I think that I've made it abundantly clear on this blog that I love curries. All kinds, in all ways. Nine times out of ten, I will choose a curry over other types of food. So, you can imagine that when I thought of Thailand for the 50 Countries challenge, I knew I would make a curry....or multiple curries, as was the case. I may not have made two curries, were it not for the fact that we had our beloved cat sitters, Chelsea and Divya, over for dinner last night. When I have guests, I tend to go overboard.
Since one of our guests is vegetarian, I thought that Thai food would be a great option. Turns out that many Thai recipe writers do not consider fish sauce and shrimp paste to be meat-based. There are not many great alternatives that I could find for these two essential Thai ingredients. But, I did manage to find a general consensus that Healthy Boy Soy Sauce with Mushroom and Healthy Boy Soy Bean Paste were as close as you could get. I am fortunate to live in a place with 5+ asian grocery stores, so I was able to find these products in town, but you can order them online. So, now you all know! These work great in a vegetarian/vegan-related pinch.
This recipe is unbelievably simple, even though you're making your own curry paste. It's very versatile where the ingredients are concerned. If you would rather pack this with shrimp and pork than eggplant and tofu, go nuts! It would still taste great.
Eggplant & Fried Tofu Green Curry (adapted from About.com)
-1 + 1/2 cups firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
-1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
-2 small-ish purple Thai eggplants, sliced into rounds, then cubed
-1 can bamboo shoots
-3/4 can coconut milk
-1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable stock
-1/2 cup fresh Thai basil OR sweet basil to garnish
-Optional: 2-3 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves ("optional," but if you can get them, PUT THEM IN!)
GREEN CURRY PASTE:
-1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass (available at Asian stores)
-1/4 can coconut milk
-1-3 Thai green chilies OR jalapeno
-1 compressed cup chopped coriander/cilantro, leaves & stems
-1 shallot, chopped
-4-5 cloves garlic
-1 thumb-size piece fresh galangal OR ginger, sliced
-1 Tbsp. soy sauce
-2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
-1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (available in most supermarket spice aisles)
-1 tsp. brown sugar
-1/2 tsp. sea salt
1. Place all 'green curry paste' ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz to create a fragrant green curry paste (you may need to add more coconut milk if using a blender). To make sauce by hand: Mince and stir all sauce ingredients together in a bowl, OR use a pestle & mortar to mash dry ingredients followed by liquid ingredients. Set aside.
2. Place a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a little oil and swirl around, then add all the green curry paste you just made. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
3. Add the tofu. Stir-fry until well saturated with sauce.
**NOTE: To fry your tofu, first slice the block into about 5 squares (horizontally through block). Then cut each square into 8 triangles. Heat a large skillet with peanut oil over medium-high heat (you will need to lower the heat as you process the batches) until very hot. Toss about two squares' worth of tofu in the pan at a time. Shake the pan occasionally while the tofu gets a nice golden sear on each side. Flip and cook on other side. As you process each batch, add more peanut oil, allow it to get hot, and continue. If you're frying tofu, do this before beginning the recipe.**
4. Add the stock, plus the lime leaves (if using). Stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer 5 minutes.
5. Add 1/2-3/4 can coconut milk, plus vegetables (except basil) and continue simmering 5-7 minutes, or until softened (**NOTE: I had a high veggie-sauce ratio, so I covered the wok with a lid and let the veggies boil/steam**).
6. Remove curry from heat and taste-test for salt and spice. If not salty enough, add a sprinkle more salt. If too salty for your taste, add another squeeze of lime juice. If too spicy, OR if you'd like more sauce, add what is remaining of your can of coconut milk. If you'd like it sweeter, add a little more sugar. (**We added a touch more salt and a squeeze of lime.**)
7. Serve directly out of the wok, or transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle over the fresh basil (slice larger leaves into shreds). Sliced red chili can also be used as a topping, or to add more spice (as shown). Serve with plenty of Thai jasmine rice, and ENJOY!
Verdict: AWESOME. It was so flavorful and not too spicy. Our veggie friend was pleased to no end with the eggplant and the firm crunch of the fried tofu. This is a super-comforting bowl of curry, packed with rich nutrients. Great success!