Recipe: Vegetarian Red Curry
I was in Japan the first time I had curry. (Seems as if I was in Japan the first time I had many things....) I remember the exact restaurant, in the Shinjuku district on the 2nd floor of a building with Bollywood music videos dancing on the walls. My friends, who were much more worldly than I, dragged me along to this restaurant and I approached the event with nervous anticipation much like a 15 year old girl about to go on her first date. Only I was a 20 year old girl and my date was with a aromatic (read: smelly) unfamiliar stew and my nervous stomach was filled less with butterflies and more with Delhi Belly.
I ordered the butter chicken curry with naan (Yes I remember exactly). As I took the first bites, of what I described at the time as "Indian Baby Food," my whole attitude changed. The sauce was aromatic (read: interesting), buttery, smooth, and satiating. The naan was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with a wonderfully smokey after taste. OK India, you've got me, I thought. From that point forward, Indian food wasn't anything to be afraid of. I ate it every chance I got. I was hooked.
Later in the year, due to a two month break in classes, I got a chance to visit India. My friends and I young, adventurous, and stupid as we were, felt as if we had enough of Japan and wanted to see other parts of Asia. But really, I was going for the food. Our trip was filled of new culinary adventures of crunchy and spicy samosas from street vendors, squeaky paneer curries from classy restaurants, milky and hot chai tea from monasteries, or bread shared with strangers on a train. We tasted the spectrum of Indian food from highbrow to lowbrow, spiritual to downright devilish. Unfortunately for me, my stomach did not respond well to the unfamiliar. I came down with a real bout of Delhi Belly and towards the end of our three weeks in India, I could only stomach food from Chinese restaurants, toast, and lime sodas.
Regardless of how my journey ended, I will keep those memories with me for the rest of my life. Here is a simple version of an Indian curry, but trust me it is not authentic in the slightest. This is my interpretation of a simple vegetable curry, not some secret and ancient recipe. Hopefully it will be as nice to your belly as it was to mine.
There are many different kinds of curry from Indian, to Thai, to Japanese. This is my interpretation of curry with Thai and Indian influences, based on the ingredients I could find at my grocery store.
Vegetarian Red Curry
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, small diced
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
2 jalepenos, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, medium diced
3 carrots, peeled and medium diced
1 Kabocha squash, peeled, seeds removed, medium diced
1 pound of crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 14 oz can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons hot curry powder
1/2 bag spinach
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, jalepenos, ginger, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Saute 3 to 4 minutes. Add squash, coconut milk, vegetable stock, and seasonings. Bring curry to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Add spinach at the end, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Adjust seasonings.
3. Serve with cooked brown rice or naan.