A super-healthy and extremely delicious vegan Thai green curry made with homemade curry paste! Bright, zingy, nutritious and suitable for all diets.
Today’s post is part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck 2014! While this blog isn’t entirely vegan, I have a lot of respect for the choice to minimise your impact on the animal kingdom through the way you eat and consequently, many of my recipes include instructions on how to veganise them. No need for that with this recipe!
As part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck I am posting a recipe that is always vegan when I make it (which is often), and tastes amazing just the same. There are so many gorgeous flavours, textures, aromas and colours out there that don’t employ animal products – today is an opportunity to truly celebrate them!
If you would like to start at the beginning of the Virtual Vegan Potluck – the parade of tasty vegan dishes starts with appetizers and works its way through beverages, salads, soups and stews, sides and mains (that’s me!) before ending, of course, with dessert – click here.
If not, keep on reading – at the bottom of the post you will find the next recipe post in the ‘chain’.
I have heard it claimed that if you can’t get exactly the right Thai ingredients to make your own curry paste, you should use shop-bought.
Although I very strongly encourage you to find authentic ingredients for your vegan Thai green curry paste – indeed that is what I’ve done here – I think that making it from scratch is the most important factor.
Fresh ingredients that you have ground yourself will taste bright, zingy and alive. Not flat and dull from industrial preservation as paste from a plastic tub does.
Of course the flavour profile of the paste will change with every substitution, but it will still be delicious. Not authentic, perhaps, but fresh and full of enlivening vitamins and other nutritious goodies.
I have it on good authority that paste made in a pestle and mortar is superior. I have no doubt that this is true, but this information is still not quite enough for me to resist the allure of the high-powered blender. Having made a special trip to the Thai supermarket in search of ingredients, then prepped all those tiny shallots, the last thing I fancy is the inevitable arm ache of puréeing masses of tough aromatics.
But perhaps I’m wrong? What is your experience?
This vegan Thai green curry paste is a fantastic thing to have in the freezer. I make a large batch and freeze two-person portions in little pieces of cling film. Then all I have to do is unwrap a blob and start cooking – all the convenience of shop-bought paste, but with exponentially superior flavour. And look at that colour!!
With this storage technique making it so easy, beautifully flavoured, healthy Thai green curry makes a regular appearance on our dinner table. And I really think it should on yours.
Although there is some variation in the ingredients you typically find in Thai green curry paste, these are all pretty much a given.
Fiery, grassy, green bird’s eye chillies…
Thai purple shallots…
Fruity, earthy, fresh turmeric…
Fragrant, citrussy lemongrass…
Intense, deeply flavoured coriander root…
Pungent, bitter garlic…
And aromatic, astringent kaffir lime zest…
The last ingredient is a little unconventional, but it is what makes this meal truly vegan. Instead of the fish sauce and shrimp paste that are traditionally found in Thai green curry, I have replaced that salty, funky flavour with red bean curd. This ingredient is a form of preserved tofu, made from soybeans, salt, rice wine and vinegar and stored in a flavourful brine. Improving as it ages, red bean curd is salty and pungent with a mild sweetness. And makes an excellent substitute for fermented fish products in east Asian food.
You will find it on the shelf in most east Asian supermarkets and once open will keep happily in the fridge for years, the flavour developing the longer it sits.
One last tip before I leave you with the recipe for vegan Thai green curry – remember to remove the tough, dry outer parts of your lemongrass stalks. Lemongrass is fibrous and stringy, even when trimmed down properly, so this is a must. You can save the trimmings to infuse future dishes (it stores well in the freezer) if you fancy.
I even go a further step sometimes, and strain the curry broth before serving. I have not found that removing the paste solids reduces the amazing complexities of flavour in the liquid, but it does result in a silky smooth broth and you don’t end up with stringy lemongrass pieces in your mouth. This is, of course, completely optional.
The spicy, coconut broth is the real star of this dish. But to go with it, crispy soy sauce tofu is a good choice. For the veggies there is much flexibility – steamed or lightly sautéed (as appropriate) vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, sugar snap peas, spinach, pak choy, onion, asparagus and courgettes are all excellent options.
But today I decided to go fancy – the pull of the exotic vegetable display in the Thai supermarket was simply too great – and opted for a selection of Asian mushrooms. Feel free to substitute regular old brown mushrooms if that’s what you have.
I’d love to know how you get on – which of these ingredients are impossible to find where you live?
- 100g green bird's eye chillies, stems trimmed
- 30g/8cm length galangal, no need to peel
- 100g/7 stalks lemongrass, trimmed of base and tough outer leaves
- 3 kaffir limes, zest only
- 12 coriander roots
- 15g/6cm length fresh turmeric root
- 50g/1 medium head garlic, peeled
- 100g/14 purple Thai shallots, peeled
- 3 heaped teaspoons red bean curd or preserved tofu
- 2 heaped tablespoons curry paste
- 400g coconut milk, rested so the cream and water separates
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 heaped teaspoon red bean curd or preserved tofu, well crumbled
- soy sauce or salt, to taste
- juice of half a lime, or to taste
- freshly ground pepper (white is traditional, but I used black)
- 1 red pepper, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 200g mixed Asian mushrooms, or similar
- 200g buckwheat noodles
- 1 heaped tablespoon vegetable stock paste
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender and blend until finely chopped. Add a splash or two of water and continue to blend until you achieve a purée. You will most likely need to scrape the mixture down a few times as you blend, and you may need to add another splash of water.
- Put on a pan of water for the noodles. Fill a medium-large pan about half way with water - you not want to add a huge volume of water, as you will use the starchy cooking water as an ingredient in your curry broth.
- Start heating a large, heavy frying pan (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat - this is for sautéing your peppers and mushrooms.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, fry the curry paste in a couple of tablespoons of coconut cream, skimmed off the top of the tin. Fry for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and bubbly. Add the rest of the coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves and the red bean curd and bring to a very low simmer.
- Start cooking the noodles and sautéing the vegetables. If you're worried about timing the vegetables exactly to match the noodles and the broth, you can keep them warm in a low oven while you finish the rest of the meal.
- When the noodles are ready, strain over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid and add about 200ml to the curry broth. Taste the broth and season to taste with salt/soy sauce, freshly ground pepper and lime juice. Make sure the broth is properly seasoned - it is during this step that the meal could stand or fall, as the salt and other seasonings are what will allow the paste ingredients to shine!
- If you want to remove the lemongrass fibres, strain the curry broth into the bowl you used for the noodle cooking water.
- Divide the noodles between to large bowls, ladle over the broth and top with the sautéed vegetables. Top with fresh, chopped coriander and serve with extra wedges of lime, sliced red chilli and soy sauce on the side.
- You can cook the noodles in the broth, saving one dirty pan and giving the curry great body, but the noodles will not keep well if you're planning leftovers, so bear that in mind.
- The paste recipe makes enough for 7-8 two-people servings. It will keep for about a week in the fridge or for several months in the freezer.