stronger galangal. It also has cinnamon, more coriander, turmeric and curry powder. When the dish is served, it is not garnished with kaffir lime leaves but with crispy fried shallots (optional). You can also use parsley or cilantro.
This paste is enough for about 4 dishes (depending on how much heat you can handle – more is more) of beef, chicken, fish or veggies. This recipe comes courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bangkok – tweaked by me of course.
7 dried hot red chilies (long ones of the cayenne variety). You can find them everywhere now.
1 cup chopped shallots
1 Tablespoon *fresh lemongrass that has been thinly sliced, crosswise.
10 small or 5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
½ teaspoon ground Cumin
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground Turmeric
Original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon shrimp paste (or 3 anchovies from a can, chopped). I omitted this because I couldn’t stand the smell. It was still excellent nonetheless.
Soak the chilies in 5 Tablespoons of hot water for 1 to 2 hours (or; if pressed for time, put in the microwave for 2 minutes and then let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes).
Combine chilies together with their soaking liquid, into a food processor or a blender along with all remaining ingredients in the order listed above. Blend, pushing down with a rubber spatula as many times as necessary, until you have a smooth paste.
What you do not use immediately should be refrigerated or frozen and labeled.
For the Main Course:
14-once can coconut milk, left undisturbed for at least 3 hours.
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
3-5 Tablespoons (remember – 3 is medium heat) of curry paste
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon thick Tamarind paste
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
Carefully open the can of coconut milk, without disturbing it too much and remove 4 Tablespoons of the thick cream that will have accumulated at the top. Stir the remaining contents of the can well and set aside.
Pour the oil into a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the coconut cream and the curry paste. Stir and fry until the oil separates and the paste is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to low. Add the fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, the reserved coconut milk, and 2 Tablespoons of water. Stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste for balance of flavors, adding more fish sauce, sugar, or tamarind paste if needed.
Add your already cooked chicken, beef or **vegetables to the pan and gently heat through for 2-3 minutes.
Garnish with the crispy fried shallots and torn up basil leaves. You can add chopped cashews too.
*To make it easier a lot of Asians now suggest using frozen lemongrass (Yes; it’s perfectly fine). You buy it in a chunk and break off only what you need.
**For this recipe I used extra-firm tofu which I first sautéed on its own. I crisped up shallots in another frypan. The veggies were first oven roasted and then added to the pan at the end along with the tofu. Served over jasmine rice, it was superb.
***I buy cumin and coriander seeds and coarsely chop them in a coffee grinder.
If you make it let me know what you think. I know it’s a lot of chopping, etc. but totally worth the while. I’m telling you It will taste better than any store bought version on the market.