Oh, this dish. It used to confuse me when I first came to the U.S. and ate at a Thai restaurant for the first time. In ordering "yellow curry," I thought I was going to get one dish only to be presented with another. This is because nobody in Thailand calls this "yellow curry," and what we do call "yellow curry" is something entirely different. I quickly learned from this mistake.
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While I definitely can't procure all the specific elements of traditional Thai green curry, that doesn't mean I can't show off my local vegetables using Thai techniques.
The same dynamic flavor I crave from Thai green curry but with the added bonus of fresh seasonal produce from nearby.
The Mangalorean Catholic community of India is famed for some delicious meat preparations. Being half Manglorean myself, some of the popular dishes find their way to my dinner table every other week. This Mangalorean mutton gravy and its aromatic masala brings back memories of the old stone and the how wonderful the air would smell as each spice was pounded on it.
This spicy, aromatic mutton curry is packed with flavor. The toasted spices add a wonderful depth and the coconut cuts the harshness of the red chillies to give a delicately balanced gravy that's wonderful to scoop up with bread or rice.
Loaded with dry aromatic spices and fresh herbs, Matsaman combines what you love about Middle Eastern or South Asian cuisines with the typical Thai flavors. The harmony of sweet, salty, and sour is such a prominent part of this mild yet rich and full-flavored curry. Here's a dish that squashes the false notion that unless a dish is so hot and spicy it makes one weep and curse the day one was born, it's not good or real Thai food.
Goan fish curry blends together spices and coconut to bring out the mild sweetness of the tender fresh fish that is so abundant in Goa and around the coast of India.
I've always associated curries with smooth sauces, rich and pungent, a luxurious, complex blending of flavors surrounding long-simmered vegetables or meat. I think that's a pretty common conception. Which was why this recipe from famed Indian cookbook author (and actress) Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking caught me off guard. Using produce from the height of summer, this curry turns corn and tomato into a dish entirely unfamiliar.
I nearly lost it when I saw fresh peas at the farmers' market. I handed over my money as quickly as possible for the neon green specimens. Though properly enthused, I didn't exactly have a recipe. There are loads of options for peas and pasta, but few of them actually give the peas top billing. I didn't want them to be a minor component of some bigger dish; I wanted to showcase the fresh peas in the most dramatic way possible.
Though I've definitely seen curries made with coconut milk, this is the first time I've seen one calling for dried coconut flakes. Toasted in the pan along with cumin and coriander until golden brown, it blends up into paste with garlic, ginger, and tamarind to become the sauce. It's surprisingly light and delicate for a curry, and lends itself particularly well to shrimp.
Massaman curry has always been my favorite of the Thai curries. I particularly appreciate its complex sweetness, and have long wanted to work it into a dessert. The Southern Thai curry, thought to be influenced by Indonesian cuisine, is characterized by warm spices like star anise, mace or nutmeg, and cinnamon. In this sorbet, the rich coconut is spiked with tangy, spicy curry and sharp lime. It's a perfect March dessert: the deep flavors of winter get pierced by spring's brightness.
It's a mild curry but still redolent with spices, rounded on the tongue, and completely satisfying. Though there's enough sauce to coat each piece of chicken, it was so good I'll probably make extra next time.
I'm afraid I'll never be able to get the stench of these out of my cabinets. I debated for months whether it was even worth writing about them. They stink, they aren't versatile, and there's not much English language information about them accessible to home cooks. But sometimes in the name of culinary creativity you do things you don't want to do, like cook with some curls of sun-dried and smoked fruit that look and smell like you found them behind an Ewok's ear.
Learn more about cooking with sambals here....
For last week's Weekend Cook and Tell Challenge we asked you to break out the spice grinder and cook up some curries to help debunk some of the myths revolving around Indian food. Here are some of our most inspired responses.
[Photograph: Blake Royer] Chana masala, more than anything else, speaks to the wondrous things Indian cuisine can do with vegetables. I don't think any other cuisine can make dishes as hearty, rich, filling, and, well, meaty with nary an animal...
[Photograph: Blake Royer] I certainly don't remember umami on my elementary school charts next to sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. It seems like it's only been within the past decade that this fifth flavor has been widely discussed. Maybe that's...
"The final color will depend on what kind of chiles you use." [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger] I love big holiday meals as much as the next guy—pass the mashed potatoes and macoroni and cheese please!—but that's just not the way I...
[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger] When I think of kidney beans, my mind usually wanders down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That's when I start dreaming of perfect red beans and rice. It's one of my favorite meals—I'd make it much...