Tag Archives: Curry

Thai curry butternut squash soup

I’ve had a couple tubs of Thai curry paste kicking around in my fridge since the summer. But when butternut squash came into season this year, I started putting them into heavy rotation. I love butternut squash soup as it is, but lately I’ve been liking my winter squash on the spicy side. So I make a very simple soup–just leeks, garlic, ginger, and squash, plus enough broth to make it soupy–and add a little dollop of curry paste. Squash loves curry in all forms, and its sweetness really welcomes the spiciness of Thai curry. It makes for a really terrific soup.

I’ve used red and green curry here, and they were both great. The red curry is a cleaner, sourer heat, and I find I need a little less paste to do the job. Green curry is richer, darker, maybe slightly less spicy, and I use a little more of it to really zing. In either case, the effect is both surprising and subtle: lots of fire up front and a quiet thrum of curry in the background.

The soup is nice enough on its own, but adding a little pile of fried shallots to each bowl really makes it special. Pureed squash can be a bit sugary and boring on its own, and the fried shallots add a lovely crackly-crisp texture and bittersweet contrast that I just love. If you’re serving the whole batch of soup at once, I’d suggest frying all the shallots right in the soup pot, then using the shallot-infused oil to make the soup. But if, like me, you like making soup ahead of time and freezing it for later, just fry up a little batch of shallots whenever you’re ready to eat.

I’m not normally one for adding cream to pureed soups, but this soup really benefits from something rich stirred in at the end. The curry paste I use is very spicy, and it needs a bit of fat to tame it so that the other flavors come through. Coconut milk is the obvious choice, but I don’t always want to open a whole can just to use a drizzle. I’ve finished this soup with different dairy and non-dairy milks, depending on what was in my fridge at the time, and it comes out great every time. The recipe includes a bunch of options; use what you like, or what you’ve got on hand. It’s that kind of soup.

thai curry squash soup

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Red curry crab cakes

A few weeks ago, I impulse-bought a couple tubs of Thai curry paste. Since then, it’s been curry central in this household. I love how these pastes provide deep flavor and powerful heat, without any work involved: no chopping, no mashing, no nothing. If you have Thai curry paste in the fridge, coconut milk and rice in the pantry, maybe some fish sauce and limes, you can follow the recipe on the label and turn pretty much any combination of protein and veggies into a quick and powerful meal. But even beyond that, I’ve found these pastes are terrific for everything from dumplings to lentil soup to a simple coconut sauce for fish or chicken (which I’ll get around to posting sometime soon).

I bought two kinds of curry paste: red and green. The red curry is a bit sharper and tangier, while the green curry is rich and deep and slightly sweet. I actually like the green better for straight-up curry, but the red has proven to be a bit more versatile overall. When I learned that red curry paste is a key ingredient in Thai fish cakes, it was only a matter of time before I tried it in one of my favorite seafood dishes of all time: crab cakes.

This is a total mash-up recipe, in the best way. These little nibbles have all the flavors of Thai fish cakes–red curry, green beans, scallions, fish sauce, lime–with the texture of an all-American crab cake. Unlike the Thai version, which requires a food processor and deep-frying, these can be made in a matter of minutes in just one bowl, with minimal mess and less fuss. The crab mixture benefits from a little time in the fridge before cooking, but it’s really not necessary. I can–and have–made these on a whim for Sunday lunch, in 20 minutes or less. They’re terrific that way.

How big or small you make these is totally up to you. I go for a sort of middle ground and make 8 smallish cakes, which I think are ideal for an at-home appetizer or light lunch. You could make 4 giant cakes, or 16 itty-bitty cakes to serve as a party snack. If you go bigger, I’d suggest covering the skillet while the cakes cook, so that they heat through by the time they’ve browned.

red curry crab cakes

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Pumpkin tomato curry

Last year, sometime between October and Thanksgiving, I bought a can of pumpkin puree. I must have had grand plans for it, but they never materialized. So it sat in the cupboard, alone among the beans and tomatoes, while pumpkin-eating season trundled right on by. It sat, and it sat, and it sat, until last week I took it down and resolved to do something with it. That something turned out to be curry.

I suppose curry isn’t the most head-slappingly creative way to use pumpkin, but it’s a good one. Winter squash goes hand-in-hand with the warm spices that make up curry’s backbone, and its sweetness plays well against curry’s sharpness and spice. Plus, it’s a refreshing 180 from the cinnamon-dusted march of pumpkin pies and pumpkin pastries and pumpkin breads and pumpkin lattes. After so much sugar, it’s awfully nice to find a savory home for pumpkin.

I thought about making a coconut curry, since pumpkin and coconut play so well together. But we’re slipping into the gauzy period between winter and spring, and I wanted something lighter and less unctuous. So my on-the-fly pumpkin curry became a pumpkin tomato curry, brothy and light and orangey-gold. The pumpkin gave the curry a quiet syrupy-sweetness, and the tomatoes provided both liquid and tang. I threw in a cinnamon stick too, to appease the pumpkin gods, and finished off the curry with a pile of cauliflower and shrimp.

There are no efforts at authenticity here. This is a cheater’s curry, built on supermarket curry powder, and quick enough to make on a weeknight. But I don’t really think of it as a weeknight meal, at least not the night you make it. Curry demands time to mingle and deepen; a night or two in the fridge is ideal. The cloud of spicy fragrance that filters up from the rested curry is worth the wait, I promise.

pumpkin tomato curry

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Burmese egg curry

The other day I looked in my fridge and found a dozen eggs, pushed to the back and forgotten. They were well past their sell-by date–good for hard-boiling, and little else. I’m leaving town for two weeks, and these eggs needed to get eaten. Enter a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for a good long time: Burmese egg curry.

As the name implies, this is a curry built not on meat, but on hard-boiled eggs. It’s an odd combination, but a nice one, with the eggs providing a rich, chewy contrast to the sauce. And what a lovely sauce it is: clean-flavored, fresh, spicy, light. The primary flavoring agent is turmeric, which I usually rely on more for its pungent yellow color than as a spice in its own right. But as the backbone of this curry, it’s gorgeously subtle: nutty and earthy and just a little bit sweet.

Even beyond the spice base, though, this curry is deeply satisfying. The standout vegetable here is okra, cooked just until crisp-tender; it thickens the curry slightly, making it soft and glossy, while keeping the bright greeny flavor to a maximum and sliminess to a minimum. And the whole thing gets finished with a scattering of cilantro and a big handful of crisp-fried shallot rings–deeply caramelized and sweet, nicely offsetting the spicy bite of the curry and the richness of the eggs.

For such a surprising and exotic dish, this is a great pantry cleanout. Most of the ingredient list is pantry staples–eggs, onion, garlic, canned tomato products, spices. I keep fish sauce around, because I love the salty funk of it, but plain old standby soy sauce works just fine. I also had a knob of ginger hanging around from another dinner, and it turns out this is a great use-up. All I had to buy were cilantro, shallots, okra, and a chili or two. In 45 minutes, I had dinner for three nights in a row–I fried as many shallots and eggs as I wanted each night, ladled on some warm curry, and tore a few cilantro leaves over the top. Easy, delicious, and just odd enough to be special.

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