If you are new to Thai cuisine or have just never tried cooking it yourself, it can seem a little intimidating with the exotic ingredients and flavor combinations. To me, I think it’s actually quite simple and just like cooking anything else, in some ways even easier, so don’t be afraid! Curry is a classic in most Asian cultures, and Thai curry is very spicy, sweet and aromatic. You will fall in love! It’s also heavy enough for winter, but not so much that you can’t enjoy it during warmer seasons as well. The recipe I provided here is one of the easiest I know thanks to the magic of ready-made curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen).
Thai Red Coconut Curry
1 14 oz package tofu drained and sliced into triangles*
1-2 tbsp red curry paste
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup chopped spinach
1 chopped avocado
1 red bell pepper seeded and sliced into strips
2 carrots peeled and sliced
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lime
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp blue agave syrup* or brown sugar (to taste)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro for topping
*Note: How to cut tofu into triangles: once drained, slice the block length-wise 3 times then in half width-wise. Then cut each half diagonally so you get 12 triangles altogether. Feel free to make smaller if desired.
Whisk the red curry paste, lime, turmeric, agave or brown sugar, coconut milk and cornstarch together in a bowl then set aside. Heat the oil in large skillet or wok then add tofu and cook until slightly browned. Add all the vegetables except for the avocado and cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Add the coconut curry sauce and bring it all to a boil, then add the avocado and simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Serve sprinkled with the cilantro over brown rice. Sooo good!
You can also serve with lime wedges for an extra squirt of citrus, or over Asian-style noodles. A light salad with ginger dressing is a great starter with this as well. You can also get creative with the veggies, adding or subtracting things to your liking. Some other good additions are zucchini, bamboo shoots, bok choy and eggplant. You can also make it with meat or fish just the same as you did with the tofu, just add chunks of chicken, shrimp or white fish like tilapia.
I’ve never tried making my own curry paste, although I am sure it makes a HUGE difference taste-wise as making things fresh is always rewarding to your taste buds. If you are brave enough to try it and have a local Asian market near you that carries items like lemongrass and fish sauce (soy sauce can be substituted and keeps it in the “meat-free” realm), here’s a link from about.com.
Aside from tasting totally orgasmic (yes, I went there), the turmeric found in most curries is a leading anti-inflammatory and also helps to clean the liver. With the addition of coconut milk, you also get the added benefits of a boost to your immune system due its anti-bacterial properties. The blue agave syrup (that was also a suggested ingredient in my last post’s recipe) that can be used in place of brown sugar if available is a plant-derived sweetener from Mexico and is thought to be better for you than regular sugar, although there is a still a lot of controversy surrounding it (including the most likely possibility that all the “controversy” is merely coming from the sugar industry trying to drum up some trouble against their competition). It is about 25% sweeter than sugar, so use it accordingly in place of sugar, and is also anti-bacterial like the coconut milk and very good for the colon.
Curry is something that can be tricky at first, but then great to experiment with the balance of seasoning once you get the hang of it.
When it comes to kids, though, curry may not be to their liking unless you make it pretty mild. Then they may enjoy it, especially kids 5 and up I would think. I haven't experimented with it for Lily yet, but she does have a taste for garlic and hummus, meaning, she's not completely shy to stronger-tasting foods. Like I've said before, it really comes down to what your typical diet is and knowing what your child already likes and dislikes. The fresh vegetables paired with rice or noodles and a little sauce are healthy enough. For toddlers, I'd suggest:
1/4-1/2 cup of whatever chopped veggies you use for the curry, steamed
1/4-1/2 cup rice or noodles
Top with soy sauce or sesame oil if desired.
Easy-peasy, right? (I can't believe I just typed"easy-peasy").
3 tbsp pureed carrots or spinach
Mix with breastmilk or formula and some rice cereal.
Kŏr hâi jà-rern aa-hăan! (Thai for "enjoy your meal!")