My favorite Thai curry is Tofu Panang curry, which is a type of red curry, but it's not as spicy. It also has some of the same spices that are featured in Indian curries, which I happen to like as well. The problem with making Thai curries at home is that so many ingredients are difficult to find in your regular supermarket. While many supermarkets to carry pre-made curry pastes, I don't like to eat all those preservatives. Tonight I challenged myself to make a Panang-inspired curry using ingredients that I can get from the local store (and, considering how caloric Thai curries tend to be, something that would be reduced in calories!). I substituted lime juice for the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, ginger for the galangal, and since this is a veg*n version, I used cashews for the shrimp paste that is so commonly featured in non-veg*n Panang curry. The cashews add body to the sauce that may be lost from not using the shrimp paste. I also used soy sauce instead of vegetarian fish sauce. This recipe is non-traditional, but if you make substitutions for the traditional ingredients I listed above, you can have the real deal.
The most important thing to keep in mind while making a Thai curry is to keep all of the flavors balanced: sweet, sour, savory, bitter. Therefore, feel free to adjust the ingredients according to your palette.
Also, while it may seem ridiculous to chop up items that are going into a blender, please do so. Otherwise, the ingredients won't blend consistently and you'll end up having to chase a few random chunks of garlic around for a while in the blender.
Oh, by the way, here is a cool fact you can say at your next cocktail party to impress people: ginger and galangal are not actually roots. They're modified stems called rhizomes which basically store nutrients for a plant underground. So, instead of saying "ginger root" you should say "ginger rhizome." There's always room to make something as geeky as possible...
Thai Tofu and Vegetable Stir-fry in Coconut-Cashew
For the curry sauce:
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cashew pieces
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
1 15-oz can lite coconut milk, well-shaken
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until liquefied. Set aside.
For the tofu and vegetables:
1 lb firm tofu, cut into 1" chunks
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
16 oz canned bamboo shoots, drained
16 oz canned water chestnuts, drained
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces on the bias (Chinese long beans may be substituted)
non-stick cooking spray
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the tofu. Cook the tofu on all sides until it is golden-brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
2. Wipe the pan clean with paper towel, re-spray with cooking spray, and add the vegetables. Cook them until the onions are translucent and the green beans are tender-crisp. Pour the curry sauce over the vegetables and add the tofu back in. Drop the heat back to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Serving suggestion: serve with cooked jasmine rice and garnish with chopped cashews and cilantro sprigs.
Servings per recipe: 6
Fat: 10.4 g
Saturated fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 197 mg
Carbohydrates: 46.1 mg
Fiber: 5.6 g
Sugar: 7.3 g
Protein: 13.4 g
Labels: bell peppers, curry, green beans, main course, stir-fry, tofu, vegan