I could eat curry every day. In fact, if I lived alone, I probably would. (Don’t worry, I am very happy not living alone). It’s not just a matter of loving spicy food, which I do; for me the joy of curry is as much in the cooking as in the eating. The aromas of onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and spices frying make me disproportionately happy. An added bonus is that Indian cuisine (I want to say Asian but am not sure if that generalisation would be valid) is extremely vegetarian-friendly. Like I said in the ‘about me’ section, I believe it makes sense for vegetarians to look to the East and not the West for inspiration, provided you like Asian-style food, of course. I mean, a typical Dutch vegetarian meal would be potatoes, veg and some meat substitute or other. Not terribly exciting.
Speaking of meat substitutes, I used the ‘chicken’ bits from De Vegetarische Slager (The Vegetarian Butcher) in this curry. Their products are not actually aimed at vegetarians but at carnivores who want to cut down on meat but are not used to vegetarian cooking and need a substitute that looks, tastes and smells like meat. I know some vegetarians and vegans don’t agree, but I say any animal not eaten is a good thing, so I’m a fan. I can’t honestly say I love all their products but their chicken bits and their burgers are really good. They also do a mean sausage roll. The chicken strips are made to look and taste like the dark meat of a chicken, which was always my favourite, so these are right up my street and they work very well in this curry.
This recipe is loosely based on a tofu curry from the wonderful My Darling Lemon Thyme blog. One thing that drew me to this recipe was the use of kemiri nuts (or ‘candlenuts’), that I know from Indonesian cooking. Indonesian food is very popular over here (even shameful colonial pasts have a silver lining), so ingredients are readily available from ‘tokos’, Asian shops, even in the burg I live in.
The first time I cooked this curry I used the tofu mentioned in the original recipe. Now, I’ve said in other posts that I have a love/hate relationship with tofu and I’m afraid hate won in this case. The tofu is fried and then simmered and, as much as I try to like it, the texture of soft, simmered tofu makes my skin crawl. If you do like tofu prepared this way, by all means go for it. You could also use Quorn fillet strips or fried mushrooms and I bet soy mince would also work.
This is a quick curry if you use a (stick) blender or mini chopper to make the curry paste. I use powdered lemongrass instead of fresh, here. Call it a cop-out but in dishes that don’t require really long cooking, lemon grass often stays tough, no matter how fine you chop it. I do like using it in stews, but then I just chop it roughly and fish the chunks out later. I’ve added ground galangal, a lovely spice that also reminds me of Indonesian cooking. Using dried spices makes this an even easier and quicker curry, because all you do is make the paste, fry it, add your ‘chicken’ (or whatever you’re using), coconut milk and other flavourings. Et voilà. Okay, I do fry the chicken bits before I heat them in the sauce. It’s optional but benefits the texture, imo.
You could add peas, sugar snaps or mange-touts to the sauce as it simmers but in this case, I served the curry with an Asian-style salad. I bought beansprouts but forgot to use them (I wish I could say this doesn’t happen all the time). They do make a very nice addition if you stir them in at the last minute.
1 small red onion
5 kemiri nuts (I haven’t tried this myself but I think cashews would be fine too. In that case, I would use about two tbsp)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
piece of ginger, peeled
1 fresh chilli of your choice (I used a large red one, unseeded)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp powdered lemongrass
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp powdered galangal
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp water, or as needed
‘chicken’ strips, Quorn bits, mushrooms (whatever you want to use)
dash of flavourless vegetable oil
small handful of dried kaffir lime leaves (if you can get hold of fresh ones, use about 4)
1 tsp dark brown sugar
400 ml tin of coconut milk
2/3 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
water as needed. (I fill up the empty coconut tin to about one quarter and add no more than that, sometimes less)
4 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
– Blend all the ingredients for the curry paste together.
– Add a small splash of water if the paste looks too thick.
– Fry the paste in the oil for a few minutes until fragrant.
– Add lime leaves, sugar, coconut milk and some of the water.
– Let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
– Add your ‘chicken’ bits and simmer for 5 more minutes, adding water if needed.
– Stir in lime juice, tasting as you add.
– Season to taste and sprinkle with coriander.
– Serve with rice.