We, as a family, enjoy Thai food quite a bit. Each one of us has their favourite; the girls enjoy pad Thai, I like almost everything and Laith and Trace like the yellow curry. Of course, as a family of six, it’s impossible to go out for Thai food whenever the craving strikes. I have therefore, been trying to learn as many Thai recipes as I can master. I have been making pad Thai for a while now and just recently started dabbling in the art of making curries.
First off, I really wanted to make my own curry paste because…. well….that’s just me. I like to know how to make everything from scratch even though a perfectly good, ready-made, solution already exists. However, I was a little unsuccessful with that attempt purely because I could not acquire all the ingredients. I am all for improvisational cooking but there are some things that just need to stay true to the original; at least for the first attempt. So, I continued my search for Thai curries and pastes and came to learn that many Thai households use ready made pastes, and that they are perfectly acceptable. Some further research into recommendations and armed with a list of acceptable Thai curry pastes, I headed off to the Asian market. I did find one brand that was on my list and was delighted to discover that the curry paste was also labelled “halal,” meaning that it was suitable for Muslims. The brand of curry paste I use now and find pretty decent, is the Mae Ploy brand. They have all the different curry pastes available: green, red, yellow and panang. I was able to find it at Houston’s Hong Kong Market and here, in Broomfield, at the Pacific Ocean Market. So, I am thinking it is readily available at most Asian markets and should be easy to find. I did try Thai Kitchen’s green curry paste once but was not impressed with it at all, but maybe that was just me. I do have to mention though, while I was still in Houston, a very sweet friend of my brother’s, gave me a beautiful kaffir lime tree (kaffir leaves are a necessary ingredient in curry pastes.) However, shortly after receiving this heavenly gift, I found out we were moving to Colorado and I couldn’t bring it with me. I was heartbroken. Kaffir lime leaves are so difficult to find.
Making the curry using the ready made paste is a breeze. All you have to do is prep your ingredients and once the cooking starts, it comes together in no time at all. One thing I don’t like about the ready made curry paste, and this is true of any commercial spice mix and paste, is that it does tend to taste a little “pre-packaged.” You can remedy that by cooking out the raw flavour of the spices in some oil before adding the other ingredients. I also added a dribble of lemon juice and that seemed to freshen all the flavours up considerably.
My curry, the other day, was primarily a vegetarian one to which I added some of the leftover cooked shrimp from the Thai Salad Rolls. You can very easily make this a chicken curry by adding chunks of boneless chicken or by using raw shrimp instead of cooked. Potatoes and carrots are the traditional vegetables in a yellow curry. However, since mine was mainly a vegetarian one, I added broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms and onions. The luscious feel of the curry comes from the use of coconut milk and that also adds a tropical flavour and a richness to the whole dish. I lightened mine up a little by using some regular milk along with the coconut milk.
This makes 6 generous servings.
Thai Vegetable Curry
1 14oz/414ml can coconut milk
1 cup/236ml organic milk
1 cup/236ml water
1 tablespoon/15ml yellow curry paste*
1 small onion, medium dice
2 large potatoes, medium chunks
3 cups/540g broccoli florets
2 cups/150g mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons/45ml oil
2 teaspoons/10ml sugar (more if needed)
juice from half a small lemon
cilantro or basil to garnish
optional: shrimp or chicken
*NOTE: I used a heaping tablespoon of the curry paste and the curry was quite hot. If you want it spicy, add more. If not, just use the one tablespoon.
Heat the oil in a big pot on medium heat.
Add the onions and sauté till soft.
Add the curry paste and cook to get the raw taste out, about 5 minutes.
Add half of the coconut milk, making sure the paste dissolves.
Add the water, milk and the rest of the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
Add the potatoes and cook till almost soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(If using chicken, add along with the potatoes)
If the sauce seems like it’s thickening up too much, add a drop of water
to keep the potatoes cooking.
Once the potatoes start softening, add the mushrooms.
Once the mushrooms release their liquid and look like they are shrinking
add the broccoli (and the raw shrimp if using.)
Stir through gently and cook till the broccoli is bright green, crisp and tender.
Add the sugar and check for salt.
The curry should have a bit of sweetness to it.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.
Check again for seasoning: balance of sweet, spicy and savoury.
Garnish with chopped cilantro or basil.
Serve with some fragrant Jasmine or Basmati rice.