Sunday, November 15, 2009

Red curry (gaeng daeng)

Coconut curry is one of those dishes that give the impression of being a lot harder to make than they really are. It's a really pretty meal, full of warm, fragrant, complex flavours, that comes together in about 15 minutes. This recipe is based on one in Chat Mingkwan's Buddha's Table. The author rather charmingly remarks in his introduction that "This dish is the most often cooked curry in the Thai household…[red curry paste] pairs well with nearly all ingredients, especially any vegetables that grow near the house or those that have been left in the refrigerator." In northern Canada in mid-November there aren't many vegetables growing anywhere nearby, but there had been some left in my refrigerator…. Buddha's Table gives instructions on how to make your own red curry paste; however, I used Thai Kitchen brand because I was in a rush and anyway didn't have the proper ingredients (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, etc.) on hand.

The secret to this dish is, surprisingly, broth powder, which is also what makes this recipe different from some of the other vegetarian coconut curry recipes I've seen, which get a lot of their salty flavour from soy sauce. Soy sauce tastes great, but it spoils the lovely red-and-white colour of the curry and turns it a muddy and not very appetizing pink.

I followed Chat Mingkwan's recommendation and used yuba for the protein element, but tofu of any kind, either fresh or lightly fried, is also great in this dish. If you're going to fry tofu, do that first, remove the fried tofu cubes from the pot, and keep them aside until the sauce and vegetables are nearly ready. Fresh tofu gets added right at the end. Yuba, however, needs to be in there almost from the beginning, so if you're using it, before you do anything else you need to put the yuba sticks into warm water to soak; they'll need about 20-30 minutes.

Gaeng daeng (Thai red curry)
adapted from Buddha's Table
serves 2

1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 cups reconstituted yuba, chopped into bite-sized pieces, or fresh or lightly fried tofu cubes
1 cup chopped bamboo shoots
1/2 chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 can (approximately 1 1/2 cups) coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder, or 1/2 cube (or to taste; I used a little more)
1 cup broccoli florets
a few small sweet pepper cubes and/or sliced green onions and/or chopped peanuts for garnish

Heat the peanut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. Add the yuba, bamboo shoots, red pepper, and cauliflower, and stir to mix well with the curry paste.

Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, and vegetable bouillon powder. Reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. Add the broccoli florets, lime juice, and lime zest (and the tofu, if using) and cook until heated through. Taste for salt and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately over rice or noodles.

What else have I been doing while I wasn't blogging? Well, I have been cooking, but kind of non-blog-worthy meals, either because they weren't all that photogenic (when I get a good image of the chile-chocolate mole from Veganomicon, I'll let you know), or I'd made them before (vegetable stew), or I haven't had time to post the recipe (yet).

One thing I did make that deserves a mention, if not a picture, was the Iraqi beet stew with meatballs from Lazy Smurf's Guide to Life. Go check it out; the images are gorgeous, the recipe's great, and the dish is very spicy, which is not something I would normally associate with beets. I let my beet sauce reduce too much so I didn't get that amazing-pool-of-purple effect. I also was lazier than the Lazy Smurf and didn't wrap my meatballs individually in tinfoil; instead, I rolled the dough into sausages, steamed them, and sliced them thick. This recipe makes a lot, and unless you're serving a big crowd or really, really like beets, you might want to take that under advisement.


  1. Glad to see your Blog active again. Both my sister and my son, John, have been expressing their concern about you, as they have seen nothing on your Blog for several days! Anyway, the post today looks delicious and very colorful.
    Maybe you can Blog the salad you are making for my dinner tonight!?

  2. This just exudes yummy Thai flavor.

    I've never heard of yuba before; I must do some investigating.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  3. The curry looks and sounds delicious. I love Thai curries and have also been wanting to try yuba for some time now...looks like I'll be adding this to my to-cook list!