Vegan(ish?) Thai Coconut Curry

#RecipeUpTop (details below):

  • 2 Sweet potatoes;
  • 2 limes;
  • 1 red bell pepper;
  • 1/2 bag frozen broccoli;
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas;
  • 1/2 red or yellow onion;
  • 1 tablespoon Thai curry paste (of your choosing);
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar);
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or salt equivalent);
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger;
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic;
  • Thai basil (or cilantro) (to taste);
  • Thai chili (or other hot pepper in a pinch) (to taste);
  • Green onion (for garnish) (to taste);
  • Thai chili sauce (optional) (to taste);

Method: Par-cook the sweet potatoes, and shock in an ice bath, then remove to a bowl. Stir fry the veggies, add the aromatics, add the sweet potatoes. If using chili peppers, add now, with the curry paste. Stir to coat, then add coconut milk. Adjust for sweetness, acidity, salt, and heat. Serve over rice.

Disclaimer: I THINK this recipe is vegan, and I’m basing that on reading the ingredient labels of the brands of product I’m using. You need to do the same, and I make no representations that your end product is going to be vegan. That’s on you.

The Details

This is not a recipe, well, not really. It’s more like the ship’s log of a captain who has sailed too far from his familiar waters, but is determined to chronicle the events of the day, even if that means recording how he made the entire crew pretend to be clouds for an hour in hopes it would summon a breeze and then punished the one guy who wasn’t being “wispy” enough.

This all started a little while back, when we met a very nice local couple who we invited to dinner at the 10Chickens fort. At some point during my dinner planning, it was relayed to me they were vegetarians, and I realized, in an instant of frantic, racing thought that this was a huge blind spot for me. Long story short, I cobbled something together that was passable, but also very clearly was made by someone who had never spent any amount of time thinking about dedicated vegetarian cooking.

And so, having narrowly escaped, I realized I need to put some work into figuring this out. And, like anything I do, why go easy? Instead, we went vegan.

Two full days a week, we eat vegan here (we don’t force it on the kids). The driving principle for us is more about learning how to cook, eat, and be satisfied with the limitations of a vegan diet, which, in turn, should not only arm us with some techniques and dishes for our vegetarian friends, but hopefully permeate the rest of our cooking as well. Look, once you’ve stared intently at an apple, wondering how to make it palatable for the tenth time that day, you’ll be astounded what you can do with a well-marbled steak.

But having one hand tied behind by back wasn’t enough, so I leaned into my other old nemesis, Thai food. I adore Thai food, but like mashed potatoes, I just can’t get it right for some reason. What’s worse, I’ve gotten close a few times on certain things, only to have them slip away into the distance after a hearty call of LAND HO!

That said, by sheer luck I’ve washed upon the shores of a really delicious Thai coconut vegetable curry.

First, par-cook the sweet potatoes to make sure they’re not still raw at the end of the day. I’m using a steamer basket for that:

Shocking them in ice water after as well, to stop the cooking. All good so far.

Next, a stir-fry method on the other veggies and aromatics to get them cooked without turning them to mush. If you need a quick primer on indoor stir-fry method, check our post on shrimp fried rice:

So far, so good.

A note on the extra ginger and garlic: yes, we’re using a curry paste that has those ingredients, but this dish really needs a fresh punch up. Curry paste is shelf-stable in a jar at room temperature, which means it’s going to need some help to get back to what it should be, like when the Mummy eats a bunch of people to regain his powers.

From here, make a little hole in the middle, and add some veg oil:

The best spring wreath out there.

Get your curry paste into the middle, then STIR FRY until everything is coated. We’re using a red curry paste tonight, but my favorite for this recipe is actually a green. Use whatever you like.

Okay, get your coconut milk ready. In my climate, this stuff separates in the can to the point where I can’t just shake it back together (as suggested by some). No big deal. Just get it into a small mixing bowl first and hit it with a fork or whisk until recombined, then into the veggies:

It looks like there’s more coconut milk here than there is, due to the shape of the wok, and the fact that I stopped stirring to take this photo.

Anyway, here’s the big task: balance this thing between sweet, salt, heat, and acid. As a starter, add the soy sauce we’ve been holding onto, the sugar, the juice of half a lime, plus the zest of that same lime, and the Thai basil (or cilantro). DO NOT THROW THE LIME RIND IN THERE, it will make everything bitter and weird (like me). Instead, taste it and figure out what it needs, then adjust until you’re where you want to be.

Serve over rice, with a garnish of green onion, Thai chili sauce, lime wedges, and extra herbs.


2 thoughts on “Vegan(ish?) Thai Coconut Curry

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