Vegetarian Thai Green Curry
As I sit here, typing this recipe I’d like to say I don’t really have anything special to say about this, except that it was nice, it was the first time I made it and that the family liked it very much. At last a straightforward recipe post, unencumbered by the excess baggage of a story.
Sigh! That is not to be!
For as I type, the words dance back and forth tantalisingly, and I try to pin an idea that began to take shape, kindled by the first two words of the title, vegetarian and Thai.
My first introduction to Thai recipes was through the veteran vegetarian chef Tarla Dalal. Hmmm, not bad- so many familiar ingredients, onion, garlic, ginger, chilly, lemon, tamarind, peanuts, coriander, cumin, turmeric, aniseed… and rice… Thai was almost like Indian cuisine. Except, how on earth will lemongrass taste in a curry? Lemongrass, or pati chaha as it is called in Marathi, was used mainly in tea, when one had a bad cold! I had never really liked it as it was associated with sickness or headaches and moreover, it seemed like drinking tea with an Odomos flavour!
And hadn’t I heard of all the horror stories of many a staunch vegetarian friend who had been served faux fare after removing the pieces meat or fish from the dish, or had been diligently served food without meat, but with fish or chicken – wasn’t that the definition of vegetarian? Then there was the Trojan beef or chicken stock. The most insidious of these urban legends was that ALL Thai food had to have oyster or fish sauce or anchovies ground into the curry pastes.
The trepidation with which we stepped into the dinner theatre venue featuring a Ramakien dance, while on a visit to Bangkok, was not unjustified. But one look at the menu that featured some vegetarian dishes, the known theme of the show and the Ramayan inspired costumes of the dancers ambushed us into that same old sense of familiarity. We sat back after going through the self-defence routine we had practiced – no beef, no lamb, no seafood, no chicken. Nods, smiles and bows assured us. Until, concentrating on identifying the pentatonic raag of the song that Nang Sida (Sita) was singing, I bit into something pink and chewy, an alien texture and flavour. Hark! This is not vegetarian!
It was rabbit.
It was the ensuing apology ceremony; the polite, almost obsequious bowing and fussing and the acute embarrassment of my teenage kids who were worried about mum creating a scene that thwarted a more dramatic reaction.
Then the decade long embargo on Thai food. Even travelling on Thai Airways, we would put in a request for an AVML- Hindu Vegetarian meal! But a chance lunch with work colleagues last year, weekend cookery shows featuring Asian food and my Facebook foodie friends displaying their prowess at Thai cuisine started the process of détente. At my terms, in my kitchen, with my definition of vegetarian.
Vegetarian Thai Green Curry
For the green curry paste
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp white peppercorns
¼ tsp turmeric
3 tbsp chopped coriander (include stems/roots)
1tbsp lemongrass stems lighter part only- sliced
1 tbs fresh ginger or galangal, roughly chopped
2-3 green chillies, roughly chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, spine removed, roughly torn
1 small red onion or 2 shallots
4 garlic cloves, chopped (we get really big garlic bulbs here)
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar or jaggery
Heat a pan and dry the roast coriander and cumin seeds with the pepper taking care not to burn them. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice jar or mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and grind into a paste in a mixer. Add some water or coconut milk to move the ingredients in the mixer. You can store this paste in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or so.
For the Green Vegetable Curry
2 cups vegetables - cut into large pieces /roundels- eggplant, zucchini, red peppers (you can use any other suitable vegetables)
2 cups steamed carrot, potato, green beans, pumpkin
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock ( I used home made stock)
1 tbsp lemon juice
5-6 tbsp green curry paste or more
1 whole kafir lime leaf
1 tbsp oil
Salt or soy sauce to taste
1 kafir lime leaves, sliced or torn or whole- and sliced red chilli for garnish
Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then add the green curry paste. Sauté the paste in oil for a minute. Then add the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper in this order and stir-fry for a minute. Next, add the remaining vegetables and continue stir-frying for another minute. Add the stock and ¼ cup coconut milk the kaffir lime leaf and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to let the vegetables simmer and cook in the broth. Check the vegetables for doneness, and then add the remaining coconut milk and stir. Check and adjust the flavours and add salt or soy sauce or a squirt of lemon juice as required.
Remove from heat and garnish with finely shredded or whole kafir leaf. Add sliced red chilli if you wish. The green was enough for me to see red.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice.